Some incidents stay in your mind; the relentless momentum of time doing nothing to rob you of the intensity. Two such instances involve Majrooh Sultanpuri. Early in my life, I heard a film critic waxing eloquent about the beauty of “Boojh mera naam re”, used with guileless ease in “CID”. It was said that Majrooh Sahab penned this heart touching song imagining his own home in Awadh, that village by the river bank, the peepul tree, the sun and shade in the courtyard. The song stays in my mind as do those words. So whenever I happen to listen to it today, images of a village in the Hindi belt come rushing to my mind.
The other instance involves “Ek din bik jayega”, the Mukesh classic from “Dharam Karam”, a film that released in the year of “Sholay” and “Deewar”. Raj Kapoor was many years past his prime then, Randhir Kapoor not quite a name to reckon with as a director or an actor. Yet “Dharam Karam” is remembered to this day. Credit for that goes to R.D. Burman’s effervescent music and Majrooh’s soulful lyrics.
Coming back to “Ek din bik jayega”, the song came to have a more sentimental connection. Back in 1976 it was played late at night on All India Radio’s hugely popular programme Chhaya Geet. The singer, Mukesh had passed away a few hours earlier following a massive heart attack in the U.S. where he had gone on a concert tour. As the anchor remembered all the superhits of Mukesh –– many of his songs were released post his death –– it was “Ek din bik jayega” whose snatches were played again and again, lending the programme a feeling of angst; giving the listeners an idea of the futility of life. I was only a boy then and wondered what was the fuss all about!
It was much later that the import of Majrooh’s words struck me. Then I started humming the song again and again to myself. Fortunately, a few years later I laid my hands on the audiocassette of the film. The rewind button came in handy. “Ek din bik jayega mati ke mol jag mein reh jayenge pyare tere bol” came to have a profundity to it that I had hitherto not imagined. The line seemed to encapsulate the essentially ephemeral nature of life. And I understood not a day too soon why it was played after the death of Mukesh. “Taram pam dhara jo behtee hai milke rehtee hai, behti dhara ban ja phir duniya se dol”…The words rang in my ears. These were not rehearsed words ready for the occasion. They stemmed from the pen of somebody who had understood the meaning of life, I told myself. And got down to reading about Majrooh. One song led to the discovery of his village, another to the discovery of the man! Soon I found out that Majrooh, a hugely successful lyricist, was actually an Islamic scholar, an aalim. He was sent to study at a madrasa for seven years by his father, himself a policeman. Though Majrooh did not go on to master scriptures in the traditional sense, the years spent in the madrasa seeped through his pen every now and then. As in “Ek din bik jayega”.
My fascination with the song that began with “Chhaya Geet” many, many years later took me to a screening of “Dharam Karam” at International Film Festival of India in Panaji. Frankly, the film, narrating the story of a seasoned criminal –– Prem Nath –– who exchanges his son with that of a millionaire artist –– is a weak melodrama. There are plenty of twists and turns in an implausible storyline –– the two kids are brought up in different homes but the original plan of bringing up the bad man’s son as a good man goes haywire. There is a fair bit of action, most of it not quite slick. There are asides too, some of them actually jarring. Of course, Raj Kapoor does little to redeem the proceedings. And Rekha then was not the girl who oozed oomph. As for Randhir, well, if he went to buy himself an insurance as an artist, he would have struggled to get a good bargain.
The film did not exactly do wonders at the box office. No disgrace there considering 1975 was also the year of “Jai Santoshi Maa”, “Aandhi”, “Mausam”, “Pratiggya” and “Chupke Chupke” besides “Sholay” and “Deewar”. If the film is worth remembering today, credit has to be given to Majrooh, Mukesh and R.D. Burman.
As for me, today when I think of Majrooh, I understand why he wrote “Main akela hee chala tha janib-e-manzil magar log saath aate gaye aur carvan banta gaya!” And why thousands came to listen to his shayari. The lyrics of “Dharam Karam” were a nice stopover point in the journey of life.
Genre: Social drama
Director: Randhir Kapoor
Cast: Raj Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor, Rekha, Prem Nath, Dara Singh, Pinchoo Kapoor, Narendra Nath, Urmila Bhatt
Story, screenplay and dialogue: Prayag Raj
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Music: R. D. Burman
Box office status: Average
Trivia: Majrooh Sultanpuri received the Filmfare nomination as Best Lyricist for the hit song “Ek Din Bik Jayega”