Dhawan gave Manoj Kumar more shades to his patriotic image with his powerful words ‘Purab Aur Paschim’
Dhawan gave Manoj Kumar more shades to his patriotic image with his powerful words ‘Purab Aur Paschim’

Even in this multitasking era, it would be hard to find a lyricist who would also choreograph songs other than acting in a few of them. Prem Dhawan (1923-2001) was one such kind. Having begun his career in the 1940s, Dhawan was not all that well known like a few of his radical peers. 

Yet he managed a National Award for his lyrics and gave the hero Manoj Kumar more shades of his patriotic image with his powerful words in ‘Shaheed’ and ‘Purab Aur Paschim’. In the 30-odd films he managed to write lyrics for, about a dozen of them were noticed and were box office successes too. 

He also took upon the challenging task of scoring music for a few films, ‘Pavitra Papi’ (1970) for one, in which the song ‘‘Teri Duniya Se Hoke Majboor Main Chala’’ became a major hit. It is even said that this song was repeatedly played over the radio and television channels in memory of Kishore Kumar, its singer who died in 1987.

Dhawan also acted in a couple of films, in which the 1959 hit ‘Goonj Uthi Shehnai’ is also included. This film was the one which gave a massive heft to actor Rajendra Kumar, who is said to have had his call sheet booked for the next four years!

The 1980s saw the post-Amitabh phase of film heroes slowly making their mark in Hindi cinema. In this list of young heroes, there were the ones from southern cinema too like Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. Prem Dhawan’s last major work was in the dubbed version of ‘Apoorva Sahodarargal’ titled ‘Appu Raja’, a modest hit in Hindi. 

Released in 1989, it was a major box office hit for Kamal who had this home production touch the dizzying heights of being classified as an all-time box office hit of Tamil cinema. Nearly thirty years later, Shah Rukh Khan is now playing a dwarf, a la Kamal, who has not yet revealed about how he managed to play a stunted person, one of the triple roles he essayed in that film. 

Dhawan died on May 7, 17 years ago. Yet another celebrity who died this week was Talat Mahmood about whom this columnist has written about in various earlier columns. Mahmood died on May 9, 20 years ago.