The writer and lyricist Yogesh Gaur was born on 19 March 1943 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. His father was an engineer in the Public Works Department in Lucknow, then under British rule. Since his mother was fond of poetry, Yogesh was introduced to the famed literary circles in the city at a young age. He soon started writing songs and poems himself, pleasantly surprised to see his neighbours and friends appreciative of his writing. After he had passed his intermediate examination from D.A.V. college, Yogesh enrolled himself in a university. Unfortunately, his father passed away and the responsibility of supporting his family fell to him. He learned typewriting to add to his skills and started looking for small jobs. Unable to find any, he thought of his cousin Vrajendra Gaur, working in Bombay at the time as a dialogue writer for films.
At 16, Yogesh moved to Bombay with his school friend Satyaprakash to look for gainful employment. His cousin Vrajendra was then working with the director Shakti Samanta, and he suggested that Yogesh look for work in the industry as well. However, he refused to help him, and so Satyaprakash and Yogesh decided to remain in Bombay and find work on their own terms. Good at keeping in mind large swathes of poetry, it occurred to Yogesh to look for work in the fields of scriptwriting, dialogue writing and lyrics. With the paltry sum of Rs. 500 between them, the two friends scraped by working odd jobs while living in slums. Yogesh even started working as an extra in films like Chakra Dhari(1954).
When Satyaprakash and Yogesh moved to a chawl in Oshiwara, they met the writer Gulshan Bawra, who was also struggling to find a place in the industry. The entire chawl seemed to be filled with other struggling artists and writers with stars in their eyes, and Bawra encouraged Yogesh to meet producers and writers. Bhagwan Sinha, a character actor, introduced Yogesh to the music composer Robin Banerjee.
Robin Banerjee was impressed when Yogesh showed him his diary of poems, and coaxed him into writing lyrics for a tune Banerjee had composed. The film never got made, but some time later, Yogesh finally got his first break with the film Sakhi Robin (1962), for which Robin Banerjee composed the music. He wrote six songs of which Tum jo aao toh pyaar aajaye voiced by Manna Dey and Suman Kalyanpur proved to be a smashing hit. Over the next seven years or so, Yogesh continued to write songs for low-budget stunt and spy films like Junglee Raja (1963), Rocket Tarzan (1963), Krishnavtar (1964), Marvel Man (1964), Flying Circus (1965), Husn Ka Ghulam (1966), Rustam Kaun (1966), Spy in Goa (1966), Tarzan Ki Mehbooba (1966), Ek Raat (1967), Lutera Aur Jadugar (1968) and S.O.S. Jasoos 007 (1969). The songs Sama ho nasheela, ho aalam rangeela (Rustom Kaun, 1966) and Saubaar bana kar maa likne saubaar mitaya hoga composed by Usha Khanna (Ek Raat, 1967) were massive hits, and played in the prime time slot on Radio Ceylon. He also wrote a song for Laxmikant-Pyarelal for the film Duniya Nachegi (1967) when the composer duo was struggling to find a footing in the industry.
The turning point in Yogesh’s career came when he met the composer Salil Chowdhury through Sabita Chowdhury, who eventually married him. It was an opportune meeting: Yogesh admired the composer so much that he would spend hours at Sabita’s house listening to Salil Chowdhury’s music since he could not afford to buy discs himself. Salil, on the other hand, had just lost his lyricist friend Shailendra and was on the lookout for another writer. He asked Yogesh to write songs for the classic Anand(1970). With evergreen songs like Zindagi kaisi hai paheli hae and Kahin door jab din dhal jaye voiced by Mukesh and picturized on the superstar Rajesh Khanna, Yogesh had arrived. The songs he wrote came to define his style for years to come—simple, evocative language used to reflect the dilemmas of the character such that each member of the audience would be moved by it.
Yogesh continued his association with Hrishikesh Mukherjee in several films, writing songs that still come easily to the lips of many. These included Chal chal re pyaasa mann (Subse Bada Sukh, 1972), Maine kaha phoolon se, Aaye tum yaad mujhe and Badi sooni sooni hai zindagi (Mili, 1975), Kabhi kabhi pal jeevan ke and O mrignayanee chandramukhee (Rang Birangi, 1983), Kissi se nakehna and Tum jabse jeevan mein (Kissise Na Kehna, 1983).
