Moti BA: A legend of Bhojpuri literature and cinema

By Dr. Amit Kumar Pandey |

Following independence, all the songs of Dilip Kumar and Kamini Kaushal starrer Nadiya Ke Paar (1948) were written by Moti BA. During that period, Mohammed Rafi and Lalita Dewalkar sang a song he wrote called “More Raja Ho Le Chal Nadiya Ke Paar,” which rose to considerable popularity. This is regarded by some as the first Bhojpuri song ever used in a Hindi movie. This song was written by Moti BA in a mix of Awadhi, Bhojpuri, and Hindi language. On August 1, 1919, Moti Lal Upadhyay alias Moti BA, was born in Bereji village, near Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh, India, on the banks of the Saryu River. 1934 marked the completion of his schooling at King George High School in Barhaj Deoria. After graduating from Banaras Hindu University in 1938 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, he appended the term B.A. to his name. He was a Bhojpuri writer, lyricist, and poet. He penned numerous novels, poems, and song lyrics for Bollywood and Bhojpuri movies.

PIC: Moti BA with Asha Bhosle and others

In a candid chat with Dr. Amit Kumar Pandey, Moti BA’s younger son, Anjani Upadhyay says, “The film ‘Kaise Kahu’ which was released before independence was directed by Pancholi Art Lahore, for which my father had written 5 songs. After that, my father came to Bombay and started contributing to the independent Indian Cinema. After this, my father wrote four songs for the film Saajan, which were filmed on Ashok Kumar and Rehana.”

Anjani Upadhyay further adds, “My father wrote the first Jogira (the song used by rural folk on Holi) in films. The film Rajput of that era was directed by Lekhraj Bharti, and the music director was Hansraj Bahal, who told my father that making the tune of Jogira is not easy. Moti ji then took it as a challenge, and after the tune was made, Hansraj ji praised my father and felicitated him with the title of ‘Magician of the Pen.’ That was a period when most of the filmmakers who were in Lahore shifted to Mumbai. During that time, Moti BA was a well-known name in the Bombay film industry.”

During that time, the trio of Ashok Kumar, Rai Bahadur Chunnilal, and Moti BA made an unmatched contribution to Indian cinema. Moti BA wrote the song “Hum Gawanwa Na Jaibe” for Ashok Kumar’s film “Aakhri Kadam,” however the project was never finished. Later in 1988, Ashok Kumar directed this movie once more and asked Moti BA to travel to Bombay to create a few more songs, but he was unable to go for private reasons.

Famous musician Raja Ali Mehndi Khan used to say, “A golden bird sits on the hands of Moti, due to which when your songs come out of your pen, they sit in the hearts of the people.”

The late Queen of melody, Lata Mangeshkar also gave voice to the famous song “O More Saiyan Main Tere Paiya” from the 1947 Hindi film Sindoor, which was written by Moti BA and the music was given by Shri S.L. Puri ji. It became a famous song of that era. Sindoor was directed by Kishore Sahu and produced by Sasadhar Mukherjee Productions for Filmistan. The film had the actor Mehmood in one of his early roles.

For his contributions to Bhojpuri literature, Moti Lal Upadhyay received the Bhasha Samman Award in 2001. He also wrote many songs and translated several works from English into Bhojpuri.

Renowned Bhojpuri lyricist Dr. Sankarshan Mishra says, “Moti BA is synonymous with melodious songs in Bhojpuri.” Shri Moti B.A., the sun of Bhojpuri literature and who made his unmatched contribution in films, went on a journey to eternity on January 18, 2009, but he still rules the hearts of his fans with the melodious songs and Bhojpuri poems written by him.”