post written by :U.V. Ravindra
जाएगा जब यहाँ से कुछ भी न पास होगा दो गज़ कफ़न का टुकड़ा तेरा लिबास होगा
This opening couplet from a Rafi song from Moti Mahal (1952) expresses an oft-witnessed motif of the human condition, but probably seen with greater frequency in the performing arts: a promising young artiste with talent by the bucketfuls goes to “Bombay” to make a name for himself, achieves only middling success for decades together, remains relatively unheard of, and then, suddenly, makes a fantastically brilliant flash in the twilight years of his life … only to pass away in penury.
The person to whom this description attaches is one who shared both his given name and his nom de plume with Urdu’s most famous poet: Asadullah Khan ‘Asad’ … Bhopali. A short writeup on him follows:
Asad Bhopali was invited to Bhopal by the producers of the film Duniya (1949) to fill in as a lyricist after Aarzoo Lucknowi, the original lyricist contracted for the film, emigrated to Pakistan having written just two songs. Asad Bhopali wrote two songs for the film, one sung by Rafi and another by Suraiya. The MD was CR. Legend has it that the producers of the film were Urdu poetry buffs and wanted a promising new poet for their film, and took the unusual step of visiting mushaa’ira after mushaa’ira in person to select someone whom they liked. Their search ended in Bhopal when they heard the young Asad recite his work on stage. They promised him a meteoric rise in Bombay if he came there and started to work for films. Unfortunately, that was not how things turned out. The years just before and after the young Asad’s arrival in Bombay were also the same years when a lot of other poets of high caliber and promise came to Bombay — Jan Nisar Akhtar, Majrooh, Rajinder Krishan, Khumar Barabankvi, Sahir Ludhianvi … — most of the others made it really big in the industry and Asad, for the next 40 years, remained a relative “also ran”, in spite of writing many hundreds of songs for many MDs. His biggest successes in this time frame were the songs from Parasmani, “hansta hua noorani chehra”, and “woh jab yaad aaye bahut yaad aaye” for which he received a princely sum (Rs. 10,000?) and awe inspiring success. But the fame and fortune receded to the background as quickly as they had come, and he had to remain content with writing for B- and C-grade films.
Success finally did knock again on Asad Bhopali’s house when he wrote the words “kabootar ja-ja-ja” for Maine Pyar Kiya. Such is the irony of Fate, that an Urdu poet of high caliber must write a song that borders on nonsense verse to hit the headlines and capture the public’s ear. The song, as everyone knows, was a total runaway success and won the Filmfare award for the Best Song in 1990. But Asad Bhopali was not in any shape to share in his own success; he had been struck by paralysis and was moved back to Bhopal by his family to spend the rest of his days there. He passed away in June 1990, away from the cruel world of Bollywood, where he never could achieve the success he might otherwise have, his own words from Moti Mahal, 1952, sung by Rafi, proving prophetic.
Here for the benefit of our friends is one of Asad Bhopali’s most successful songs, from the film Ustadon ke Ustad (1963). Rafi sings for Ravi, Pradeep Kumar and Shakila are on screen.
(Sou Bar Janam Lenge)