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Asad Bhopali – The Unsung Ghalib

(posted on Trivia – The Spice of Life on 12/06/2022)

Asad Bhopali
Image Courtesy :

The other day while commuting to work, I heard a beautiful song from the movie Thakur Jarnail Singh, sung by Asha Bhosle; the song was Hum Tere Bin Jeena Sakenge Sanam. I kept wondering who the lyricist was. As one is wont to ascribe many a well-written song to Sahir, Shailendra, Rajendra Krishan or Majrooh, I initially felt the same. As I heard the RJ announce the name of the lyricist, I learnt that this song was penned by Asad Bhopali whose death anniversary it was (9th June). I also realised that Asad Bhopali is one lyricist who has not been talked or written about enough even though he was quite prolific for four decades and had penned some lovely film songs. It was then that I felt that I must write a post on Asad Bhopali.

It was perhaps not mere coincidence that Asadullah Khan, better known as Asad Bhopali, shared the same name as the renowned Persian and Urdu poet ‘Ghalib‘. The commonality was not just in the name but also in interests and proclivities. In fact, Asad Bhopali was so influenced by Ghalib that he named one of his sons Ghalib Khan.

Born on 10th July, 1921 at Bhopal, Asad Bhopali had the perfect foundation to become a proficient Urdu poet and lyricist of film songs. His father Munshi Ahmad Khan was a teacher of Arabic and Persian. He mastered these languages under his father’s tutelage. He also aced Urdu. He had a penchant for writing poetry; India was still in the clutches of the British when he started wielding the pen. He was even imprisoned for his revolutionary poetry. In prison, the jailor was very impressed with his writing. After he was released from prison, he started attending mushairas regularly. It was during one of these mushairas that the Fazli brothers spotted his talent and roped him in. The Fazli brothers were scouting for lyricists for their venture Duniya (1949) as their film’s lyricist Arzoo Lucknavi had migrated to Pakistan post-partition after penning only two songs. Thus, on 18th May, 1949 Asad Bhopali relocated to Bombay to be come a lyricist.

It would not be out of place to mention here that S.H.Bihari was another lyricist whom the Fazli brothers engaged for this film. The music director of Duniya was C.Ramchandra. The two songs he wrote for this film – armaan lute dil tut gaya and rona hain to ro chupke chupke – were both melancholic and became popular. But this by no means meant a flood of offers. He did write a song or two in a few films like Nirdosh and Aadhi Raat. It was in B.R.Chopra’s Afsana that he wrote 6 songs. This was perhaps the best offer he had received till then.; the music directors were Husnlal Bhagatram. Many of the songs he wrote became popular. Qismat Bigdi Duniya Badli sung by Mukesh was a real gem. But even here he was not the sole lyricist. He had to share his glory with three other lyricists.

कुछ इस तरह से वक़्त ने ली करवटें असद
हँसती हुई निगाह भी मग़मूम हो गई

The lull continued. He would get an odd song in a movie or two. He did write some outstanding songs which became very popular. However, throughout the 1950s he could not forge a bond with music directors for whom he could pen lyrics as the sole lyricist. It was in the early 1960s that some success came his way. The one movie that catapulted him to the heights of success was Parasmani. Though it was a second rung fantasy film, its songs far made up for the mediocre story and direction. His two songs for this movie – Hansta Hua Noorani Chehra and Woh Jab Yaad Aaye – are immortal creations.

In the 1960s, music directors Ravi, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Ganesh Sharma and Usha Khanna were the ones who worked closely with him. It was in some of their projects that he got an opportunity to pen the lyrics of all the songs – Ravi (Ustadon Ke Ustaad, 1963), Laxmikant Pyarelal (Aaya Toofan,1964), Usha Khanna (Ek Sapera Ek Lutera, 1965) and Ganesh ( Thakur Jarnail Singh, 1966).

Here is a small audio clip of his where he reflects on his life and his songs.

