Guest Post: Vrajendra Gaur

I enjoy celebrating the “behind the scenes” contributors to Hindi cinema history as much as I do the actors (and dancers). One such person is Vrajendra Gaur, who wrote dialogues and screenplays for such favorites of mine as Howrah Bridge, China Town, Teen Deviyan, Kati Patang, and Sharmilee. His career spanned the 1940s through the 1970s, ending with The Great Gambler in 1979. Recently his son Suneel Gaur reached out to me asking if I wanted to see a photograph of his father with Rajesh Khanna; of course I did, and of course I pestered him for more. There is always more, and indeed that is the case here. And I must just add that I think the photograph above left, of Mr. Gaur with Dilip Kumar, is one of the sweetest pictures I have ever seen. They look so young, so full of promise, and like fast friends indeed.

The prolific writer-lyricist-director-author-poet-journalist died 32 years ago on August 7th 1980, and his sons Suneel and Rajesh Gaur pay tribute to their father on his death anniversary (and all of the photographs are courtesy of them too).

Suneel Gaur with Dilip Kumar (left) and Rajesh Gaur with his father’s two Filmfare Awards
(for screenplay and dialogue of
Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaye)

From his generation, Vrajendra Gaur was one of the few very writers who came into the industry from literature and made it big. Born in Etawah, a small town placed between Kanpur and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, Gaur lost his father when he was seven but managed to complete his education. His first published work came at the age of 15 in the Hindi magazine Maya, and from then on he was a regular at writing stories and poems. By the time he was 20, he had moved to Lucknow and published six volumes of his numerous short stories, beginning with “Atript Manav” followed by “Bikhri Kaliyan,” “Andheri Raat,” “Kaagaz Ki Nao,” “Sindoor Ki Laaj,” “Yuddha Ki Kahaaniyan,” “Kalkatte Ka Qatl-e-Aam” and “Parole Par.” He also started writing radio plays that were hugely popular.

“Kalkatte Ka Qatl-e-Aam” and “Parole Par” were about the Quit India movement and banned by the then British government or their patriotic themes. Another novel, “Manzil,” was made into a popular Hindi film starring Dev Anand and Nutan during his peak time as a writer.

Gaur’s literary bent was not restricted to these achievements. He also came out with a collection of songs and books for children. He edited the magazines Prakash, Jai Hind, Trishak, Pratibha and Gram Sudhar and served as a translator in the Civil Secretariat, Lucknow, for two years. Even for radio he wrote talk shows and plays. His play “Dhai Lakh” was to change his life. After hearing the play, actor Motilal summoned Gaur to Mumbai to write the Motilal-Shanta Apte film Saawan (1945).

The film was a hit, but Gaur in his zeal wrote long and flowery dialogues, and Motilal (a pioneer of natural acting in Hindi cinema) had to teach him that film dialogues should be natural, crisp and pithy.

After this, Gaur began writing lyrics too, for films like Sardar, Sangram and Kaafila. But he found himself disillusioned by the film world and went back to Lucknow twice, returning whenever a good and lucrative offer was made. His career was made with the dialogue he wrote for the above mentioned Ashok Kumar films: 1950’s Sangram followed by Sardar, Kaafila and Bimal Roy’s Parineeta (1953). Parineeta and Sangram became super hits and he finally settled down in Mumbai, writing for over 70 more films until his death in 1980.

With Dev Anand (left) and Shashi and Jennifer Kapoor (right)

Gaur had a lot of principles that he always followed. He had an aversion to overt depiction of sex, violence and any form of crudity. He hated artistes changing his lines and also never indulged, as was the norm with so many writers then, in luxury and even worse at the expense of the producer’s money. Strong characterisations, as brought out through appropriate lines, were his forte. Gaur believed in multiple characters adding colour to a film with their diverse intellectual levels and origins that needed variegated dialogues, all apt for him or her.

