Sunday, April 17, 2016

‘Agar Main Poochhoon Jawaab Doge…’ - Remembering G. S Kohli

I had co-authored this piece along with Ramaswamy Narayanan for the Guzra Hua Zamana series on Sangeet Ke Sitare, a music group on Facebook.

G S Kohli CollageGursharan Singh Kohli, better known as just G. S Kohli, was born in 1928 in Punjab. Hardly any information is available about his early years. His journey in Hindi films started in 1952 when Dalsukh M. Pancholi gave O. P Nayyar a break in ‘Aasmaan’, and G. S Kohli was brought in as his assistant. Being an accomplished Tabla and Dholak player, he became an indispensable part of O. P Nayyar’s team. He assisted O. P Nayyar in more than 40 films, many of them along with Sebastian D’Souza, who was known to O. P Nayyar since his Lahore days. There were, however, many films of O. P Nayyar where G. S Kohli was the sole assistant. Prominent among such films are ‘Naya Andaaz’, ‘Naya Daur’, ‘Tumsa Nahin Dekha’, ‘Howrah Bridge’, ‘Phagun’, ‘Basant’, ‘Ek Musafir Ek Haseena’, ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’, and ‘Kismat’.
lambe haathG. S. Kohli’s first film as an independent music director was ‘Lambe Haath’ (1960). The Rafi solo ‘Pyar Ki Raah Dikha Duniya Ko’ became very popular. Anjaan wrote the lyrics for all the songs in this film, which gave Anjaan his first major hit after having been the industry for more than 6 years. Thus began a fruitful partnership between G. S Kohli and Anjaan, who went on to write almost 50% of all songs composed by G. S Kohli in Hindi films.
Although ‘Lambe Haath’ did not do very well, G. S Kohli’s work in it was appreciated and more offers started coming his way. His association with Anjaan continued but was limited in his next film ‘Mr. India’ (1961). All the songs of ‘Mr. India’ were written by Jaan Nisar Akhtar except ‘Mat Poochch Mera Hain Kaun Watan’ and ‘Nazar Ye Teri Teekhi’, which were by Anjaan. G. S Kohli’s compositions in this film give an impression of what G. S. Kohli and O. P Nayyar meant to each other.
Dekha Na Jaaye - Mr. India (1961) - Geeta Dutt - G. S Kohli - Jaan Nisar Akhtar
The next film, ‘Faulaad’ (1963), brought in a partnership with another lyricist – Farooq Qaiser, even as the association with Anjaan continued. Asha sang four of the five songs in the movie. The songs which stand out are ‘Jaan-e-Jaana Yoon Na Dekho Aaj Nafrat Se Mujhe’, and ‘Paaon Mein Jhanjhar’, which was quite popular.  shikari
Then came the movie which made him stand out and even now he is remembered for the songs from this movie. The film was ‘Shikari’ (1963). Surprisingly after having Anjaan as his lyricist for his previous films, ‘Shikari’ had four songs written by Farooq Qaiser and two by Qamar Jalalabadi. Be it ‘Tumko Piya Dil Diya’ sung by Lata and Usha or the two Rafi-Lata duets viz, ‘Agar Main Poochhoon Jawaab Doge’ and ‘Chaman Ke Phool Bhi Tujhko’, this film established G. S. Kohli as a talented composer.
One of the outcomes of the tremendous success of the Lata-Usha duet in ‘Shikaari’ was that it became almost like a G. S Kohli trademark. Most of his films after Shikari had a mandatory female-female dance duet, mostly by Mangeshkar sisters. Consider these – ‘Tadpa Le Jitna Chaahe’ (Chaar Darvesh -1964, Asha-Usha), ‘Majnoon Sa Aashiq’ (Naujawan – 1966, Lata-Usha), ‘Humre Sajan Ghar Aaye’ (Do Matwale – 1966, Lata-Usha), ‘Badi Kaafir Tumhari Nazar Nikli’ (Sangdil – 1967, Lata-Usha), ‘Hans Ke Shararat Karna Na’ (Jung Aur Aman – 1968, Krishna Kalle – Pushpa Pagdhare(?)), ‘Toot Gaya Kangana’ (Gunda – 1969, Asha-Usha), ‘Tujhe Kiya O Kitna Mana’ (Jaalsaaz – 1969, Suman-Krishna Kalle).
Female duets composed by G. S Kohli
