Rajendra Krishan was born in Shimla. He was attracted toward poetry during his school days. After completing his education, he worked as a clerk in the municipal office till 1942. He used to participate in the poetry contests organized by newspapers.
In the mid-1940s, Krishan shifted to Mumbai to become a scriptwriter. His first film as a scriptwriter was Janta (1947). His first film as a lyricist was Zanjeer (1947). He was first noted for the script and lyrics of the Motilal-Suraiya starrer Aaj Ki Rat (1948). After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Krishan wrote a song Suno Suno Aye Duniyawalon, Bapu Ki Yeh Amar Kahani. The song was sung by Mohammed Rafi and composed by Husnlal Bhagatram, and was a great hit. He also tasted success as a lyricist with the films Badi Bahen (1949) and Lahore (1949).
A new phase began in his life. His knowledge of Tamil made him the ideal choice for AVM, and others to use his services for their films like Bahar, Ladki, Bhai Bhai. He wrote in all 18 scripts for AVM itself. The music directors for whom he regularly wrote songs — C Ramchandra, Madan Mohan and Hemant Kumar were also composing for the South Indian Hindi movies. The combination chalked up a series of hits right into the Sixties.
Rajendra Krishan also participated in the struggle to get a status for lyricists. As a person he was amiable, easy-going and full of humour. These characteristics expressed themselves in his lyrics also. His songs are simple, inventive and full of meaning. He could write a swinging song like Mr John, o Baba Khan and in the same film Barish (’57) a philosophical song, Dane dane pe likha hai khanewale ka nam, lenewale karod, denewale ek Ram. The songs he wrote for Anarkali (’53), Yeh zindagi usiki hai and Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag have attained legendary status. His Nagin (’54) songs Man dole mera tan dole and Mera dil ye pukare aja are reverberating in our hearts even today.
Apart from the three music directors mentioned above, he also wrote for other great composers like Sajjid Hussain (Saiyan ’51, Sangdil ’52), SD Burman (Bahar ’51, Sazaa ’51, Ek Nazar ’51), S Mohinder (Papi ’53), Chitragupt (Bhabhi ’57, Kangan ’59), Salil Choudhry (Chaya ’61), Laxmikant-Pyarelal (Intaqam ’69).
He could pen love-ballads and comedy songs with equal ease and effect. In the first category come the standards like Ye hawa ye raat ye Chandni (Sandgil), Koun aya mere man ke dware payal ki jhankar liye (Dekh Kabira Roya ’57), Mera Qarar leja mujhe beqarar kar ja (Ashiana ’52) and Ai dil mujhe bata de (Bhai Bhai ’56).
As the whole world knows C Ramchandra and Madan Mohan put a special ingredient into the songs they gave to Lata. Who can remain unmoved when listening to the following songs Rajendra Krishan wrote for her: Ham pyar me jalnewalon ko chain kahan aram kahan (Jailor ’58), Sapne me sajan se do bate ik yad rahi ik bhool gayen (Gateway Of India ’57), Dil se bhulado tum hamen (Patanga ’49)), Balma bada nadan re (Albela ’50), Ai chand pyar mera (Khazana ’51) and Wo bhuli dastan lo phir yad agayi (Sanjog ’61)?
On the other hand, the comedy songs he wrote for the same composers are a totally different kettle of fish. Here Rajendra Krishan’s comic music soared to delightful heights. He would take a central idea and keep on adding layer after layer of fancies to create a bright new world.
In Patanga, Lata and Shamshad take turns to describe a world of love where all the known institutions operate under strange rules — Pyar ke jahan ki nirali sarkar hai the post-office is actually the human eye and telegrams are glances; there is a school but it has only one class in it, lakhs of students enrol there but very few pass; the lessons are tough but oh so enjoyable! In fact if you fall in love you’ll join the unemployed masses. Every day will be holiday for you — har din itwar hai!
In the film Chandan (’58) we see Johnny Walker as a traffic constable singing the praises of the Super Cop in the Skies, who has a key for every lock and a lock for every key. Bada hi CID hai vo neeli chhatriwala, no one sees him receiving reports, but the moment a crime occurs he gets an "automatic telephone" and he has with him a pocket book in which has been noted sabka maal masaala, his thana stretches in all directions and it is always open. Everyone has to go there sometime or other. You can’t influence him, for all are equal so far as he is concerned — kya saali kya saala! (This is obviously a reference to Raj Kapoor’s story in Shree 420 (’55) of his being hauled up before the boodha daroga of a police station, and of being released the moment he was discovered to be the thanedar ka saala.
Again the same Johnny Walker in the ’65 film Bombay Racecourse (Madan Mohan) narrates the tale of a zalim snatching away his throbbing heart mistaking it for a ticking watch — Le gaya zalim ghadi samajkar and trying to pawn it. However when she learnt its market price, it being after all the heart of an ardent lover, she was struck by remorse and brought it back to him undamaged.
