Sahir Ludhyanvi

Aao ke koyi khwaab bunen kal ke vaaste

Varnaa ye raat aaj ke sangeen daur ki

Das legi jaan-o-dil ko aise ke jaan-o-dil

Taa-umr phir na koyi haseen khwaab bun sake.

Gau hum se bhaagtee rahi hai tez-gaam umr

Khwaabon ke aasre pe katee hai tamaam umr

Ye khwaab hi to apnee jawaanee ke paas the

Ye khwaab hi to apne amal ki asaas the

Aao ke koyi khwaab buneN, kal ke vaaste !

He does not mince words, does not sublimate emotions, expresses thoughts clearly and directly. He gets angry and sarcastic, and at the same time he dreams. It is the dreamer in Sahir that gives him his characteristic style.

Born as Abdul Hayi on March 8, 1921 at Ludhiana, Punjab. Sahir was the only son of a Ludhiana zamindar. He completed his graduation from Government college, Ludhiana. His parents' estrangement and the Partition made him shuttle between India and Pakistan. It also brought him face to face with a struggle called life. A member of the Progressive Writers' Association, he edited Adab-e-Latif, Pritlari, Savera and Shahrab. An arrest warrant issued by the Pakistani government of the day made him flee to Bombay in 1949. By now, he had managed to publish his anthology Talkhiyaan (Bitternesses). Besides Talkhiyaan and the hundreds of film songs he penned in a career spanning three decades, Sahir also authored the anthologies Parchaiyaan, Aao Ki Koi Khwab Buney and Gaata Jaaye Banjara.

Sahir debuted in films with his lyrics for Aazadi Ki Raah Par (1948), the film had four song written by him. His first song was 'Badal Rahi Hai Zindagi..' for Aazadi Ki Raah Par. The film went un-noticed and so its songs. But, with 1951's Naujawan, he got the recognition. S. D. Burman composed the music for Naujawan. Even today, the film's lilting song 'Thandi Hawayen Lehrake Aaye..' makes hearts flutter. His first major success came the same year with Guru Dutt's directorial debut, Baazi, again pairing him with composer S. D. Burman. After the success of Naujawan and Baazi, the combination of Sahir and S. D. Burman, came out with many more everlasting songs: 'Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni Phir Kahaan..' from Jaal (1952), 'Jaaye to Jaaye Kahaan..' from Taxi Driver (1954), 'Teri Duniya Mein Jeene Se..' from House Number 44 (1955), and 'Jeevan Ke Safar Mein Rahi..' from Munimji (1955). The duo reached their creative zenith with Pyaasa (1957). But, after Pyaasa, Sahir and Sachinda parted their ways due to some misunderstandings.

Sahir Ludhiyanvi Later Sahir worked mostly with N. Datta, who was a great fan of Sahir. They already had worked for Milaap in 1955. Sahir wrote many unforgettable gems for Datta. They worked together for Marine Drive (1955), Light House (1958), Bhai Bahen (1959), Saadhna (1958), Dhool Ka Phool (1959), Dharamputra (1961), Dilli Ka Dada (1962) and many other films. Together they produced many unforgettable melodies: 'Tang Aa Chuke Hain Is Kashmakashe Zindagi Se..' from Light House, 'Mere Nadeem Mere Humsafar Udaas Na Ho..' from Bhai Bahen, 'Aurat Ne Janm Diya Mardon Ko..' from Saadhna, 'Tu Hindu Banega Na Musalman Banega..' from Dhool Ka Phool and 'Ye Kiska Lahu Hai..' from Dharmputra, to name a few.

Sahir's work in the 1970s was mainly restricted to films directed by Yash Chopra. Though his output in terms of number of films had thinned out, the quality of his writings commanded immense respect. Kabhi Kabhie (1976) saw him return to sparkling form. These songs won him his second Filmfare award, the first one being for Taj Mahal. Sahir's poetry had a Faizian quality. Like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sahir too gave Hindustani/Urdu poetry an intellectual element that caught the imagination of the youth of the forties and fifties and sixties. He helped them to discover their spine. Sahir asked questions, was not afraid of calling a spade a bloody spade, and roused people from an independence-induced smugness. He would pick on the self-appointed custodian of religion, the self-serving politician, the exploitative capitalist, the war-mongering big powers. Aren't they familiar? Close to Sahir's heart were the farmer crushed by debt, the young man sent to the border to fight somebody's dirty war, the lass forced to sell her body, the youth frustrated by unemployment, families living in dire poverty... The underdog remains; his bard is gone.

