Obituary: Kavi Pradeep

KAVI PRADEEP was the writer of hugely popular patriotic songs which drove the British colonial government to distraction, forcing him to go underground during the freedom movement in the Forties.

More than a decade after independence, in 1962, Pradeep wrote the song "Aaye mere watan ke logo" ("Come my countrymen"), which helped to instil a sense of national pride after India's humiliating defeat by the Chinese army over a territorial dispute, when the entire country was overwhelmed by a sense of ennui and loss of prestige. It moved millions, including the prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, to tears. Pradeep donated the royalties from this song - which is frequently heard even today at private and official gatherings - to the ministry of defence.

In a career spanning over five decades Pradeep wrote nearly 1,700 songs, hymns and fiery, nationalistic poems including the lyrics for some 85 films, many of them box- office hits because of his contribution. But it was for his patriotic songs like "Door hat duniya walon . . . Hindustan hamara hai" ("Go away outsiders, India is ours"), influenced by militant freedom fighters such as Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad who were responsible for assassinating British officials, that Pradeep was best known,

During the Quit India movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi against the colonial government in 1942, Pradeep, by then an established film songwriter in Bollywood, India's film capital city of Bombay, wrote a string of nationalistic songs in films like Kismet ("Fate") that became instant hits and infuriated the British who considered them seditious. Although warrants were issued for his arrest, Pradeep managed to evade detention.

Born Ramchandra Barayanji Dwivedi in 1915 into a middle-class Brahmin family in the small central Indian town of Badnagar, in Madhya Pradesh state, he changed his name to Pradeep (meaning light) and moved to Bombay in 1939 after graduating from Lucknow University in the north. Pradeep made his debut as a lyricist in the film Kangan ("Gold Bangle"), which established his credentials as a popular songwriter.

After a string of successful hits, in 1958 he was honoured by the record company His Master's Voice who produced an album containing 13 of his songs; three years later he won several awards including Best Film Song Lyricist. Soon after he was made Rashtrakavi, or Poet Laureate, after which he became known as Kavi ("poet") Pradeep. He was prolific till the mid-1980s, when old age and a newer crop of songwriters more interested in gimmickry than substance forced him into retirement, virtually forgotten by a once adoring public.

Last year Kavi Pradeep was remembered again when Lata Mangaeshkar, India's best known singer, announced that he had won a 100,000 rupee award (around pounds 1,430) for his contribution to Indian cinema and went personally to his house to hand over the money. Thereafter, the government conferred Pradeep with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award for a lifetime of achievement in films, which coincided fittingly with India's 50th anniversary of independence.

Kuldip Singh

Ramchandra Baryanji Dwivedi (Kavi Pradeep), songwriter and poet: born Badnagar, Madhya Pradesh 6 February 1915; married (two daughters); died Bombay 11 December 1998.

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