Gulshan Kumar Mehta, popularly known as Gulshan Bawra was born at a place 30 kms from Lahore in a place called Sheikhupura. His father had a construction business. His family was a victim to the paritition riots where young Gulshan saw his parents being killed in front of his eyes. His elder sister at Jaipur, brought him and his elder brother up. After his brother got a job, they shifted to Delhi where he graduated from the Delhi University. During college, he began to write poetry.
He wanted to come into films and applied for a job with the Railways. He was posted to Kota which was then in Madhya Pradesh but when he arrived there, the vacancy was filled. His next call was luckily that for the post of a clerk at Mumbai and he arrived in the city in 1955.
Gulshan struggled to get a film break, initially keeping his job on. Kalyanji (-Anandji), then on his own as Kalyanji Virji Shah, gave him his first opening in Chandrasena (1959) in the song Main kya jaanu kahan laage yeh saawan matwala re sung by Lata Mangeshkar.
Kalyanji Anandji's first joint film, the Meena Kumari-Balraj Sahni starrer Satta Bazar later the same year marked his first brush with success with hits like Tumhein yaad hoga kabhi hum mile the (Lata-Hemant), Aakde ka dhanda (Rafi) and Chandi ke chand tukdon ke liye (Hemant Kumar).
It was during the making of this film that the film s distributor Shantibhai Patel christened him Bawra . He was very impressed by his lyrics but could not reconcile their excellence to the typical young man in his twenties who wore a rather colourful shirt. He said, 'Main iska naam Gulshan Bawra rakhoonga. He looks like a 'bawra' (madman).' When the film was released in Mumbai, the posters carried just three names, those of director Ravindra Dave, composers Kalyanji Anandji, and Gulshan Bawra, though the roster of lyricists included the topmost names of that time, Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra. 'I left my job in 1961 and things were pretty smooth,' says Bawra.
To date, Gulshan Bawra has written only 240 songs in a 42-year career, which is less than the number of films so many top names have done! But he claims to have the highest average among lyricists. 'I never believed in working too much or being aggressive, one of the main reasons for which was that I had no children. In my time, I have charged Rs 90,000 for a film at a time when one could purchase a big flat for Rs 65,000! I have not compromised on my price - because I have never compromised on my work.'
Gulshan Bawra believes in sensible lyrics and avoids lyrics that are conceptually defective, or have grammatical mistakes. 'Even Shailendra,' he says, 'wrote meaningless stuff like Awara hoon, awara hoon, ya gardish mein hoon aasmaan ka taara hoon , which should actually be Awara hoon, awara hoon, main gardish mein bhi aasmaan ka taara hoon . Gardish refers to struggle or turbulence and stars are never in this condition. Natural or universal truths should not be tampered with in the name of poetic license or to fit in to a given metre', he says.
Hit Songs of Gulshan Bawra
Mere desh ki dharti Upkar
Yaari hai imaan mera Zanjeer
Sanam teri kasam Sanam Teri Kasam
Agar tum na hote Agar Tum Na Hote
Tu tho hai wohi Yeh Vaada Raha
Aati Rahengi Baharen Kasme Vaade
Kasme Vaade Nibhayenge Kasme Vaade
Jivan ke har mod pe mil Jhoota Kahin Ka
Teri Badmashiyan Zulmi
Waada karle saajana Haath Ki Safai
Peenewalon ko peene ka Haath Ki Safai
Le pappiyaan jhappiyaan Haqeeqat
Almost half of his songs have been with R.D.Burman. His last release was Zulmi (1999) and his last hit was Le pappiyaan jhappiyaan paale hum for Haqeeqat/1995, which landed him in his only controversy - of writing a vulgar song.
As always, Bawra is selective and is doing two films only today. He finds today's filmmakers, music barons and composers musically - illiterate and thus is even choosier than before, as he lives a secure, relaxed life. 'Why should I torture myself or waste my lyrics and talents on those who will ask me to do all sorts of compromises?' he asks. His films in the '90s include, besides Haqeeqat and Zulmi, Qurbani Rang Jaayegi, Tehkiqaat, Laat Saab, Maidan-E-Jung, Indrajeet and Chor Pe Mor.
Award Song Movie
Filmfare - Best Lyricist - 1973 Yaari Hai Imaan Mera Zanjeer
Filmfare - Best Lyricist - 1973 Mere Desh Ki Dharti Upkaar