Vrajendra Gaur was rarely credited with the screenplay of a film. Most of his films credited him with “Dialogue”, a terminology peculiar to Indian cinema meaning the lines actually spoken by the characters in the film. But just as the screenplay writer abroad also writes the lines spoken by the characters, Gaur always had a hand in the screenplay, as the two aspects could not be isolated from each other. He would never get the right lines unless there was a fluidly conceived situation and thus participated in a big way in the screenplay.

His favourite comparison of a film writer was to Draupadi with five husbands or a “nagar vadhu” (bride of the entire town). “A writer has to please the producer, director, hero, heroine and storywriter and often even the financier and distributor!” he would say.

Vrajendra Gaur always said his wife Meena was his lucky mascot (she passed away a few years ago) as his greatest success came after his marriage. Among his best-known movies are Shakti Samanta’s Kati PatangAnuraagInsan Jaag UthaSingaporeHowrah BridgeChina TownSawan Ki GhataJaane AnjaaneThe Great Gambler, and Kishore Kumar’s JhumrooNaughty Boy and Jaal Saaz; along with films like PassportShikari (1963), Apna Banake DekhoResham Ki DoriPocketmaarJyotiPyar Ka Sagar, and many others.

With Kishore Kumar (left) and Amitabh Bachchan (right)

But from the vast galaxy of stars he was to collaborate with, Gaur developed a deeper friendship with Dev Anand, whom he met on the steps of Bombay Talkies studio in Malad. A long conversation on those steps about mutual interests became grounds for a professional and personal alliance that saw Gaur work on an enviable part of Dev Anand’s repertoire. He wrote Dev Anand’s Jaali Note, Manzil, Baarish, Sarhad, Teen Deviyan, Baat Ek Raat Ki, Mahal, Duniya, Pyar Mohabbat, Warrant, etc. He also wrote the lyrics for the Dev Anand starrer Zalzala.

Though writing remained his first love, he never broke away from journalism, contributing to periodicals in Mumbai like Dharmayug, Madhuri and Saptahik Hindustan.

In 1954, Vrajendra Gaur decided to direct the film Kasturi starring Nimmi and Sajjan, for which he also wrote the lyrics. He always thought that he was best at lyrics for some reason, but after these early 1950s films like Kaafila and Zalzala, he never wrote lyrics in movies again. Nor did he direct a film after Kasturi, though he came close to it once or twice. Kasturi was a success, but its remarkable feature was that Shakti Samanta, Guru Dutt and Govind Saraiya, later to become eminent filmmakers, worked as assistants to Gaur in this film! And Guru Dutt assisted even after his independent debut as director, purely out of regards for Gaur.

One of Gaur’s biggest successes as well as most critically-acclaimed movies remains the much-awarded 1968 film Saraswatichandra, which saw Gaur excel in a story that revolved around the Gujarati culture.

In his later years, the biggest hit was Sharmilee, and he also wrote the acclaimed Lal Patthar, the comic Jungal Mein Mangal and Trimurti (1974). Later he went on to do hits like Geet Gaata Chal, Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaaye (for which he won the screenplay and dialogue Filmfare Awards) and Ankhiyon Ke Jharonkhon Se. His last release was The Great Gambler which starred Amitabh.

Gaur was also the President of the Film Writers Association and was on the panel of judges for selecting films for International film festivals. He was also a member of PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), situated in Great Britain, and his achievements have found him a place in Britain’s “Who’s Who” biography of famous people.

UPDATE: I have a few more photos from Suneel and Rajesh to share. Looks like everybody loved him!

With Prithviraj Kapoor (left) and Dilip Kumar (right)

With Amitabh Bachchan

I received more photos, including this one of Gaur Sahab with the Hollywood actor Kirk Douglas. Suneel tells me that Gaur was friends with both Kirk and actor Gregory Peck, whom he met on that same visit when Suraiya famously got to meet Peck too (he was her idol). He is also seen in these photographs with luminaries of the Indian political landscape!

