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Incredible Journey: From Being Penniless, Homeless Man To Bollywood Legend

Photo: The Quint

Born in Rawalpindi (now Pakistan), the early life of our hero was torn in the 1947 partition. That night, it was informed that people had roughly an hour before rioters arrived and burnt down their homes. Families had merely an hour or two before they left behind their roots – their homes. The protagonist of this story was 17 then.

He, along with his family, had only minutes to grab whatever money, clothes or personal items they could get their hands on. That night, hundreds of others fled from their homes in Rawalpindi and traveled to Delhi.

The boy had been serving the Royal Indian Navy for nearly three years before moving to India. After the India-Pakistan partition, he joined the Indian army Corps of Signals in Jabalpur and served their for nearly six years. Besides being a fighter, the boy was also a poet at heart.

In 1950, a poem of his was published in the Army publication ‘Sainik Samachar’. This boosted his confidence and he resolved to try his luck as a lyricist in Hindi films. In April 1950, he quit his service and traveled to Bombay in quest of his dreams. But with no breaks or opportunities forthcoming, he soon ran out of money. He returned to the army, got married, and returned to Jabalpur.

But yet again in 1956, he returned to Bombay. This time armed with 60 poems and stronger desire to find work. He also qualified himself as a motor vehicle driver as his ‘Plan B’. In case he didn’t succeed in finding a job as a song writer; he could always drive a taxi or work as a motor mechanic. History repeated itself, and within a few months in 1956, he ran out of money again and lost hope of ever making it as a song writer. Despite the Plan B, he instead decided to return to his army job.

One of those days in Bombay, he was attempting to take the train back home when a ticket inspector named Chitramal Swaroop caught him without a valid ticket and asked him to pay a fine. He looked shabby and had no money. Chitramal then asked him if he had eaten, bought him some food and asked him what he is doing in Bombay.


He told Chitramal everything and said he had lost all hope of becoming a lyrics writer. He had decided to return to his army job, and his wife. A patient Chitramal asked the young man to narrate a few of his poems. After hearing his works, an impressed Chitramal asked him to be his guest until he found work. With only a few poems that he had heard, Chitramal had believed, and rightly so, in this man’s talent. He would give him a pocket money of Rs. 2 everyday to eat and travel.

By the end of 1956, he got his first break in a Hindi film by Bhagwan Dada, a well known actor and film director. While sitting outside his office, our aspiring song-writer overheard that a lyricist had not turned up, causing much stress to Dada. So he mustered courage, walked into his office and was immediately put on the job.

But he established himself only by 1964, when the film Jab Jab Phool Khile became a huge hit. The songs were hugely popular across demographics and across the nation. After that, he found another big success with Milan in 1967; post that, he never lacked work until he lived. He wrote for the top most film producers and directors, several times for two generations of actors, producers and directors, until he passed away in 2002.

The legendary lyricist of Indian Cinema Anand Bakshi had by then written nearly 3,300 Hindi song lyrics, for nearly 630 films. Some of his top songs, like the exceptionally famous “Dum Maro Dum” found cult status, and have been remixed and sampled by many other contemporary artists.

He had always said, “There is something inside of me superior to my circumstances, stronger than every situation of life.”

His life is a massive inspiration for everyone who dreams big and is determined to make it a reality. Share it with someone whom you think must read this.

Anand Bakshi
Photo: The Quint