Bairagi, who also wrote prolifically for children, was a crowd-puller at Hindi poetry gatherings with his compelling and dramatic style of recitation. Jhar gaye paat, bisar gayi tehni (The leaves have fallen, the branch has forgotten) was one of his acclaimed poems.
A post-graduate in Hindi, he penned lyrics for at least a dozen Hindi films, notably for Amol Palekar’s Ankahee and Sunil Dutt’s Reshma aur Shera which had Lata Mangeshkar’s soaring rendition of the romantic track, Tu chanda main chandni (You are the moon, I am the moonlight). He also wrote the dialogues for a Malvi language film, Bhadava Mata.
Bairagi was a Congress politician of considerable standing in west Madhya Pradesh. The poet, whose full name was Nand Ramdas Balkavi Bairagi, bested top Jan Sangh (later BJP) leader Sunderlal Patwa in Manasa during the 1968 state assembly polls. He won again in 1980. Bairagi first served as a minister of language and tourism, and later, of food and civil supplies. He won the Lok Sabha polls from Mandsaur in 1984 and was a Rajya Sabha member from 1998 to 2004.
“He wrote in the style of uttar chhayawadi (post-romantics) poets, best represented by Rameshwar Shukla ‘Anchal’, Shivmangal Singh ‘Suman’ and Pandit Narendra Sharma. His poetry was emotional,” said Hindi litterateur Uday Prakash.
Senior Vividh Bharati presenter Yunus Khan, who interacted with the poet, recalled that “people would wait for hours to listen to him at gatherings.”
Bairagi worked with some of the finest composers in Hindi films such as Jaidev (Reshma aur Shera and Ankahee), Vasant Desai (Rani aur Lalpari) and SN Tripathi (Veer Chhatrasal).
“He was versatile enough to write pure poetry such as Tu chanda main chandni and also produce uncomplicated songs without compromising on quality,” Khan said. One fine example is the duet, Zara keh do fizaon se (singers: Talat Mahmood-Mubarak Begum, composer: Roy Frank) in the low-budget action film, Gogola.