With Kirk Douglas (left) and Jawaharlal Nehru (right)

With Madhubala (left) and Ashok Kumar (right)

With former President Zakir Hussain (left) and former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri (right)

With Rajendra Kumar (left) and Bharat Bhushan (right)

With former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpaye

And finally, another favorite for me:

Vrajendra Gaur at his typewriter

(l to r): Vrajendra Gaur, Hollywood actor Sabu, a friend, actor Kundan Mallick


67 Comments to “Guest Post: Vrajendra Gaur”

  1. Wow!!! Fantastic to read about Vrajendra Gaur ji. This is a wonderful tribute ot him on his death anniversary.

    I’d seen his name on many a film of yesteryear but I was still awestruck when I saw the names of films mentioned in this post.

    We tend to first think of actors, songs, music and directors when we think of a film but I’ve always felt the writing/dialogues are also an important part of a movie. Well-written dialogues can make the viewing a really pleasurable experience. (As somebody who does subtitles, I know I sometimes feel bad that I’m not able to translate the beauty or essence of a dialogue well enough – often something gets lost in translation). Only the other day I was discussing the writing of Manzil (1960) – in the first five minutes of the movie, you already have really cute writing and dialogues. :-) I remember Jaali Note also having lovely dialogues. And many more of the movies mentioned here.

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Suneel and Rajesh. And thanks to you too, memsaab, for posting this here.

    • I love this post too (I can say that because I didn’t write it :D)…he really had an amazing career, and I wish once again that I could truly “get” the loveliness of dialogues in Hindi/Urdu.

    • Thanks very much Raja for appreciating our effort. Memsaab told us to do a write up on our father and we did the needful. Glad you liked it.

  2. This is full of such interesting details about the work of Shri Vrajendra Gaur. The movies he has worked on are some of my favorites. I love Saraswatichandra. There is a really great dialogue that Nutan gets to speak towards the end of the film. This is when her husband, who was never good to her, has died, and her old lover has come back to her with a proposal that they marry. She says “When I was a child, I was tied to my parents, when I was betrothed to you, I was tied to you, when I got married, I was tied to my husband. Now that I am a widow, I am my own person. I don’t want to lose my freedom.” and refuses to marry the love of her life. It was really very poignant. Now I know who was really behind such forceful words.

    I am overcome at the thought of a gifted man who worked hard so that the shining stars look even better mouthing some good lines on screen for us to enjoy.

  3. each of the above mentioned film i have seen. such a great person he was. i wish he was awarded with many awards and at least posthumously his work is recognized in various award functions held. 905 of the movies he worked in are super-hits in fact blockbusters. i hve not seen only following movies from above mentioned list Kasturi. Kaafila, Zlazal and insaan jaag utha of pre 1970’s era.

  4. Thank you Gaurji for sharing your memories with us!

  5. First of all let us thank Greta Memsaab ji for publishing or rather including this article on her blog.
    We are also grateful to all the readers who have been so positive with their comments.
    Long live Greta ji and everyone here.
    God Bless,
    Rajesh V. Gaur
    Suneel V. Gaur

  6. Pocketmaar {Dharamendra Mehmood], Jyoti [jeetendra -hema], Jaane Anjaane [shammi kapoor-leena chandravarkar], singapore [shammi kapoor], Sawan Ki Ghata [Manoj Kumar], Sajan [Manoj Kumar], Apna Banake Dekho [Manoj Kumar], Resham Ki Dori [Dharamendra -Saira].
    He wrote songs sung by Kishore Kumar-Lata, etc. Amongst others was Kishore’s first sad song in 1952 for Kafila :Woh Meri Taraf Yoon Chale Aa Rahe Hai. Another hit song from this movie was: Kishore- Lata’s Lehron se pooch lo yah Kinaro se pooch lo.

    For Manzil he wrote the story, screenplay and dialogue. He also wrote the screenplay for many of the movies which had his dialogue.

