In an era when Hindi film songs are either becoming increasingly obnoxious (Chor, lukkha, luchcha, ganda chor hai tu, luchcha hai tu, had se bada tuchcha hai tu, movie "R... Rajkumar"), or pedestrian (Aaj ki party meri taraf se, movie "Bajrangi Bhaijaan"), it's no wonder the industry almost forgot its most-celebrated poet, Sahir Ludhianvi, on his 35th death anniversary on Sunday.
In that sense, he, like many of his ilk, is a victim of that typical Bollywood malady -- of forgetting legends who contributed to what is famously known as the "golden era" of the industry. Sahir, like his contemporaries Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi, Hasrat Jaipuri and Shakeel Badayuni, to name a few, wrote songs that endeared them to the masses and yet maintained the highest standards in song-writing.
The prolific and versatile poet wrote songs for a range of music composers, unlike others, who mostly teamed up with specific composers (Hasrat/Shailendra-Shankar Jaikishan, Shakeel-Naushad, among others). In an illustrious career spanning almost four decades, Sahir, who was born Abdul Hayee on 8 March, 1921, wrote many ghazals and nazms, while his career in Hindi cinema began with the film "Azadi Ki Raah Par" in 1948.
The ability to work with many music composers did not, however, mean that he was not conscious of the music composer's competence. Khayyam, who composed many of Sahir's songs, had an interesting anecdote to share with this reporter some years ago on how he was chosen for the Raj Kapoor film "Phir Subah Hogi", whose lyrics were written by Sahir.
"During those days, his (Raj Kapoor's) most-preferred composers were Shankar-Jaikishan. But Sahir Ludhianvi, who penned the lyrics for the film, insisted that only a person who is familiar with the original story should compose music. As I was well-versed with the novel, I bagged the offer."
The film's songs were a hit; those who love old Hindi movie songs would easily remember "Woh subah kabhi to aayegi" and "Phir na kije meri gustakh nigahi ka gila".
Sahir was not comfortable sharing his collection of poems with Hindi film directors, though they were keen to use them in their films. Khayyam said Sahir had to be persuaded to share his songs from his first collection of poems "Talkhiyaan", for the film "Kabhi Kabhi". The "kabhi kabhi" song was actually modified to make it simpler for a larger audience to understand, just as Sahir did with another song, "Jinhe naaz hai hind par woh kahan hai", which was originally "Sanaa-khwaan-e-taqdees-e-mashriq kahaan hain?"
The versatile poet worked with many of the great Hindi film composers of his time -- Madan Mohan, S D Burman, O P Nayyar, Roshan, Jaidev, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Khayyam, Ravi, N Dutta and also R D Burman.
The movies that would instantly come to one's mind are "Pyaasa", "Naya Daur", "Dhool ka Phool", "Kabhi Kabhi", "Barsaat ki Raat", "Hum Dono", "Trishul", "Ghazal", "Waqt", "Daag" "Kaajal" and "Phir Subah Hogi".
Sahir, it seems, had some kind of premonition about his own songs. In the song "Main pal do pal ka shayar hoon" (picturised on Amitabh Bachchan) from the film "Kabhi kabhi", it comes out so vividly:
"Kal aur aayenge naghmon ki khilti kaliyan chunnewale,
mujhse behtar kehne wale tumse behtar sunnewale,
kal koi mujhko yaad kare kyoon koi mujhko yaad kare,
mashruf zamana mere liye kyoon waqt apna barbad kare".
There are many songs of the legendary poet that are worth recalling. Here is a version of the title song of "Kabhi kabhi" that is recited as a nazm by the poet himself (see video, courtesy YouTube):
Kabhi Kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hai
ke zindagi teri zulfon ki narm chaon mein guzarne pati
to shadaab ho bhi sakti thi
ye teergi jo meri zeest ka muqaddar hai
teri nazar ki shuaaon mein kho bhi sakti thi
ajab na tha ke main begaana-e-alam ho kar
tere jamaal ke ranaaiyon mein kho rehta
tera gudaaz badan teri neembaaz aankhen
inhee haseen fasaanon mein mah ho rehta
pukarti mujhe jab talkhiyaan zamaane ki
tere labon se halaavat ke ghoont pee leta
hayaat cheekhti phirti barhanaa sar aur main
ghaneri zulfon ke saaye mein chhup ke jee leta
magar ye ho na saka aur ab ye aalam hai
ke tu nahin, tera gham, teri justjoo bhi nahin
guzar rahi hai kuch is tarah zindagi jaise
ise kisi ke sahaare ki arzoo bhi nahin
zamane bhar ke dukhon ko laga chuka hun gale
guzar raha hun kuch anjaani rahguzaaron se
muheeb saaye meri samt badhte aate hain
hayaat-o-maut ki purhaul khaarzaaron se
na koi jadaa, na manzil, na roshni ka suraag
bhatak rahi hai khalaaon mein zindagi meri
inhi khalaaon mein rah jaoonga kabhi kho kar
main jaanta hoon meri hamnafas magar yun hi
kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayaal aata hai.
Sahir Ludhianvi died of a heart attack on 25 October, 1980.