The Almost Superstars: Pradeep

 The Dwivedi sub-caste of Brahmins are so named because according to the Hindu traditions, they are masters of two (dwi) of the holy vedas. Many Dwivedis have been accomplished artists and often advised royalty on intellectual and artistic matters.

Ramchandra Narayanji Dwivedi, was born in a small town near the central Indian, and very holy and ancient city of Ujjain. Ramchandra developed a fascination with Hindi poetry at a young age, which he studied at university and later taught in Lucknow. He was a notorious popular participant in public poetry readings/recitals known as kavi sammelans and by the early 1940s was already well regarded.

The Independence Movement led by Mahatma Gandhi provided Dwivedi, who  by this time was known by his pen name, Pradeep, a platform to compose inspirational patriotic lyrics.  Several producers of the young film industry put them to music and many became immensely popular.  Kismet (1943) was a groundbreaking  film and a huge milestone for the young poet. The film was released in the very midst of the Quit India Movement, when India’s nationalist leadership, under Gandhi, overtly called on the British to leave India, an act deemed treasonous coming as it did at a time of war.  Pradeep’s song Aaj Himalay Ki Choti Se Phir Hum Ne Lalkara Hai passed the censors but the public understood the real meaning of the song. Almost synonymous to the song (phir means again in Hindi), the film reel would be rewound and played over and over, to the wild cheering of audiences. Kismet was a huge hit, in no small part thanks to the subversiveness of the song, a fact the British finally caught on to. Fearing for his safety, Pradeep, disappeared underground which only enhanced his reputation.

Though many of his songs were written for others, such as a young Lata Mangeshkar, to sing, Pradeep also sang frequently in films.  In 1962 when the two Asian giants, India and China fought a brief war (which to this day has left a certain bitterness in both countries), Pradeep penned another mighty song that once more caught the nation’s imagination: Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon. Lata sang the at public rally at which Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was present. He broke down into tears, capturing the feeling of millions of his countrymen who immediately made the song a second national anthem.  Nehru soon after announced Pradeep was to be India’s first Poet Laureate, an unprecedented honour.

Once when asked about the subject of his poetry, he replied: “Love is just a part of life and the love written about today talks about love between the sexes only. But do young men and women have a monopoly where love is concerned. Aren’t there different kinds of love that between a mother and her children, between a father and his children, between a bhakt (devotee) and his deity, between a man and his motherland? I chose to write about all these different kinds of love.”

Though Pradeep had limited success and recognition as a playback singer/song writer his status as one of the very greatest popular artists of modern India in unchallenged.

This recording contains all of his greatest songs, including that emotional rendition of Aye Mere Watan ke Logon by Lata, as well as my personal favorite, a sort of Times They Are a Changing, Kitna Badal Gaya Insaan. This deserves to be in the collection of every lover of Indian music.

Track Listing:

01 Kitana Badal Gaya Insaan

02 Aao Bachcho Tumhen Dikhayen

03 Yahan Wahan Jahan Tahan

04 Pinjre Ke Pancji

05 Dheere Dheere Aa Re Badal

06 Upar Gagan Vishal

07 Yehi Paigham Hamar

08 O Dildar Bolo Ek Baar

09 Hum Laye Hain Toofan Se

10 Na Jane Kahan Tum The

11 Sooraj Re Jalte Rahna

12 Chal Akela

13 Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo

14 Tere Dwar Khada Bhawan