    Suneel and Rajesh Gaur

  7. Oh wow Greta, many thanks would be an inadequate word for this treasure post. Suneel and Rajesh you are so lucky to have such a talented father. Like all others have said, most of the movies listed here were awesome hits and very enjoyable too. Only in recent years have the screenplay and dialogue writes being recognised. One should acknowledge that many of the shakti samanta movies for which Mr Gaur had written screenplays were originally novels published by others including Gulshan Nanda. Of course converting a big novel into a screen play is no mean achievement and by no means meant to take away credit from his output. Yesteryear stars had regard for all those who contributed to the success of their movies and also a warm personal equation which is evident from these photos. Thanks once again for sharing these rare photos. There is a saying in India “paana pudchava bhagyashali” – which sort of indicates that it is the woman of the house who brings prospertiy to her spouse and family. Seems to be true in Mr Gaur’s case and i am glad that he realised it too.

  8. could you please request suneel and rakesh to list their favourite dialogues from their father’s films (or their father’s favourite lines in case they know/remember)

    • Hi Ravi,We cant choose any dialogue that we like the most from the numerous films that our father wrote. We like all of them Kati patang, Sharmeelee, The Great Gambler, China Town, Dulhan Wohi Jo Piya Man Bhaye, etc.etc. all of them. Thanks for the interest you have shown in his work.

  9. What a fabulous read! Thanks, Memsaab, for posting this, and of course, to Suneel and Rajesh for sharing their memories and photos of their father. I was quite taken aback by the realization that Guru Dutt, Shakti Samanta and Govind Saraiya had worked as his assistants on ‘Kasturi’. Wonder if the film is available on DVD.

    • Thanks Bannoji for the interest you have shown in our dad’s work. Actually we too have not seen Kasturi. It was the only film he directed and passed on the subsequent offers he got to his assistant Shakti Samanta, and returned to his first love writing.

  10. This is such a great post – I’d heard of Vrajendra Gaur, but never paid much attention. And now it turns out some of my favourite films are associated with him! Thank you for sharing this. (And the photos are fabulous, thanks!)

  11. Decades back, I read many articles written by Vrajendra Gaur Ji in Dharmayug and other Hindi magazines, dealing with many untouched aspects of the cine-world and telling the anecdotes pertaining to the stars of yesteryears.

    • Thanks Mathur saab. Our father never broke away from Journalism despite getting success in the filmworld. This just goes to show how much he was fond of writing.

  12. Thanks Memsaab… Never knew so much about Vrajendra Gaur.. And u hav got us some amazing pictures as well…

  13. Thank you memsaab. Loved this piece of information, Vrajendra Ji indeed had a very fulfilling career in films as well as literature. Nice gesture by his sons to send these amazing photographs.
    God Bless you for this one.

  14. Thanks to Suneel and Rajesh for sharing their father’s achievements with all of us. Kudos to you too Greta for convincing them to write this post.
    People like Vrajendra Gaur who are the unsung heroes of the Hindi film industry. No actor or director can achieve anything without a good script and powerful dialogues. So interesting to know more about people whose name we see on the credits of so many films.
    Saraswatichandra is in fact based on one of the most famous Gujarati novels written in the late 19th century by Govardhanram Tripathi. The adaptation is very well done and a literary figure like Gaurji has done true justice to Gujarati’s most well known magnum opus.

    • Adapting Tripathi ji’s book for a movie and retaining the essence and flavour of the magnum opus must have required special skills. And it was a voluminous book. Our father was very proud of this particular classic – Saraswatichandra.

  15. Fantastic read. Knowing about him through the most authentic sourses, viz his kids is such an enriching experience for us. I knew him as a lyricist and a movie maker, but it was illuminating to realise that he was associated with some of the most well known movies of all times. The article is full of information that iwas not available elsewhere and it is invaluable for us who are interested in knowing about the history of Hindi movies and the personalities who contributed in the movie industry during its golden era,

    • Thanks Atul. That article should be very interesting and informative for film buffs who have seen Vrajendra Gaur’s name in the titles but didnt know much about him. Thanks very much for the kind words.

