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Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, the king of lyrics

Strange but true that some of our best love songs have been penned by poets who suffered pain and impoverishment in the communal violence of the Partition. Despite catastrophic losses of home, hearth and wealth as well as deep emotional scars, these sensitive poets retained faith in human goodness and wrote inspiring songs for posterity. One such word weaver from this great lineage was Raja Mehdi Ali Khan. One can decipher how gems like “Jo Hamne Dastan Apni Sunaayee, Aap Kyun Roye” (“Woh Kaun Thi”) and “Hai Isi Mein Pyar Ki Aabroo, Wo Jafa Karein, Main Wafa Karun” (“Anpadh”) flowed on paper from his pen.

As per film actress Tabassum, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan was born in 1928 in Bahawalpur (now Pakistan) and acquired poetic sensibilities from his widowed mother Hebay Saheba, who was lauded by none other than Dr. Allama Iqbal for her poetic treatise “Nawa-i-Haram”. Though unable to complete graduation due to poverty, Raja’s mastery over Urdu earned him a place on the editorial board of the then notable magazines “Phool” and “Tehzeeb-i-Niswaan” of Lahore.

Later, he joined All India Radio-Delhi but quit the same soon after to join Hindi films at the beckoning of his friend Saadat Hasan Manto. Though he started as a dialogue writer in Bombay, Raja blazed a lilting trail with his first film “Do Bhai” and like his chartbusting debut songs “Mera Sunder Sapna” and “Yaad Karoge”, his later songs continued to dazzle listeners with haunting passages of profound phrases.

Surprisingly, while his friend Manto migrated to the new Islamic state of Pakistan, Raja and his wife Tahira opted to stay in India and his patriotic zeal burst through the immortal “Watan Ki Raah Main Watan Ke Naujawan Shaheed Hon” (“Shaheed”). With a penchant for comfort, the gregarious Raja was generous with his money, appreciation and wit. Working with young and old alike, he gave memorable hits with everyone from Sardar Malik (“Aandhi Mein Gunahon Ka Diya”), Babul (“Jab Chhaye Kabhi Saavan Ki Ghata”), S. Mohinder (“Karte Ho Mujse Kitni Muhabbat”), Rono Mukherjee (“Jidhar Bhi Main Dekhoon Udhar Tuhi Tu Hai”), Robin Banerji (“Hamein Un Raahon Par Chalna Hai”), Laxmikant Pyarelal (“Akela Hun Main Humsafar Dhoondta Hun”) to O.P. Nayyar (“Main Pyar Ka Rahi Hoon”). But it was with Madan Mohan that he formed a magical team to create unforgettable songs of great meaning and pleasing melody.

“Aankhen” started the partnership but it was Talat Mahmood’s “Meri Yaad Mein Na Tum Aansoo Bahaana” from “Madhosh” that brought them both fame and kudos. The duo thereafter made a habit of churning out chart busters that pleased masses as well as classes through simple words that came forth as easily on the tongue as on the ears! Since ages, music lovers have swooned to the charm of “Aap Ki Nazron Ne Samjha Pyar Ke Kabil Mujhe” (“Anpadh”), “Lag Ja Gale Ke Phir Ye Haseen Raat Ho Na Ho” (Who Kaun Thi”), “Ek Haseen Sham Ko” (“Dulhan Ek Raat Ki”), “Poochho Na Humein Hum Unke Liye” (“Mitti Mein Sona”), “Agar Mujhse Mohabbat Hai” and “Main Nigaahen Tere Chehre Se Hataon Kaise” (both from “Aap Ki Parchhaiyan”) since the lyrics bristle with our poignant feelings.

He was a truly a “king of lyrics” who provided sublime beauty to film poetry and even if all his songs were not hits, his poetry always shone like gold at all times. He left this world early but his wealthy legacy is still prized by all who value culture of ethics. And that’s why just as his songs are heard with immense delight, his poetic collections like “Andaaz-E-Bayaan Aur” and “Mizraab” are also read with great relish. Old timers say he laughed a lot and had a great sense of humour till his last moment and though childless, he treated every neighbourhood kid as his own. No wonder, just as death too could not take away his smile, it has not been able to take away the glory or sheen of his beloved film songs.


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Printable version | Sep 20, 2022 8:52:38 am | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/raja-mehdi-ali-khan-turned-his-personal-pain-into-poignant-poetry-that-continues-to-define-human-emotions/article30294681.ece