Discovering Sahir Ludhianvi: ‘Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shair Hoon’ to be staged in Hyderabad 

Danish Husain’s theatre group to present ‘Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shair Hoon’, a semi-autobiographical play on the life and times of lyricist and poet Sahir Ludhianvi in Hyderabad

February 20, 2024 01:40 pm | Updated February 23, 2024 04:02 pm IST

Danish Husain as Sahir Ludhianvi with co-actors in ‘Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shair Hoon’

Danish Husain as Sahir Ludhianvi with co-actors in ‘Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shair Hoon’ | Photo Credit: Manasi/Special Arrangement

The title of The Hoshruba Repertory and Art for Causes’ Hindustani theatre production, Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shair Hoon, borrows the opening phrase from the popular song from Kabhi Kabhie. The play is a deep dive into the life of Urdu poet and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi. After sellout shows in Mumbai and New Delhi, Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shair Hoon will be staged at Shilpakala Vedika, Hyderabad, on February 24. The proceeds from the tickets (available on bookmyshow.com) will go towards raising funds for Art for Causes, an NGO that works in education and health care.

The semi-autobiographical theatre presentation is an attempt to encapsulate the life and work of Sahir Ludhianvi in a two-hour play, interspersing it with some of his unforgettable poems and songs. Written by Mir Ali Husain and Himanshu Bajpai, the play directed by Danish Husain will show the lyricist (enacted by Danish Husain) giving a formal interview in his study, sometime in the 1970s. At the other end of the theatre production is a group of young musicians who are fanboys of Ludhianvi, jamming and recreating his iconic songs.

The play took shape when Hyderabad-based artist and documentary filmmaker Amita Talwar reached out to theatre actor and director Danish Husain in summer 2023. Amita had wanted to direct documentaries on six well known lyricists. Her documentary on Kaifi Azmi was aired on Doordarshan decades ago. “Back then, it was a task sending the files from Hyderabad to Delhi,” she recalls. Her plans to make the other five documentaries, including one on Ludhianvi, did not take shape back then.

“Two years ago, to mark Ludhianvi’s birth centenary, I thought why not explore a theatre presentation,” says Amita. Through producer Elahe Hiptoola, Amita got in touch with New York-based writer and script consultant Mir Ali Husain who had researched extensively on Ludhianvi. “A couple of months later, he visited Hyderabad and made a presentation at Lamakaan, following which I contacted Danish Husain.” Amita and Danish had earlier collaborated for Akhtari: Dastan Bai Se Begum Tak, a tribute to Begum Akhtar in collaboration with Vidya Shah.

Some of Sahir Ludhianvi’s popular Hindi film songs
‘Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein’ from Kabhi Kabhie
‘Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar’ from from Hum Dono
‘Udein Jab Jab Zulfen Teri’ from Naya Daur
‘Ae Mere Zohra Jabeen’from Waqt
Hum Aapki Ankhon Mein’ from Pyaasa
‘Saathi Haath Badhana’ from Naya Daur

Danish recalls how that presentation had also included music and Amita was keen on a similar format for the play on Ludhianvi. In the meantime, Danish had also been on the lookout for a play to commemorate the 11th year of his theatre group, The Hoshruba Repertory. Having worked with Mir Ali Husain earlier, he was eager to collaborate again. “When I read Husain’s script, it was a monologue of Sahir speaking,” says Danish, who also wanted to include perspectives on how others looked at Ludhianvi, in the play. He roped in the dastangoi exponent Himanshu Bajpai, who had a script in place.  

Danish Husain with co-actors and the music ensemble in ‘Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shair Hoon’

Danish Husain with co-actors and the music ensemble in ‘Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shair Hoon’ | Photo Credit: Manasi/Special Arrangement

“I invited both the gentlemen since I wanted to combine both their scripts and asked them to grant me carte blanche.” Danish then took portions from both the scripts, filled in a few gaps where he thought there was a need for more material, rewrote a few portions and Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shair Hoon was born. 

The production traces Ludhianvi’s life from his birth through his struggling years and entry into Hindi cinema and also looks at his poetry beyond the romantic numbers. He was also known for his poetry on the marginalised. “This aspect makes him inspirational and admirable,” says Danish.

Having pored over audio recordings of Ludhianvi and a few available “grainy” videos, Danish observes how the legendary poet chose his words and spoke them carefully so that his articulation reached the listeners. Guidance also came from lyricist and screenwriter Javed Akhtar, pertaining to Ludhianvi’s mannerisms and body language. Danish reinterpreted all this on stage, ensuring not to mimic him. 

Danish Husain as Sahir Ludhianvi in ‘Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shair Hoon’

Danish Husain as Sahir Ludhianvi in ‘Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shair Hoon’ | Photo Credit: Manasi/Special Arrangement

On stage, as Danish slips into the shoes of Ludhianvi, he is accompanied by actors Vrinda Vaid, Siddharth N Padiyar and musicians/singers — Shantanyu Herlekar (a disciple of Shubha Mudgal) on the harmonium, vocalist Srijonee Bhattacharjee and guitarist Donald Krist and percussionist Siddarth Nityanand Padiyar. During the presentations in Mumbai and Delhi, the audience sang along.

Danish sums up, “Sahir’s life was enigmatic and complex. There was ample material for each phase of his life — struggling days, stardom, falling out with his peers — the narrative shaped up naturally. Sahir will not be a stranger to those who watch the play. They will develop an admiration for him and also be curious to explore further material.”

(Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shair Hoon, the Hindustani play, will be staged at Shilpakala Vedika, Hyderabad, on February 24, 7pm. Tickets on bookmyshow.com)

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