Art & Culture

Sahir Ludhianvi: Indian cinema's one true bard of love and revolution

Muqbil Ahmar
Muqbil AhmarOct 25, 2016 | 21:04

Sahir Ludhianvi: Indian cinema's one true bard of love and revolution

There was a time when these immortal words became the anthem of a cigarette-puffing, star-crossed coming-of-age generation. Such was the strength of Sahir Ludhianvi's poetry and words. He was the tallest among the poets and lyricists of the golden era of film music in Hindi cinema, which included greats like Shakeel Badayuni, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Rajinder Krishan, Kaifi Azmi, Hasrat Jaipuri, and Shailendra.

His exemplary felicity for language was legendary. There were many instances when he penned the words even as the music director began telling him the notes. Sahir's break in Hindi films came from his meeting with SD Burman. During his meeting, Sahir spontaneously wrote the first few lines of the song "Thandi hawaaein lehra ke aayein, rut hai jawaan, tum ho yahan, kaise bhulayein," even as Burman was sharing the notes with him. It was used in the film Naujawan (1951).

However, Sahir always insisted that it be the other way around - that the score be composed on the basis of the words.

Sahir Ludhianvi with Amrita Pritam. 

The lyricist was born on March 8, 1921 and died on October 25, 1980. Though his actual name was Abdul Hayee, he adopted the nom de plume of Sahir Ludhianvi. He was a master craftsman of language and revelled in iconoclastic expressions and idioms. His legendary felicity with languages resulted in poetry that simply flowed without constraints.

Although he wrote within the constraints imposed on a film lyric writer, he surpassed everyone else due to the depth of his ideas and their treatment. Sahir's lyrics were a hit with both the masses and the classes. With strong roots in the Progressive Writers' Movement, the poet-turned-lyricist unabashedly made stinging commentary about his times.

His words always socially and politically charged. He never flinched from doing what he considered his duty to his art. In fact, no one else could have written the following lines for Pyasa:

  • Ye purapech galiya ye badnaam bazar
  • Ye gumnaam rahi ye sikko ki jhankar
  • Ye isamat ke saude ye saudo pe takrar
  • Jinhe naaz hai hind par vo kaha hai
  • Kaha hai kaha hai kaha hai Kaha hai kaha hai kaha hai
Sahir Ludhianvi's words in Pyaasa were an ode to love and revolution in equal parts.

The above song ranks among the very best in Indian cinema as far as political content is concerned. No wonder, Pyaasa was considered one of the 100 best films of all time by Time magazine. Sahir's optimism and compassion for the toiling working class or the downtrodden came to the fore with songs such as "Tadbeer se bigdi hui takdeer bana(Baazi).

The song was such a hit that, according to Dev Anand, people would gather in droves just to listen to the song. Being the versatile poet that he was, Sahir was as much at ease with the first flush of love as he was with dissidence and revolution.

  • jab tak tum bhuuke nange ho ye nagme khamosh na honge
  • jab tak be-aaram ho tum ye nagme rahat-kosh na honge

He wrote with as much passion for farmers as he did for lovers; he wrote fervently:

  • Zindagi sirf mohabbat nahin kuch aur bhi hai
  • Zulf-o-rukhsar ki jannat nahin kuch aur bhi hai

He was not immune to the vagaries and pain of love too:

  • Aap aye to khayal-e-dil-e-nashaad aya
  • Kitne bhoole hue zakhmon ka pata yaad aya

Or the even more painful and beautiful nazm:

  • Maana ke abhi tere mere armano ki kimat kuchh bhi nahi
  • Mitti ka bhi hai kuchh mol magar Insano ki kimat kuchh bhi nahi
  • Insano ki izzat jab jhuthe Sikko me naa toli jaayegi
  • Woh subah kabhi toh aayegi
  • Woh subah kabhi toh aayegi

But the poet himself thought that the succeeding generation would not have the time to go through his works and appreciate them:

  • kal aur aayenge nagmon kii khilatii kaliyaan chunanewaale
  • mujhe se behtar kahane waale, tum se behtar sunane waale
  • kal koi mujh ko yaad kare, kyooN koi mujh ko yaad kare
  • masroof zamaanaa mere liye, kyoon waqt apanaa barbaad kare

But he was gravely mistaken. True art never dies and the artist lives on in the hearts of followers for eternity.

Last updated: March 08, 2018 | 11:33
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