The imagery of Parwana (moth) and Shama (flame) for lover and beloved is a standard one in Urdu poetry. There was even a film called Shama Parwana (’54) where the moth (Shammi Kapoor) literally got burnt in the flame in the end. Rajendra Krishan wrote a straight lyric for Raj Kapoor in Paapi (S Mohinder, ’53) Tera kam hai jalna parwane chahe shama jale ya na jale whose climatic line states — jeene me hai teri ruswayi, marte nahijalkar parwane — the parwana gets a bad name only when it lives!"
Years later, in Khazanchi (Madan Mohan, ’58) he wrote about the modern parwana who is afraid of going near the fire naye zamane ka parwana jalne se dare! So this ingenious moth tries to solve the problem by sending his petition by post to the flame. She replies, "You’re there and I’m here, so what’s this talk of love between us?" The moth replies, "Everyone knows your penchant for burning. And this happens to be my new suit, and I bought this tie only this morning. Do you want me to risk all these? so, goodbye! Kon mufi me mare?
When the new decimal coinage was introduced, the first and most famous song about it, which was also a hit in the Binaca Parade that year, was written by him for Miss India (SD Burman, ’57) Badla zamana — where he lovingly describes how you can obtain for a mere rupee no less than 100 tiny round pretty coins, gol mol nanhe munne akhionke tare with which you can fill up your treasury.
In an interview, Hemant Kumar had this to say about Rajendra Krishan’s style of working, "Let’s suppose the recording of a song is fixed 15 days hence; he will come to the studio alright, but won’t work. He’ll say, ‘Come I know a place where this item is great! Let’s go eat.’ So we go there. Next day it’s something else. Then he’ll be away at the races. Thus we come to the 12th day. Now we put pressure on him. Then he’ll sit somewhere quietly and come back after 15-20 minutes with the complete song!" When one considers that both Ramchandra and Madan Mohan, for whom he did most of his work, believed in having the full lyric in their hands before composing, it is obvious that most of the great songs of that era owed their original inspiration to Rajendra Krishan’s lyric alone.
Rajendra Krishan could be satiric as well as playful. In Minister (Madan Mohan, ’59), he gave Asha a song where she taunts a gallivanting husband with apt imagery — Jab ghar men chulha jalta hai, phir hotel me kyun khate ho?
But when he was writing about what was happening around him like Mahatma’s assassination or the horrors of Partition, he lay bare his feelings in no uncertain terms. The Rafi song, Suno suno ai duniawalo Bapu ki ye amar kahani ends with the terse line, Apne hi hathonse hamne apna Bapu khoya (We killed Bapu with our own hands).
Again in the film about Partition, Lahore (Shyam Sunder, ’49) he gave a song to Manna Dey which begins,
Dunia to kehti hai insaan kahan hai?
Insaan ye kehta hai Bhagwan kahan hai?
Insaan ne insaan par kya zulm kiya hai
Ana hi lahu tha jise haske piya hai
He wrote a whole series of lovely songs for Hemant Kumar. The biggest hit was Nagin (’54), then there was Miss Mary (’57), Champakali (’57), Lagan (’55), Payal (’57), Durgesh Nandini (’56) and so on.
We have heard Hemant Kumar mention Rajendra Krishan’s fondness for the races; strangely enough he actually won a jackpot for an estimated 46 lakhs! This obviously took the edge off his struggle for existence! He won the Filmfare award for 1965 for the film Khandan (Ravi).
At the time of his death in 1988, he had written songs for 300 films, of which 100 carried his screenplay as well. HMV gave him the honour of being a major lyricist and brought out an LP containing 12 of his songs.
He deserved all the honours he received, but none of them can do justice to the legacy of sheer listening pleasure he has bequeathed us.A BharatMillenium
1. Khel Mohabbat Ka (1986)
2. Ponga Pandit (1975)
3. Bombay to Goa (1972)
4. Maalik (1972)
5. Shehzada (1972)
6. Doli (1969)
7. Ek Shriman Ek Shrimati (1969)
8. Pyar Ka Sapna (1969)
9. Sachaai (1969)
10. Waris (1969)
11. Gauri (1968)
12. Padosan (1968)
13. Sadhu Aur Shaitaan (1968)
14. Pyar Kiye Jaa (1966)
15. Khandaan (1965)
16. Pooja Ke Phool (1964)
17. Bluff Master (1963)
18. Manmauji (1962)
19. Prem Patra (1962)
20. Chhaya (1961)
21. Nazrana (1961)
22. Bindya (1960)
23. Maa Baap (1960)
24. Nagin (1954)
1. Reshma Aur Shera (1971)
2. Tumse Achcha Kaun Hai (1969)
3. Brahmachari (1968)
4. Padosan (1968)
5. Khandaan (1965)
6. Sharabi (1964)
7. Manmauji (1962)
8. Adalat (1958)
9. Aasha (1957)
10. Bhai-Bhai (1956)
11. Azaad (1955)
12. Nagin (1954)
13. Anarkali (1953)
14. Aaram (1951)
15. Albela (1951)