On his 73rd birthday, a tribute to the first film track by the renowned screenwriter and poet. Javed Akhtar smoothly switched tracks from writing brilliant screenplays along with Salim Khan between the 1970s and the early ’80s to churning out hit songs with beautifully rhymed and deceptively simple lyrics in 1981.

Akhtar has delivered numerous gems, and has been remarkably adept at adapting to shifting tastes and linguistic styles over the years. He has to his credit Ek Do Teen from Tezaab (1989) and Raat Ki Daldal from 1947: Earth (1999), Kuch Na Kaho from 1942: A Love Story (1994) and Sinbad the Sailor from Rock On!! (2008) – proof of his ability to come up with the track that sets the mood and also stands on its own as a piece of popular poetry.

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It all began with Dekha Ek Khwab from Yash Chopra’s Silsila in 1981, Akhtar told Nasreen Munni Kabir in the conversation book Talking Songs. Akhtar, whose father, Jan Nisar Akhtar, was a reputed Urdu poet and Hindi film lyricist, began to create his own poetry in the late ’70s. Only a small circle of friends were familiar with his non-film work, which included Chopra, for whom Akhtar and Salim Khan had written such hits as Deewar (1975) and Trishul (1978).

Chopra was embarking on Silsila, which revolves around a poet (Amitabh Bachchan) and his passion for his first lover (Rekha) that endures beyond his marriage to another woman (Jaya Bachchan). The filmmaker asked the singer Lata Mangeshkar for recommendations for a lyricist, and she suggested Akhtar’s name.

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Akhtar demurred, but bowed down to Chopra’s charm and persuasion. He was clueless about writing lyrics for a song whose tune had already been composed by the duo Shiv-Hari, he told Kabir. Akhtar met Chopra and the composers, and returned home with the brief to write about a romance that finds expression among tulip fields in Holland.

The images match step with lyrics filled with references to flowers and the beauty of the landscape. Rekha emerges out of the mist, and an editing transition sees her image looming over the valley, as though she is nature itself. Wherever the eye wanders, it only sees flowers, says Bachchan in Kishore Kumar’s voice. Your very essence is in the air that surrounds us.

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The song appears in the early days of the courtship between the characters, and is a “celebration of their love”, Akhtar told Kabir. “It was a pure love song, but it also paid attention to the natural surroundings in which it was filmed.” #KhabarLive

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