Lasting songs and lost people

Paromita Vohra  There are some artistes to whose work people respond to with all their emotional selves, but for some reason these artistes remain unsung, near-forgotten.

One such artiste was Hindi film music director Jaidev Verma whose birth anniversary falls tomorrow, on August 3. Some may genuinely wonder who he was. But name his most famous song and most will thrill with recognition, saying they love it: Abhi na jao chhodke ke dil abhi bhara nahin from the Navketan film, Hum Dono.

Although the songs of Hum Dono were both, great hits and enduring classics, Jaidev’s career was unsuccessful and sparse — about 40 films in 30 years. Born in Nairobi, where his father worked in the railways, he was sent alone on a ship to be with his uncle in Ludhiana to pursue his studies. His uncle encouraged his love of music.

Jaidev Verma
Illustrations / Uday Mohite

At 14, enamoured by the movies, like many people, he ran away to Bombay to become an actor, which he did for a few years. There was no real success and long gaps away from films for family reasons, before he finally returned in the early ’50s to work in music.

Jaidev was uniformly considered a genius and won three National Awards but rarely got big projects. It’s hard to say whether he was tough to work with, too much of a perfectionist or not commercial enough. His intricate, intense and unconventional songs were not easy to hum. Although some of Jaidev’s compositions would certainly feature in many people’s top 100 — Tumhein ho na ho and Ek akela is sheher mein from Gharonda, Aapki yaad aati rahi raat bhar and Seene mein jalan from Gaman among others — Jaidev died alone, a pauper. A harmonium was his only possession.

As if reflecting this loneliness and pain, even the lightest of Jaidev’s songs have a near existential melancholy. The erotic and flirtatious Abhi na jao chhodke is seeped in melancholic languor. Heightened, intoxicated romance underscored with the unease of impending loss. Even in the playful Tumhein ho na ho or the lilting Yeh dil aur unki nigahon ke saaye, there’s a subtle feeling of being alone in the world, of beginnings aware of endings.

Maybe Jaidev was a type — the creative artiste, who is not content with purity of craft, but wishes to reach out to people, to create for the world, to lavish love upon us by showing s/he understands our emotions. Such artistes do not simply desire success, but yearn to be loved for the artistes they truly are — and so, perhaps loved for the people they truly are. Such pure love is a tough ask.

If you work in the commercial creative fields, you may know that sometimes creativity is a feared thing, because it seems unpredictable and intangible, hard to control for profit, just like love. In fact, it’s sometimes used as a gaali: “Unko bolo apni creativity na dikhayen.” I’ve heard one (very charmless) character yell in a display of American movie machismo: “I don’t want creativity, I want productivity”, as if the two are opposites that don’t attract.

Creative people survive such suspicion and resistance only through great strength of personality or by the luck of finding people who nurture their talent with love, making them productive and even popular. Perhaps some giving and getting is involved.

Jaidev did not even achieve posthumous fame, yet ironically his songs are such an evocation of him that in loving them, people did indeed end up loving him for the artiste he was. For what it’s worth, here’s to the memory of Jaidev, and his beautiful music, the food of our love.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

The views expressed in these column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

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