Though he continued to write songs well into the 70s and 80s, success and recognition eluded him. His son Ghalib Khan says that he never liked to go to anyone to ask for work. Thus, he took up any project that came his way when he was approached. Misfortune perhaps never deserted him. The diary in which he wrote his nazms and ghazals got washed away in the rains. His reaction to the watery grave that his creativity met (as described by his son), perhaps sums up the story of his life –

जो मैं बेच सकता था मैं बेच चुका था, और जो बिक ही नहीं पाई वो वैसे भी किसी काम की नहीं थी

Unfortunately, he took to alcohol to deal with his frustration – which is what many creative people have done and continue to do. Incidentally, a lot of the imagery in his songs is drawn from alcoholism. His health started failing. Ironically when success finally arrived at his door step in the form of the Filmfare award for the best lyricist for the movie Maine Pyaar Kiya (Dil Deewaana Bin Sajna Ke) in 1990, his condition was such that he could not even go to personally receive it. He soon passed away due to complications arising out of a severe paralytic stroke on 9th June, 1990 at Bhopal at the age of 68. He wrote more than 400 Hindi film songs (as per Hindigeetmala) – some of which are immortal thereby standing as a testimonial to his calibre and potential which was never fully harnessed. In 1995 the Madhya Pradesh Urdu Academy published a collection of his poetry – Roshni, Dhoop, Chandni. He was Ghalib no doubt but a largely unacknowledged one, at that.

Here I present a list of 10 songs of the golden era penned by Asad Bhopali which I like. I have tried to capture the various moods in his songs. The songs he wrote for Ravi were perhaps his best according to me.

1) Do Dil Dhadak Rahe Hain (Insaaf, 1956) Music Director : Chitragupt; Playback Singers : Talat Mahmood & Asha Bhosle. This is a lovely duet of Asha and Talat perhaps featuring Ajit and Nalini Jaiwant (video not available). The song begins with an enchanting hum. The lyrics of Asad Bhopali try to show how both the man and his lady are made for each other. The words – nagma and saaz, kahaani and raaz, ada-nazar-dard-andaaz – all of them fall in place so wonderfully.

Do dil dhadak rahe hain aur aawaaz ek hain
nagme judaa-judaa hain magar saaz ek hain

rangeen har adaa hain, bechain har nazar hain
ik dard saa idhar hain, ik dard saa udhar hain
donon ki beqaraari kaa andaaz ek hain

tadpaaiye na hamko, sharmaayiye na hamse
donon ki zindagi hain ek doosre ke dam se
ham do kahaaniyaan hain magar raaz ek hain

2) Pyaar Jagaanewala (Zara Bachke, 1959)  Music Director: Shaukat Dehlvi ‘Nashad’ ; Playback Singers : Lata Mangeshkar & Manna Dey. This is a lesser known movie of Nanda, though it was released in the same year as Dhool ka Phool and Chhoti Behen, which established her as an actress to reckon with. The music of Nashad and the lyrics of Asad Bhopali are enthralling. This romantic duet also has a sad version which is a solo sung by Manna Dey. There is also a third truncated version of the song sung by Lata alone. The YouTube link below has all the three versions. This duet has great recall value and is quite hummable. The words aa gaya add a wonderful zing to the song.

bhool na jaana baatein apni
waade apne
 kasmen apni
dekho munh na modnaa
dil na todnaa jee
aaa aaa
pyaar jagaane waala
neendein churaane waala
aa gayaa

3) Yeh Meri Chalti Phirti Laash (Nirdosh, 1950) Music Director: Shyam Sunder; Playback Singer : Lata Mangeshkar. The lyrics of this melancholic song are rather hard hitting. It talks of the inequalities in society and the lyricist asks – if this is life then how does one live? The lady is described as a corpse who is just going through the motions.

gareebon ki taraf bhi dekh o neele gagan waale
hamaari beqasi se khelte hain aaj dhan waale
yahi hain zindagi to zindagi kaise basar hogi
ye meri chalti phirti laash kal gairon ke ghar hogi

4) Yeh Rang Bhare Baadal (Tu Nahin Aur Sahi, 1960) Music Director: Ravi; Playback Singers: Asha Bhosle & Md.Rafi. Despite my best efforts I was not able to get the entire plot of the movie. But as the title (if not you some other person) suggests, it is perhaps a person falling in love with one but finally settling down with someone else. This romantic song shot in a train has a foot tapping rhythm. The lyrics of Asad do great justice to the mood of the song. The word sahal (सहल) was new to me. It is a synonym of aasaan (आसान). One of Asad Bhopali’s capabilities was to churn out synonyms for any word, given his command over Urdu. The words used to rhyme are – sahal, aanchal, baadal, chal, mahal.