  16. That’s a stellar list of movie credits for Vrajendra Gaur! I’m tickled to know who I can thank for such fabulously entertaining fare as Jaali Note, Kati Patang, etc. And I wish I could get hold of “Kaafila” and “Zalzala”; the songs alone are worth it. As luck would have it, I’ve seen Gaurji’s “Kasturi” – or at least half of it. I say half because that’s all that was on the DVD! :-( The life of a lover of old, Hindi films is not an easy one. Sigh.

  17. What an absolutely amazing post! I had never registered his name till now, but what a huge legacy the man left behind. At least 15-20 of the movies tagged are routinely familiar not just to fanatic buffs, but to everybody who has even a nodding acquaintance with Hindi movies! Thank you, Gaur Jr(s) and memsaab. (Still reeling. The last movies : Geet Gaata Chal, Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se, Sharmilee, The Great Gambler : what we used to lithp over as kids!)

  18. I know, I was so excited when Suneel reached out to me…I’ve seen “Vrajendra Gaur” so so many times during the credits :) What a body of work, and he passed away at a fairly young age too. It’s amazing how consistently good his work was too, it’s not easy in a job that is as collaborative in nature as film.

    I think he could have been an actor too, he is so handsome. He looks a little bit like Dharmendra to me… :D

  19. Suneel and Rajesh Gaurji,
    Aap Filmfare ya screen main kyun nahin chapwate? I think it is time they got Gulzaarsaab to start writing appreciations for the writers who have come before him. :)

  20. I love the 2 Bachchan photos the most – It is clear that in the first Vrajendraji is enjoying explaining the nuances of the dialogue/character to someone who is all ears. :)

  21. Just the kind of post that makes ‘Memsaabstory’ what it is – AWESOME!! Thanks so much to Mr. Gaur’s sons and to Memsaab of course. Those photographs are gold.

  22. that last picture could be the starting point for a wonderful movie set in Bollywood of the 50s through 70s. the changing landscape of Hindi films during through those eras is the perfect metaphor for the newly independent India.

  23. @Memsaab – Thanks to you, Suneel and Rajesh for sharing this. All the films mentioned here are well known. What is remarkable is that Mr. Gaur produced great work consistently. While many Hindi film buffs would have known of him, it does seem like he did not always get the credit he deserved. Your post more than makes up for that. The pictures alone are worth their weight in gold.

    • Thanks Faldo. Our father believed that more than publicity the writers work should speak and his work did speak. Thanks again.

  24. Have just seen the pictures added here. Wow!!! Each of these pictures is a treasure. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  25. Hi memsaab! If you recall I wrote to you sometime ago about my book on songwriting? Over the months it just swelled and swelled, and so the delay. It’s now like almost going to Press time, and now I stumble upon this piece on Vrajendra Gaud! What I am doing now, is adding this link as a footnote. I have already put a few other footnotes, for Hindi song or film buffs to feast on your absolutely wonderful critiques of our cinema, especially the humour offered in them, that sends me! @Sunil and Rajesh Gaurji, thanks for the info and nice photos. I hope it’s ok that I have spelt your dad’s surname as Gaud…that’s the way I have seen it spelt so often. Thanks again!

    • Oh how fun! :) Do let us know when the book is out, and how we can get our grubby little hands on it!