Sahir, like his name, was a "magician" of words. He wove fascinating images in songs and ghazals, spellbinding his listeners and readers for decades. For about thirty years, he remained associated with the Hindi film industry. He composed hundreds of songs for Hindi/Urdu films. Most of his songs became hugely popular and are even today sung and hummed by people of all generations. Sahir`s most remarkable contribution is that through his lyrics, he catapulted the standards of Hindi film songs to a level that became the benchmark for quality poetry. His lyrics have immortalized many songs in the memory of Hindi film lovers.

For a moment, imagine and visualize the scene from Guru Dutt`s 'Pyaasa' (1957): "Jinhe naaz hai Hind par wo kahan hain!" The song succinctly portrays the decadence in Indian society, even as the accompanying visual is the camera tracking through a street of brothels. Or remember a dashing Devanand in 'Hum Dono' (1961), bellowing curls of smoke and singing. Take a romantic Amitabh Bachchan, ambling about a bed of flowers and crooning in the sylvan color riot of Yash Chopra`s 'Kabhi Kabhi' (1976).

Sahir Ludhianvi was basically a romantic poet. He had failed in love many times and therefore, his poetry is full of tragic emotions. He excels in portraying tragedy without going overboard. He talks of personal romance and the ensuing disillusionment. Then he talks of universal romance, and the inevitable frustration that follows it. His poetry is an amazing canvas of romantic shades.

The style is simple, straight, and direct. He minces no words. He expresses his thoughts directly without sublimating emotions. Sahir at times gets angry too. His anger can be against God or society. He challenges God and he challenges moribund traditions of society.

The best of Sahir Ludianvi

Song & Movie

Jo Wada Kiya -- Taj Mahal

Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein -- Kabhi Kabhi

Chalo Ek Baar Phir Se Ajnabi -- Gumraah

Tum Na Jane Kis Jahan Me Kho Gaye -- Sazaa

Doob Gaye Aakash Ke Tare -- Angaarey

Zindagii Bhar Nahin Bhuulegii -- Barsaat Ki Raat

Allah Tero Naam -- Hum Dono

Woh Subah Kabhi To Aayegi -- Phir Subah Hogi

Maine Chaand Aur Sitaaro Ki Tamanna -- Chandrakantaa

Ai Merii Zoharaa-Jabiin, Tujhe Maaluum -- Waqt

Abhi na jao -- Hum dono

Bichde sabhi baari baari -- Kaagaz ke phool

Aurat ne janam diya maradonko -- Sadhana

Choo Lene do naazuk -- Kaajal

Jaane woh kaise -- Pyaasa

Jo Baat tujhme hai -- Tajmahal

Kiska rasta Dekhe -- Joshila

Laaga Chunari me daag -- Dil hi to hai

Mein Pal do Pal Shayar hoon -- Kabhie kabhie

Man re -- Chitralekha

Na to Kaarvan ki talaash -- Barsaat ki raat

Pao choo lenedo -- Taj Mahal

Yeh Mahalo -- Pyasa

Ye raat Ye chandni -- Jaal

Sahir worked with many music composers, including Ravi, S.D. Burman, Roshan and Khayyam, and has left behind many unforgettable songs for fans of the Indian Film Industry and film music. Pyaasa marked an end to his successful partnership with S.D. Burman over what is reported to be S.D. Burman's displeasure at Sahir receiving more admiration (and thus credit for the success) from audiences for the words of the lyrics than S.D. Burman did for his memorable tunes.[citation needed] Later, Sahir Ludhianvi teamed up with composer N. Dutta in several films. Dutta, a Goan, was a great admirer of Sahir's revolutionary poetry. They had already worked together to produce the music for Milaap (1955). Sahir wrote many unforgettable gems for Datta.

In 1958, Sahir wrote the lyrics for Ramesh Saigal's film Phir Subah Hogi, which was based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment. The male lead was Raj Kapoor and it was presumed that Shankar-Jaikishan (favorite duo of Raj Kapoor for music) would be the music composers. However, Sahir insisted that only someone who had read the novel could provide the right score. Thus, Khayyam ended up as the music composer for the film and the song Woh Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi (sung by Mukesh), with minimal background music remains an all-time hit. Khayyam went on to work with Sahir in many films including Kabhie Kabhie and Trishul.

On October 25, 1980, at the age of 59, Sahir Ludhianvi died after suffering a massive heart attack in the midst of a card game. His final works were released for the Hindi film Lakshmi (1982). He will always be remembered along with Kaifi Azmi as the poet who brought Urdu literature to Indian motion pictures. Over 25 years after Sahir Ludhianvi's death, his poetry and lyrics remain an inspiration for lyricists of the day. Composers and singers of Sahir's time swear by the depth, intensity and purity in his poetry. As singer Mahendra Kapoor said in a Vividh Bharati interview, I don't think a writer like Sahir Ludhianvi will be born again. Ever the champion of the underdog, Sahir Ludhianvi and his poetry will have special place in the hearts of sensitive souls.

