One of the lesser known poets and lyricists of Hindi cinema was Rajinder Krishan. Born in 1919, at Jalalpur Rattan, in present day Pakistan, Krishan started of as a screenplay writer and lyricist in the late forties, and worked as one till his death in 1988.
Despite writing many memorable songs, Krishan is not considered in the same league of legendary lyricists such as Sahir Ludhyanvi, Shailendra, or Majrooh Sultanpuri. Though he was essentially a poet, Krishan wrote several screen plays for Hindi and even Tamil films (mostly for AVM Studios). One of his notable screen plays was for Padosan (1968) starring Sunil Dutt, Saira Banu, Mehmood, and Kishore Kumar.
In 1970, Gulshan Rai of Trimurti films had contracted Rajinder Krishan to write songs for his movie Johny Mera Naam starring Dev Anand, Pran, Hema Malini, Prem Nath, and Jeevan.
It’s said that and has been confirmed by the hero Dev Anand, that Rajendra Krishan never turned up for the music sessions for the first song in the movie, where noted music director duo Kalyanji-Anandji had already created the tunes.
A cheesed off film production unit including Vijay ‘Goldie’ Anand the director, called him up and accused him of his unprofessional attitude.
Krishan’s excuse was that he had just won a jackpot of Rs 46,00,000 in horse racing, and had to pocket the fortune. This was very huge money in those days and would easily be worth Rs 50 crore today. The reigning superstar Rajesh Khanna, used to earn less than ten lakhs for a movie, and even established stars such as Dev Anand or Dilip Kumar used to pocket around seven lakhs in 1970. Apparently, Krishan told them that he would finish the song by evening. He is said to have written the song in the taxi on the way to the studios.
The lyrics were,
Khafa na hona, der se aayi.
Door se aayi, majburi thi.
Lekin waada to nibhaaya…
Loosely translated, it means, ‘Don’t get angry because I came late. From a distant place, had a commitment, yet I kept my promise.”
It was certainly the heights of quick wit and imagination!
The song picturized on Dev and Hema was a huge hit.
You can check the song for yourself.
I had an opportunity to check with Dev Saab on the picturisation. It was at the famous ropeway at Nalanda in Bihar.
The story goes that during the shooting (check the video), the ropeway carriage was stuck midway for hours, with Hema firmly perched in Dev Saab’s lap. Gossip magazines of those days quoted Hema as saying that Dev was a thorough gentleman.
Johny Mera Naam went on to become a huge blockbuster that released almost simultaneously with Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker. A total entertainer, Johny Mera Naam is regarded as the biggest hit of Dev Saab’s career, while Mera Naam Joker, despite its multi-star cast bombed at the box office. Kapoor stopped accepting roles of the traditional quintessential Bollywood hero, and opted to be behind the camera for the next decade and a half after that.
Johny Mera Naam gave a much needed filip to Dev Saab’s career, and he went on to work as a commercially viable leading man for another decade, churning out hits such as Amir Garib, Jaaneman, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, and Des Pardes among others. He continues to make movies albeit uncaring of box office results.
Johny Mera Naam, the movie, is considered to be an ultimate hand book for anyone wishing to make a pot boiler. Perhaps another day, I will write about why it’s such a cult classic.