This article was written as part of the ‘Guzra Hua Zamana’ series on Sangeet Ke Sitare, a music group on Facebook.
Lyricists are the least remembered among all the contributors to film songs. You could find reams of paper written about composers, and terabytes of online space devoted to singers, but when it comes to appreciating the value of a lyricist, the world suddenly turns miserly. The situation assumes tragic proportions when one realizes that there are a few lyricists who have written some of the most popular songs of all time, but they are rarely discussed or even remembered. One such forgotten lyricist of popular songs is Shamsul Huda Bihari (S. H Bihari).
S. H Bihari was born in the Arrah district of Bihar in 1922. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from one the most prestigious colleges in the country of the time – Presidency College, Kolkata. It was in Kolkata that he developed an interest in sports and even played football for Mohun Bagan. However, his real passion was poetry and that brought him to his brother in Mumbai around 1947. In his initial Mumbai years, he worked as an assistant manager in a rubber factory.
It is said that S. H Bihari got his first break in films when Anil Biswas, who had a keen ear for fine poetry, heard one of his ghazals and took him on to write two songs for Laadli (1949). Around the same time he got a few more assignments to write a few songs for films like Aaiye (1949) and Duniya (1949). This trend continued for the next few years as he wrote one or two songs in some more films. While quantity remained elusive, this was the period when he got a chance to work with established great composers like Anil Biswas, Gyan Dutt, C. Ramchandra and Shyam Sundar. In some of his earlier films, he was credited as ‘H. S Huda’ or simply ‘Huda’.
The first film where he got to write most of the songs was Bhagwan’s Rangeela (1953). Nine of the eleven songs of this Jamal Sen composed film were written by him. One of the songs from the film went –
dil aaj mera gaane laga geet pyaar ke
lo dheere dheere aa hi gaye din bahaar ke
This proved prescient, as he would soon get his first major break that would take him on the path of success and make him known in the industry for his romantic songs. The film that brought in the sweet smell of success was S. Mukherjee’s Shart (1954). Sharing credits with Rajinder Krishan in this film, S. H Bihari wrote nine songs, including the two most romantic and well-remembered songs – ‘na ye chaand hoga na tare rahenge’, and ‘dekho wo chaand chhup ke karta hai kya ishaare’.
How he landed up with the Shart assignment has an interesting tale. At a time when he hardly had any work and daily sustenance itself was a huge challenge, he used to make the rounds of Filmistan just to get to meet S. Mukherjee once. Luck was not on his side, though. He would wait from morning till evening, but chances of meeting the doyen of Filmistan seemed remote. Once, by chance, he bumped into S. Mukherjee, who did not acknowledge his greetings but asked him casually, “kya bechte ho?” S. H Bihari was prompt in his response, “… dil ke tukde, magar wo nahin jinki tareef filmi geeton mein is tarah ki jaati hai – ‘ek dil ke tukde hazaar hue, koi yahan gira koi wahan gira’”. S. Mukherjee was suitably impressed and S. H Bihari got the assignment.
Shart established a partnership between Hemant Kumar & S. H Bihari that would result in almost 80 songs in 12 films, all in a brief period of 3 years. Barring a handful of exceptions, S. H Bihari worked almost exclusively with Hemant Kumar during this period. While this partnership could not repeat the success of the first film, it resulted in numerous gems like ‘chaand se poochho sitaaron se poochho’ (Daaku Ki Ladki, 1954), ‘chhupa le daagh-e-jigar’ (Bahu, 1955), ‘tum jo mile o sanam (Hamara Watan, 1956), ‘mohabbat ka nateeja’ (Arab Ka Saudagar, 1956), ‘dil chhed koi aisa naghma’ (Inspector, 1956), ‘ye hansta hua karvaan’ (Ek Jhalak, 1957), ‘nayi manzil nayi raahen’ (Hill Station, 1957), etc. It was around the same time that he also penned two Hindi songs for Hemant Kumar in the Marathi film, Nayikinicha Sajja (1957). The Hemant Kumar – S. H Bihari partnership came to an abrupt end in 1957. However, the two collaborated once again many years later in Bees Saal Pehle (1972), which came at a time when Hemant Kumar’s career in Hindi films was on its last leg, and S. H Bihari was again going through a rough patchy professionally thanks to a lower demand for romantic songs and better established partnerships of other lyricists with the successful composers in the 70s.
Interestingly, for S. H Bihari the next important partnership came about with Ravi, who probably worked closely with him while working as an assistant with Hemant Kumar. Together, Ravi and S. H Bihari produced 38 songs in 11 films. Again, this partnership lasted just a few years – from Ghar Sansar in 1958 to Isi Ka Naam Duniya Hai in 1962, before appearing one more time in Sindbad Alibaba Aladdin in 1965. The combination resulted in some diverse genre of songs like the preachy ‘bhala karne wale bhalaai kiye ja’ (Ghar Sansar, 1958), the philosophical ‘isi ka naam duniya hai’ (Isi Ka Naam Duniya Hai, 1962), the tipsy ‘ye mehfil ye botal ye rangeen paani’ (Isi Na Naam Duniya Hai, 1962), or even a comic song like ‘mooliram aur bhindimal ka nikal gaya hai diwala’ (Dulhan, 1958).