Encouraged by Salil Chowdhury to experiment with his style of songwriting, Yogesh penned gems for him like O meri pran sajni champavati aaja (Annadata, 1972), Humein yaad kabhi tum karlena (Anokha Daan, 1972), Rajnigandha phool tumhare mehke uhin jeevan mein and Kayin baar yun hi dekha hai (Rajnigandha, 1974), Na jaane kyun hota hai ye zindagi ke saath and Jaan-e-man jaan-e-man tere do nayan (Chhoti Si Baat, 1975), Kaali re kaali re (Minoo, 1977) and Ni sa ga ma pa (Anand Mahal, 1977). Salil Chowdhury and Yogesh also worked together for a few other films like Mere Bhaiya (1972), Jeena Yahan (1979), Nani Maa (1981), Room No. 203 (1980) and Agni Pareeksha (1988).
Charmed by the songs of Anand, the filmmaker Basu Chatterjee called Yogesh to write the songs for his films Us Paar (1974) and Rajnigandha. In Us Paar, Yogesh worked with S.D. Burman for the first time. His song Ye jab se hui jiya ki chori, voiced by Lata Mangeshkar, impressed S.D. Burman so much that he enlisted his help to pen the songs for Mili. Apart from Us Paar, Rajnigandha and Chhoti Si Baat, Yogesh worked with Basu Chatterjee for the films Priyatama (1977), Dillagi (1978), Manzil (1979), Baton Baton Mein(1979), Apne Paraye (1980) and Shaukeeen(1981). Of these, the songs Na bole tum na maine kuchh kaha and Suniye kahiye from Baton Baton Mein still remain popular.
In a career spanning more than six decades, Yogesh Gaur worked with renowned composers like R.D. Burman, Usha Khanna, Rajesh Roshan,Bappi Lahiri, Kalyanji-Anandji and Nikhil Vinay. He also worked as a composer for two films with Manna Dey, wrote lyrics for the Asrani directed Chala Murari Hero Banne (1977) and wrote the script and dialogues for Kishore Kumar’s unreleased film Pyar Ajnabi Hai.
At a time when Hindi cinema was inundated with high-flown Urdu songs and dialogues, Yogesh stood out with his dedication to writing equally lyrical songs in vernacular Hindi. He always maintained that writing lyrics for songs involved talking about feelings and experiences in the hustle of everyday life in the simplest words. Perhaps this evocation of the beauty of everyday life comes across well in one of his best-known songs Rimjhim gire sawan. Featured in Manzil and sung by the mellifluous Lata Mangeshkar, the song is simply picturised on the young couple played by Amitabh Bachchan and Moushumi Chatterjee strolling the streets of the city in the rain.
In one of his interviews, Yogesh regretted being unable to work with any of the Kapoors over his long career. Though Shashi Kapoor was slated to play the titular role in Anand, the role went to Rajesh Khanna instead. Yogesh was once asked to pen the lyrics for a few of Raj Kapoor’s films. Though he went to the actor-filmmaker’s house a few times, he was always turned away by the security guard: his humble attire never made him look like the successful poet he was.
In the early 1990s, Salil Chowdhury conducted a 50-voice choir for Delhi Doordarshan. Yogesh was invited to translate into Hindi several of Salil Chowdhury’s protest songs from his IPTA days. Apart from this, Yogesh’s career outside of films included writing the title tracks for over 200 television serials, including Chandrakanta, Hasratein, Thoda Hai Thode Ki Zaroorat Hai and Gudgudee. The last film Yogesh wrote lyrics for was Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain (2017), a film directed by Harish Vyas, starring Sanjay Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi. Focusing on the vicissitudes of everyday life, the film was the perfect fit for Yogesh’s deceptively simple style of writing. For his longstanding contribution to Indian cinema, Yogesh was also awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Award in 2010.
Towards the end of his career, Yogesh struggled to keep up with the changing pace of the industry and the evolving tastes of the audience. In a world driven by publicity, most people remained unaware of the man who wrote songs they all knew by heart, and Yogesh faded into obscurity. The veteran lyricist passed away on 29 May 2020 at the age of 77 after a prolonged illness in Vasai, Mumbai. He is survived by his son and daughter-in-law.
4. Hindi FilmonKeGeetkar, pg. 241-243