Tere ye haseen andaaz sanam
deewaanaa banaa kar chhodenge

ye soch liyaa thaa pahle hi
tumhen apnaa banaa kar chhodenge
ab raahen zindagi ki
 ho jaayengi sahal

aaa aaa
ye rang bhare baadal
 ye udtaa huaa aanchal
kehtaa hai ishaaron se
 mausam hai bahaaron kaa
aa door kahin chal

5) Zara Si Baat Pyaar Ki (Salaam Memsaab, 1961) Music Director : Ravi; Playback Singers : Md.Rafi & Suman Kalyanpur. This playful duet is a piano song sung at a party. it features Subbiraj (who happens to be a cousin of Raj Kapoor) and Kumkum. The lyrics are top class. While the hero flirts, the lady gives him a fitting reply in the last stanza. I love the way Asad Bhopali has written the repartee.

Zaraa shareef ladkiyon se
baat karnaa seekhiye
phir uske baad aayine mein
apni shaql dekhiye
hamaare mehmaan thhe
to baat aake tal gayi
nahin to log poochhate
ke shaql kyun baadal gayi

6) Main Khushnaseeb Hun (Tower House, 1962) Music Director : Ravi; Playback Singers : Mukesh & Lata Mangeshkar. I would rate this song as one of the best duets of Mukesh and Lata. I also like the song because of the mutual respect that is displayed for each other by the hero and heroine – Ajit and Shakila. It is such an enjoyable piano song. It has multiple versions – duet and solos of Mukesh and Lata. Again the words that rhyme – raazdaar, baar, ikhtiyaar, shaandaar and bahaar – are very tastefully written. The other song of Tower House – Ai Mere Dil-e-nadaan – is a favourite too.

Main khushnaseeb hoon mujhko kisi ka pyaar mila
bada haseen mere dil ka raazdaar mila

hain dil mein pyaar zabaan chup jhuki jhuki nazrein
ajab adaa se koi aaj pahli baar milaa

kisi ko paake mere dil ka haal mat poocho
ke jaise saare zamaane pe ikhtiyaar milaa

kisi ne poore kiye aaj pyaar ke waade
meri wafa ka sila mujhko shaandaar milaa

mere chaman ka har ik phool muskuraane laga
wo kya mile ke mujhe mausam-e-bahaar mila

7) Teri Ada Pe Nisaar Karne (Darbaar, 1955) Music Director : Hansraj Behl; Playback Singer: Talat Mahmood. This is another light hearted song penned by Asad Bhopali with Talat singing it in his silken voice. The video of the song is not available.

main aisi kaafir nazar ke sadke 
ki jisne mera guroor toda 
jo sar kahin bhi
 na jhuk saka thha
wo sar jhukaaya teri gali mein
Bade maze ka hua ye sauda
teri amaanat
 tujhi ko de di
jo dil mila thha teri gali mein
wo dil lutaaya teri gali mein
teri ada par nisaar karne
 main dil ko laaya
 teri gali mein

8) Woh Jab Yaad Aaye (Parasmani, 1963) Music Directors: Laxmikant Pyarelal; Playback Singers : Md. Rafi & Lata Mangeshkar. If there is one song for which Asad Bhopali would be remembered for generations to come, it is this song. It is a song of pining for one’s lover. It has mixed feelings beautifully expressed. A feeling of joy in the midst of sorrow is so wonderfully worded – magar rote rote hansi aa gayi hain khayalon mein aakar woh jab muskuraae. This song showcases the calibre of Asad Bhopali.