That brings us to S. H Bihari’s most successful pairing with any music director – O. P Nayyar. After testing the waters with a song each in Basant (1960), Mitti Mein Sona (1960) and Hong Kong (1962), the collaboration gained steam with Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962) and continued through thick and thin till Bin Maa Ke Bachche (1980). This heady journey resulted in classics like ‘bahut shukriya badi mehrbaani’ (Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, 1962), ‘deewana hua baadal’ (Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964), ‘raaton ko chori chori’ (Mohabbat Zindagi Hai, 1966), ‘zulfon ko hata de chehre se’ (Sawan Ki Ghata, 1966), ‘yehi wo jagah hai’ (Ye Raat Phir Na Aayegi, 1966) ‘kajra mohabbat wala’ (Kismat, 1968), and ‘chain se humko kabhi’ (Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye, 1974), along with a host of other popular as well as relatively lesser celebrated songs. In all, O. P Nayyar and S. H Bihari collaborated on 89 songs in 24 films.
In a radio interview, S. H Bihari narrated an interesting incident when, while writing for O. P Nayyar’s Mohabbat Zindagi Hai, he encountered an extreme case of writer’s block that prevented him for coming up with the appropriate words for Rafi’s ‘tumhari mulaqat se mujhko’. The situation was so bad that it started a bout of self-doubt and his confidence took a severe beating. Seeing his predicament, Asha Bhosle took him out for tea and assured him that writing songs was his ‘baayen haath ka khel’. These seemingly simple words worked wonders for his self-confidence and he felt rejuvenated to write the song to perfection.
S. H Bihari was never a very prolific lyricist, but after 1972 his output declined significantly. A man who averaged around 14 songs a year in the twenty years from 1952-1972, wrote less than 5 songs per year for the next ten. But his career would soon see a revival, although for a very short period.
S. H Bihari’s last successful partnership came in the 1980s with Laxmikant Pyarelal. K. C Bokadia roped him in to write the story, dialogues and lyrics of Pyar Jhukta Nahin (1985). The film was a runaway success, both at the box-office and musically. Once again, after a long time, songs written by S. H Bihari were playing everywhere. This led to a brief but substantial partnership with Laxmikant Pyarelal, arguably the most successful composers of that period. Although they had an already existing, very strong partnership with Anand Bakshi, Laxmikant Pyarelal worked with S. H Bihari in as many as 16 films over a short span of 3 years, many of which released after his untimely death on February 25, 1987.
In his career of close to 40 years, S. H Bihari wrote more than 420 songs for 32 composers in 114 films. He worked at least once with almost all the major composers of his era, with the notable exception of Naushad, S. D Burman and Salil Chowdhury.
If one quickly glances over the list of songs written by S. H Bihari, it is very obvious that love and romance was the predominant theme. While he did write songs of other genres, he was at his best while writing on themes of love. Whether it was an expression of unbridled joy at the realization of love in ‘ang ang mein umang’ (Bahu, 1955) or ‘mera akele jiya kaise laage re piya’ (Inspector, 1956); an expression of a man’s jealousy at the very prospects of an imaginary rival in ‘tumhara chahnewala’ (Kahin Din Kahin Raat, 1968); a description of the beloved’s beauty in ‘ye chaand sa roshan chehra’ (Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964); the very thought of probable separation in ‘zindagi kaise kategi’ (Meri Biwi Ki Shaadi, 1979); sadness of actual separation in ‘kabhi aansoo bahaate hain’ (Madhur Milan, 1955); or the bitterness following a messy break-up in ‘chain se humko kabhi’ (Pran Jaye Par Vacan Na Jaye, 1974); all moods and flavours of love and romance are evident in S. H Bihari’s songs.
Although lyric writing was his primary vocation, he also dabbled in other areas of film writing. Some of the films where he was involved with story, screenplay, and/or dialogue writing were Isi Ka Naam Duniya Hai (1962), Karate (1983), and Pyar Jhukta Nahin (1985).
At the time of his death, S. H Bihari was at the second peak of his career. Had it not been for his untimely death, it is very likely that would have enjoyed success for some more time. But who knows what compromises he would have had to make during this period when Hindi film music had reached its nadir and the scope of good lyrics was dwindling. It is best that we remember him for his limited, but good work.
List of Composers who Worked with S. H Bihari
- Anil Biswas
- Aziz Nazan
- B. N Bali
- Bappi Lahiri
- Basant Prakash
- Bulo C. Rani
- C. Arjun
- C. Ramchandra
- Gyan Dutt
- Hemant Kumar
- Iqbal Qureishi
- Jagjit Singh
- Jamal Sen
- Kalyanji Anandji
- Laxmikant Pyarelal
- Madan Mohan
- Mohd. Shafi
- N. Dutta
- O. P Nayyar
- R. D Burman
- Ram Ganguly
- Ramchandra Pal
- Shankar Jaikishan
- Shaukat Haidari
- Shyam Sundar
- Snehal Bhatkar
- Sonik Omi
- Usha Khanna