Remembering Naqsh Lyallpuri on his 89th birth anniversary.

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Jaswant Rai Sharma (24 February 1928–22 January 2017), popularly known by his pen name Naqsh Lyallpuri, was an Indian ghazal and Bollywood film lyricist. He is best known for the songs “Rasm-e-Ulfat Ko Nibhayen” (Dil Ki Rahen, 1973), “Tumhe Ho Na Ho” (Gharonda, 1977), “Yeh Mulaqaat Ek Bahana Hai “ (Khandaan, 1979), “Pyar Ka Dard Hai” (Dard, 1981), and “Chitthiye Ni Dard Firaaq Vaaliye” (Henna, 1991).

Lyallpuri came to Mumbai in the 1950s seeking a career in the Hindi film industry. He started writing stage plays and was introduced to actor Ram Mohan, who was an assistant to actor-director Jagdish Sethi. Mohan introduced Lyallpuri to Sethi, who listened to his poetry and asked him to write songs for his next film. Lyallpuri debuted as a film lyricist with the 1953 film Jaggu, writing the lyrics of “Agar Teri Aakhon Se Aakhein Mila Doon”, rendered by Asha Bhosle and composed by Hansraj Bahl.

Until the 1970s, Lyallpuri’s work did not meet with success. He worked in the postal department to earn his living. Music director Jaidev introduced him to television serials and asked him to write lyrics for the Hindi television series Shrikant. Lyallpuri went on to write songs for about 50 TV serials along with nearly 40 Punjabi films.

Lyallpuri collaborated with various Bollywood music directors, including Madan Mohan, Khayyam, Jaidev, Naushad, and Ravindra Jain, and Punjabi music composers like Surinder Kohli, Hansraj Bahl, Ved Sethi, and Husnlal-Bhagatram. He had a close association with director B. R. Ishara from their first film, Chetna, in 1970, which made Lyallpuri’s song “Main Toh Har Mod Par Tujhko Doonga Sada” performed by Mukesh famous.

Lyallpuri’s songs have been noted for being “hummable”, although they did not make a major impact on the overall industry. He avoided unwarranted word play and kept the lyrics simple, although he used Urdu words frequently. His command of Urdu made many doubt his Punjabi ethnicity. In his earlier career, he faced competition from Sahir Ludhianvi, Hasrat Jaipuri, and Shailendra, and later from other Urdu-poets like Gulzar and Majrooh Sultanpuri, who were all well established in the Hindi film industry. Lyallpuri hence focused on Hindi B-grade films and Punjabi films. His 1973 song “Rasm-e-Ulfat Ko Nibhayen” for the film Dil Ki Rahen was sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Mangeshkar counts it as her favourite Lyallpuri song but gives credit for its success to the music composed by Madan Mohan, based on raag Madhuvanti, and the lyrics written by Lyallpuri, rather than her own singing.

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