Wo jab yaad aaye bahut yaad aaye
ghame zindagi ke andhere me hamne
chirage muhabbat jalaaye bujhaaye

aahaten jaag uthin raaste hans diye
thaam kar dil uthe ham kisi ke liye
kai baar aisa bhi dhokha huaa hai
chale aa rahe hain wo nazre jhukaaye

dil sulagne lagaa ashq bahne lage
jaane kyaa kyaa hamen log kahne lage
magar rote rote hansi aa gayi hain
khayaalon me aake wo jab muskuraae

wo juda kyaa huye zindagi kho gayi
shamma jalti rahi roshni kho gayi
bahut koshishen ki magar dil na bahla
kai saaz chhede kayi geet gaaye

9) Hum Tumse Juda Hoke (Ek Sapera Ek Lutera, 1965) Music Director: Usha Khanna; Playback Singer : Md. Rafi. Rafi was very emotional as he recorded this song in the studio. He came out of the recording room and praised Asad Bhopali for his lyrics. While the movie was nowhere in the reckoning, this song immortalized both Asad Bhopali and Rafi. This song is one of hope, despair and defiance.

Hum tum se judaa hoke mar jaayenge ro ro ke

duniyaa badi zaalim hain dil tod ke hansti hain
ik mauj kinaare se milne ko tarasti hain
keh do na koi roke...

sochaa thaa kabhi do dil milkar na judaa honge
maaloom na thaa ham yoon naaqaam-e-wafaa honge
qismat ne diye dhokhe...

vaade nahin bhoolenge kasmen nahin todenge
ye tay hain ke ham donon milnaa nahin chhodenge
jo rok sake roke

10) Hum Tere Bin Jee Na Sakenge Sanam (Thakur Jarnail Singh, 1966) Music Director : Ganesh; Playback Singer : Asha Bhosle. This was the song which was instrumental in my writing this post and so I end my list with it. Featuring Helen and Dara Singh, this is a melodious song composed by Ganesh Sharma – the brother of music director Pyarelal.

Saari duniyaa mein aisaa shabaab nahin hai
ye haqeeqat hai teraa jawaab nahin hai
kisi aur mein kahaan ye adaa
tere jaisaa nahin hai koyi doosraa

koyi bhi tujhse badhke azeez nahin hai
dil ke aage jahaan koyi cheez nahin hai

tujhe kyaa khabar tere pyaar se
zindagi ko milaa hai badaa aasraa

pahle hi din se ham dil mein thaan chuke hain
tere banke tujhe apnaa maan chuke hain

tere saamne karen kyaa bayaan
umr bhar saath rahne kaa ye faisalaa
ham tere binaa jee na sakenge sanam
ham tere binaa jee na sakenge sanam

As I end this post, I am amazed at the depth of Asad Bhopali’s vocabulary and his way with words. It is evident that most of the movies that figure in the list above did not do very well at the box office. In fact, many were low budget films with second rung actors. But that in no way deterred Asad Bhopali from putting his best foot forward. He wrote songs of different kinds – happy, sad, tongue-in-cheek, philosophical and romantic. I have not included his song songs of the 1970s and 1980s in this post. As the golden era ended, he did try to still keep the old world charm alive in the lyrics of film songs. It is unfortunate that he could not scale the heights of success that he deserved to. Thus, he remained the unsung Ghalib of his times.

Disclaimer claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from YouTube and other platforms only to make the post audio visual. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

8 thoughts on “Asad Bhopali – The Unsung Ghalib

  1. Thanks for a very informative and interesting post. Lovely songs (I am especially happy to see Do dil dhadak rahe hain here – it’s one of my favourite songs). Another one by Asad Bhopali which I like a lot is Sau baar janam lenge:


  2. Anita,
    What a coincidence! A few days back (on 9th June) Vividh Bharati broadcast a special programme on Asad Bhopali. Most of the songs they played were quite well-known. Some have become everlasting such as songs of ‘Parasmani’. The credit went to the debutante LP who went on become one of the most famous and powerful duo music directors – the new Shankar-Jaikishan in all respects. Then I realised Asad Bhopali was an important lyricist but he got a raw deal. It is partly the lyricist’s curse – getting the least credit, whereas he is the original creator of the song. Congratulations for covering him well.


    1. AKji, the programme I refer to in the introduction of the post is the Vividh Bharati programme. While Asad Bhopali became popular because of LP’s Parasmani, I would rate his songs for Ravi and Chitagupt as being equally good. The lyricist is really unfortunate – to the extent that sometimes if there are two or three lyricists in a movie, it cannot be said with certainty as to which songs who penned. Thanks for reading and appreciating!


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