In the 60s, Yogesh, unable to find employment in films, took up a job at a furniture shop. He was worried about his best friend finding out about this, and even requested the shop’s owner to maintain secrecy…“under any circumstances”.
However, Sattu (Satya Prakash), Yogesh’s best friend, discovered his secret. Yogesh saw him standing outside the shop – peering at him – and trembled. Later, outside the shop, Sattu wept as he embraced Yogesh. He asked him to leave such jobs and stick to writing.
Yogesh didn’t think he could find anything to do in films, despite any effort he made. Sattu, however, was sure he would become a songwriter.
“He had great belief in me,” he says.
Sattu’s attitude put Yogesh in a fix. They were not related by blood. They had, however, been friends from school in Lucknow, where Sattu had seen Yogesh recite and work upon words in grade 5.
As they embraced outside that furniture shop, Yogesh wondered: “Who is this person embracing me? Who sent him to me? Why does he love me so much? Why does his heart grieve for me?”
The thought that led him to write his famous lines for the film Anand –
“Kahin to ye dil kabhi mil nahin pate
Kahin se nikal aaye janmon ke naate
Hai meethi uljahn, bairi apna man,
Apna hi hoke sahe dard paraye
(with some, our heart can never rhyme
with others, we can make - bonds for endless time
We are in a sweet dilemma –
For our heart’s our own foe;
It’s ours but for others’ pains
we find it thrum and glow.)”
Each stanza of this song is a philosophical exposition. Indeed, Yogesh had found his place in the industry. He would be a writer of simple words and deep thoughts.
This is evident in another song from the same film – “Zindagi kaisi hai paheli hai,
kabhi ye hansaye, kabhi ye rulaye
(An enigma, a puzzle – such is life.
At times, it makes us laugh,
At times, it’s full of strife)”
The music and words of this song came first. Then, the filmmaker shot scenes at the beach, all to accommodate the song.
As work started coming in, Sattu became very happy. Yogesh would sing to him drafts of his songs and seek his opinion.
However, there was always this problem. Yogesh could borrow lessons from life and make them into sensible film lyrics. He was, however, not suited for politics in cinema. “I have no hesitation in admitting that I am a very simple man,” he says candidly.
He often found himself subjected to misbehaviour of producers, and non-payment of dues. One of the troublesome producers, for instance, made him write lines after lines for a song just to feed his own ego. Yogesh persisted as long as he could and kept following him. Then, he left in a huff, exasperated by the producer’s power trip.
In another instance, a living music ‘legend’ needed work in Mumbai. Yogesh travelled with him to producers’ offices and introduced him. When the legend got work, he promptly refused to take Yogesh’s calls.
Friends warned him about his simplicity. They told him to not be so helpful and good to others. Yogesh couldn’t help it though and persisted in his ways. During a project, he didn’t mind sharing the lyricist’s credits with another writer. He made no fuss. Most would have.
“The decision to not go down the bad path – that is sanskaar,” he tells National Herald, while shedding light on his way of thinking. “I can confidently say I have not gone down the path of badness, though I had opportunities,” he adds.
It mattered to him how he conducted himself. He couldn’t bring himself to be unfair or unhelpful.
Asked if he was fit for the film industry, he responds by stating that people should be careful, and not spend too much energy chasing the industry people.
He speaks from experience. For, despite his success with Anand and later, Rajnigandha, Yogesh didn’t easily find work.
He thinks that there were several good writers then, and perhaps producers didn’t like his work that much.
I tell him about my stint with a film course for a college, where the students loved his lyrics. What youth wouldn’t connect with these words:
“Na jaane kyun hota hai ye zindagi ke saath,
Achanak ye man, kisi ke jaane ke baad,
Kare phir uski yaad,
Choto choti si baat.
(Why does this happen with us – you tell me,
when someone dear to us leaves –
then our heart suddenly,
the smallest details about them)
We talk about the reigning film culture. I tell him my view, that we are all too used to the 24x7 availability of modern music. We don’t select or choose. We are given, so we take it. If we make time for ourselves and choose, we will love the words and melodies of many old songs.
Yogesh joins in energetically: “What’s happened to music today? Where are the melodies?”
He names a few music directors he ‘kind of’ likes, and who respect him and want to work with him (but don’t do that). However, he is certain that the technological advancements have not resulted in better music, which has also impacted the quality of lyrics.
He hums a few of his numbers. I record one and publish it on Instagram. A student recognises him and messages me: “I wanna meet this man.”
The focus then shifts to the recent death of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He says, “The minute he died, the news channels remembered all of his poetry; they played it non-stop on TV. Where were they in the weeks, months and years leading to his death?”
He asks me for details and so I answer him – publications often devise obituaries in advance. Then, they compete to get them out quickly.
“That’s what will happen to me. That’s what happens to all,” he says.
While speaking about journalism, we make a move towards the building’s terrace. He shows me a tiny spot, and says that he wrote many of his famous songs there. Journalists often come to him but none has asked to see this place. I tell him such anecdotes will matter to those who like his work. And of them there are plenty.
They may not remember him by name but they remember his songs. Shreya Pandit, a Kathak dancer and a student of psychology, is one such listener. She is 20, and fond of several of Yogesh’s songs. She makes a point about today’s young listeners: “They don’t always feel deeply and relationships can be superficial. And if that’s the case then they won’t feel the intensity of a good song’s words.”
When I ask him about superficiality and modern relationships, I don’t get a complete answer. I reckon he is tired and wants a break. I am about to suggest so, when he says a line about his persistent eye problem, and subtly answers my question: “All that was to be seen has been seen.”
We take a break from films and philosophy and take a walk on the terrace. Soon we are laughing and chatting away as I take a few photographs. A thought occurs to me. There are many talented people seeking to join the film world. They don’t get a chance owing to their nature and their inability to mix with the crowd. Perhaps Yogesh is the lucky one that got a chance. He had a great friend backing him up.