    • Dear Manek,
      Thanks for adding our father’s name in your book. But please correct the spelling. IT IS VRAJENDRA GAUR and NOT Vrajendra Gaud. Our father always preferred it to be spelt as Vrajendra Gaur. You can also add anny of the photos you like from this page. “Woh Meri Taraf yoon chale aa Rahe hain…” Is Kishore Kumar’s first sad song. It is from Kafila. Father also wrote the Songs of Sardar, Kafila, Sangram, Kasturi, Zalzala, etc.. “lehron se pooch lo…’ is one of Lata ji’s favourites. The first song where a heroine is in a swimmin costume and the hero in swimming trunks is from the 1950 film Sangram. the song was “Mohabbat ke jaadu ka kaisa assar hai., aadha idhar hai to aadha udhar hai…’ Another Lata favourite is “Aansoo ab tum kabhie na behna apna dard kisi se na kehna…” People like Rafi, Talat, Kishore, Shamshad Begum , Asha Bhonsle, Zohrabai, all of these greats sang his songs.

  26. Memsaab, hi! My book on songwriters is now in print and should be out end Oct. to be launched early Nov. Gulzar has written the Foreword, and a few other luminaries have also offered their takes on the subject. Through your blog I want to reach out to Vrajendra Gaur’s sons and speak to them about a unique feature of the launch. Many of the children of songwriters are in the loop in Mumbai, but the Gaur family…I need their cell no. As for your copy, do give me your mailing address, even post restante should work :)

    Thanks very much for remembering us. We congratulate you on the successful completion of your book.
    We would call it a labour of love.

    We look forward to attending your Book release function. All Good Wishes,
    Suneel and Rajesh Gaur

  28. HI,can i request you to write something in detail about Maneck Irani and Shetty who use to play sidekick of villain and of villain respectively.

  29. Brajendra Gaud (as written in hindi ) was a familiar name when i used to see films during my school days. But at that age I did not comprehend that the backbone of the film is the screenplay and dialogues of course. My tributes to such a fine personality.

  30. Memsaab how about a blog on character actor KUNDAN MALLIK who played the Taxi Driver in Kati patang, Kishore Kumar’s room mate in Naughty Boy, the ‘Munim’ in Do yaar, Gullaki in Jaali Note, Inspector in Khoon aur Paani, Inspector in Shankar Shambu, etc. Would make for interesting reading.

  31. 7th August is the death anniversary of the gifted writer Vrajendra Gaur. May he rest in peace.

  32. Dear Suneel/Rajesh Gaur:
    I am working on a book on scriptwriting in Hindi films. Could I have your contact?

  33. Dear Suneel and Rajesh Gaur

    I am so thrilled that today I got to read this article because I read another article today through ( in Atuls song a day ) a site to promote old hindi film songs, a song from the movie Kasturi. After reading that this movie was directed and written by Vrajendra Gaur who also wrote songs for the movie I started researching on Mr Gaur and stumbled on this article through which I came to know of a lot of movies I had not known were written by him.

    Till today i knew Mr Vrajendra Gaur only as a writer of films.It was a pleasure to know that Mr Guru Dutt and Mr Shakti Samanat assisted him.It was also interesting to know that he has written lot of story books.I am very fond of such books.Can I know from you as to from where I can buy these books.Thanks.

    Ashok Mehta
    New Delhi

    Mob 8447770133

  34. Dear Ashok Mehta ji,
    Thanks for appreciating our effort and Memsaab’s lovely gesture of putting our write-up on her site. Also it was nice to see you appreciate our father’s work. As for the books written by him, we would like to buy some. They are out of print now as these were written many years ago. Will phone you soon.
    Thanking you,

    Rajesh and Suneel Gaur

  35. I stumbled across this blog and wanted to say: thank you. I read a story called “Sindoor ki laaj.” It was written in 1943 and I had no idea that it was the same author. There was another story too – about a young man Balvir looking for food for his wife and small daughter.

  36. Industry need these days writers like Varjendra Gaur. I like these films very much, but did not know the great person behind these films. I salute him. Rajesh and Suneel Gaur.. you are lucky. I want to say Thank you for great info/blog. – Manjit Karra, Jalandhar

  37. High time the film industry starts an award in his name… honouring the great writer,author and a lovely human being…from what I have read about him.

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