Sahir’s enduring spell

Early this month, fans of Sahir Ludhianvi celebrated his 97th birth anniversary. A look at his songs which continue to evoke a cascade of ideas and emotions

Published - March 30, 2018 01:50 am IST



As the news came in of the death of innocent Indians in Iraq, one recalled Sahir Ludhianvi’s couplet, “Har Ek Daur Ka Mazhab Naya Khuda Laya, Karen To Hum Bhi Kis Khuda Ki Baat Karein” (Religion of every era brought a new God, I know not which God I should talk about) that mocked the madness of creating Gods and then killing people in their name. As politicians went slamming each other without remorse for the unlucky bread winners of various families, one realised Sahir was not wrong in asserting “Ye Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye To Kya Hai” (“Pyaasa”) as nothing has changed for the better.

Every time one sees misery and pain, one is reminded of Sahir Ludhianvi’s prophetic lyrics since Sahir has an uncanny ability to knock societal hypocrisy, without disrespecting individuals who toil for a brighter and better world. This conjurer of visionary insights uses the critical strain as a whiplash to keep us sane and sombre without crushing the honest resolve, strength and hope of an individual for an improved future. Though himself victimised by communal politics and patriarchal tyranny, the poet had the courage to utter a prayer, “Tu Hindu Banega Na Musalman Banega Insaan Ki Aulaad Hai, Insaan Banega” (“Dhool Ka Phool”); a song that should be mandatory text to inspire students around India if not the whole world. No poet in modern history has had greater ability to castigate hypocrisy as well as inspire humanism within the same text like Sahir does.

And it is equally true that not many can write scathing criticism of human frailty and moral degradation alongside stirring visions of nobility and courage at the same time. That is why from Taj Mahal to nationalism and communalism to political jingoism, nothing was sacrosanct for this poet of the down trodden.

Romance, with all its coy trappings, was treated with remarkable dignity by Sahir and while he would profess undying love for his beloved in glowing terms, it never blinded him from his greater sense of duty to his milieu and society. That is why when others lauded Taj Mahal as a monument of love, Sahir deprecated it as an insult to poor who couldn’t advertise their depth of love with ornamental memorials. Detesting the sham of royalty, he persuaded his beloved to meet him outside the precincts of the marble tombstone as “Ek Shahenshah Ne Daulat Ka Sahara Leke, Hum Gareebon Ki Mohabbat Ka Udaaya Hai Mazaak” (“Ghazal”). Similarly, “Tum Mujhe Bhool Bhi Jao” (“Didi”) is an example where the finest emotions of passion are juxtaposed besides strains of moral responsibilities that cannot be shunned for the sake of one mortal being. Likewise when others eulogised nationalism, Sahir punctured it with the chilling “Jinhein Naaz Hai Hind Par Wo Kahan Hain” (“Pyaasa”). Sahir was not averse to patriotism and proudly proclaimed “Bhai Qadam Qadam Se Dil Se Dil Mila Rahe Hain Hum” (“Chaar Dil Chaar Raahein”) as well as “Ye Desh Hai Veer Jawano Ka” (“Naya Daur”) but was not a blind devotee to overlook the plight of the millions and hence, also mocked the political class with his incisive “Chino Arab Hamara, Hindustan Hamara, Rehne Ko Ghar Naheen Hai, Saara Jahan Hamara” (“Phir Subah Hogee”).

It is remarkable that young Abdul Hayee of Ludhiana chose the most apt pen name for himself since “Sahir” does mean a magician in Urdu language! It surely cannot be denied that Sahir Ludhianvi did have a magical wand to inspire millions of down trodden with his soul searching and stirring poetry that helped film songs gain respect as a separate literary genre while also catapulting films to box office success. There was no genre from bhajans, sufi songs, ghazals to nazms, cabarets, ballads and qawwalis which Sahir could not handle with his endearing vocabulary that was melody for the ears but food for the mind in equal measure.

Effortless weaver

Take a song from any genre and you’ll find that this poet excelled beyond comparison. Enchanting the connoisseur as well as the common man, this romantic poet with a progressive streak could strike at the ills of the society as easily as he could entice you with sublime expressions of love in its myriad coloured splendours.

An effortless weaver, Sahir fused the world of film music with sublime expressions of Urdu and Hindi poetry that actually became the nomenclature of the masses. That is why from “Ye Ishq Ishq Hai Ishq” (“Barsaat Ki Raat”), “Nighaein Milane Ko Jee Chahta Hai” (“Dil Hi To Hai”), “Aana Hai To Aa” (“Naya Daur”), “Chehre Pe Khushi Jaa Jaati Hai” (“Waqt”), “Failee Hui Hain Sapnon Ki Baahein” (“House No. 44”), “Aaj Ki Raat Naheen Shikwe Shikaayat Ke Liye” (“Dharmaputra”) to “Raat Bhi Hai Kuch Bheegi Bheegi” (“Mujhe Jeene Do”), “Mere Bhaiyaa, Mere Chanda” (“Kaajal”), “Man Re Tu Kahe Na Dheer Dhare” (“Chitralekha”) and “Wo Subah Kabhi To Aayegi” (“Phir Subah Hogi”), Sahir’s lyrical output is matchless in range of thought as well as moods.

However, beyond his voracious outpourings, Sahir has to be admired for the dignity that he brought forth to the office of the word weavers of cinema. It was his call that led to lyricists and screen writers getting a notable remuneration as well as mention in cinema credits on and off the screen. “A genial giant in real life who literally and figuratively towered above others,” this chain smoking Piscean was extremely generous to fellow writers and artistes with cash and gifts.

For someone who bequeathed his property to several fellow artistes easily, disrespect was non negotiable; a reason which led to severance of ties with S D Burman as well as a diktat to All India Radio and HMV to give names of lyricists on their programmes and albums respectively. Not surprising since at the age of thirteen, Sahir forsake his father’s millions to live with his divorced mother… his pen certainly proved it was more effective and mightier than a sword!

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