For his next film after ‘Shikaari’ i.e. ‘Chaar Darvesh’ (1964), G. S Kohli again went to his favourite lyricist Anjaan, while also using Raja Mehdi Ali Khan’s lyrics for the first time. Jaani Babu Qawwal and Rafi sang a wonderful qawwali ‘Tere Karam Ki Dhoom’ for this film. This was followed by another musical success in ‘The Adventures of Robinhood’. One of the romantic songs sung by Rafi - ‘Maana Mere Haseen Sanam’ - was the highlight of this film.
Maana Mere Haseen Sanam - Adventures of Robinhood (1965) - Mohd. Rafi - G. S Kohli - Yogesh
Mukesh sang for the first and last time under Kohli’s baton in ‘Namaste Ji’ (1965) - ‘Bahaaro Thaam Lo’, a duet with Lata Mangeshkar. Although Anjaan was the lyricist for most of the songs, Anand Bakshi wrote two songs, out of which ‘Humein Kya Jo Har Soo Ujaale Hue Hain’ will be remembered as one of the best sad songs of Rafi.
The sweet success that G. S Kohli had tasted with ‘Shikaari’ was extremely short-lived. ‘Namaste Ji’ can be termed as his last musical success as the films that came later are hardly remembered by music lovers.
naujavanThis phase of G. S Kohli’s career saw him working with more lyricists beyond the ones he had already worked with. Naqsh Lyallpuri came in with one song in ‘Naujawan’ (1966) and then went on to write most of the songs in ‘Sangdil’ (1967). However, the more popular song of ‘Sangdil’ – Rafi’s ‘Din Bure Hote Hain Haalaat Bure Hote Hain’ – was written by Anjaan though. ‘Jung Aur Aman’ (1968) also had the trademark one song written by Anjaan, while Hasrat Jaipuri and Prem Dhawan wrote two songs each. Then came ‘Gunda’ (1969) for which Dev Kohli and Shadab wrote lyrics along with Anjaan. The association with Anjaan continued in ‘Jaalsaaz’ (1969), which also had lyrics by Farooq Qaiser and Naqsh Lyallpuri.
After ‘Jaalsaaz’, G. S Kohli’s career appears to have come to a standstill. He had no films as an independent composer, while his association with O. P Nayyar, who he had continued to assist even during the period when he worked as an independent composer, also ended.
Many years later, he composed for a small film called ‘Mahadaan’ (1984). This was the last film where he was the sole composer. Interestingly, like his very first film, all the songs of this film were also written by Anjaan. And all the songs were sung by his favourite singer - Asha Bhosle. Although there are two songs which have the typical G. S Kohli/ OPN flavour (with a 'sound' more in tune with the 80s), the other songs were very different, both in terms of tunes and orchestration.
Mere Dil Chal Chalen - Mahadaan (1984) - Asha Bhosle - G. S Kohli - Anjaan
paighaamAfter ‘Mahadaan’, G. S Kohli’s name appeared for one last time in the credits of ‘Paighaam’ (1988), where he composed just one song, while the others were by Yunus Malik. It was fitting that his very last song was of a type that had almost defined him post-Shikaari – a female-female dance duet by Anuradha Paudwal & Hemlata
G. S Kohli passed away on July, 25, 1996.


  1. Lambe Haath (1960)
  2. Mr. India (1961)
  3. Faulaad (1963)
  4. Shikaari (1963)
  5. Char Darvesh (1964)
  6. The Adventures of Robinhood (1965)
  7. Namaste Ji (1965)
  8. Naujawan (1966)
  9. Do Matwale (1966)
  10. Sangdil (1967)
  11. Jung Aur Aman (1968)
  12. Gunda (1969)
  13. Jaalsaaz (1969)
  14. Mahadaan (1984)
  15. Paighaam (1988) – with Yunus Malik

List Of Lyricists Who Worked With G. S Kohli (in order of number of songs)

  1. Anjaan
  2. Farooq Qaiser
  3. Naqsh Lyallpuri
  4. Jaan Nisar Akhtar
  5. Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
  6. Shadab
  7. Qamar Jalalabadi
  8. Hasrat Jaipuri
  9. Anand Bakshi
  10. Prem Dhawan
  11. Yogesh
  12. Dev Kohli
  13. Hasan Kamaal
  14. Saba Fazli


  1. Film Sangeetkar Suvarnayugwaale by Yogesh Yadav
  2. Dhunon Ki Yatra by Pankaj Rag
  3. Hindigeetmala, myswar, etc. for song listings