A colossus amongst film lyricists, Sahir Ludhianvi was slightly different from his contemporaries. A poet unable to praise Khuda (God), Husn (Beauty) or Jaam (Wine), his pen was, at its best, pouring out bitter but sensitive lyrics over the declining values of society, the senselessness of war and politics, and the domination of materialism over love. Whenever he wrote any love songs, they were tinged with sorrow, due to realisation that there were other, starker concepts more important than love. He could be called the underdog's bard; close to his heart were the farmer crushed by debt, the soldier gone to fight someone else's war, the woman forced to sell her body, the youth frustrated by unemployment, the family living on the street and other victims of society.

Sahir Ludhianvi's poetry had a "Faizian" quality. Like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, he too gave Hindi/Urdu poetry an intellectual element that caught the imagination of the youth of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. He helped them discover their spine. Sahir asked questions, and was not afraid of calling a spade, a bloody spade, and he roused people from an independence-induced smugness. He would pick on the self-appointed custodian of religion, the self-serving politician, the exploitative capitalist, and the war-mongering super-powers.

* English translations of Sahir's poetry: LUDHIANVI, Sahir (1921-1980)

* SHADOWS SPEAK tr. with intro. Khwaja Ahmad Abbas {Abbas, Khwaja Ahmad} pref. Sajjad Zaheer {Zaheer, Sajjad} English text only. P.P.H. Bookstall (Bombay) 129pp (intro. 7-12) 1958 paper only.

* THE BITTER HARVEST tr. Rifat Hassan {Hassan, Rifat} Urdu & English texts. Aziz Publishers (Lahore) 169pp (pref. i-iii) 1977 cloth only.

* SORCERY/ (Sahir) tr. with pref. Sain Sucha {Sucha, Sain} Urdu & English texts. Vudya Kitaban Forlag (Sollentuna, Sweden) 114pp (pref. 1-6, essay in Urdu 106-114) 1989 paper only.

Sahir Ludhianvi penned some of the finest Bollywood songs.

* Aana Hai To Aa (Naya Daur 1957), composed by O.P. Nayyar

* Allah Tero Naam, Ishwar Tero Naam (Hum Dono 1961), composed by Jaidev

* Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jaaye (Gumrah), composed by Ravi

* Man re tu kaahe na dheer dhare? (Chitralekha 1964), composed by Roshan

* Main pal do pal ka shaayar hoon (Kabhie Kabhie 1976), composed by Khayyam

* Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaye To Kya Hai (Pyaasa 1957), composed by S.D. Burman

* Ishwar Allah Tere Naam (Naya Raasta 1970), composed by N. Datta

* Tu Hindu Banega na musalman banega (Dhool ka Phool) composed by Ravi

* Ye ishq ishq hai ( Barsat ki Raat)

His loves, and love poems, were tinged with sorrow, with the realisation that there are stark realities more important than romantic love. This facet was seen in his lines for the film Didi:

Zindagi Sirf Mohabbat Nahin Kuch Aur Bhi Hai

Zulf-o-Rukhsaar ki Jannat Nahi Kuch Aur Bhi Hai

Bhookh Aur Pyaas ki Maari Hui Is Duniya Mein

Ishq Hi Ek Haqeeqat Nahin Kuch Aur Bhi Hai.

And in

Pyaar Par Bas To Nahin Hai Lekin Phir Bhi

Tu Bata De Ki Main Tujhe Pyaar Karoon Ya Na Karoon

in the film Sone Ki Chidiya (1958).

All good things, as they say, come to an end. S.D. Burman and Sahir parted ways after Pyaasa and never worked together again. Sahir, already a stalwart as the sixties approached, wrote gems for films like Hum Dono (1961), Gumraah (1963), Taj Mahal (1963), Waqt (1965), Humraaz (1967) and Neel Kamal (1968), teaming up with composers Ravi, Jaidev, N. Datta, Roshan, Khayyam, R.D. Burman and Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Sahir's work in the 1970s was mainly restricted to films directed by Yash Chopra. Though his output in terms of number of films had thinned out, the quality of his writings commanded immense respect. Kabhi Kabhie (1976) saw him return to sparkling form. These songs won him his second Filmfare award, the first one being for Taj Mahal.

Ever a sensitive soul, Sahir reacted to the world around him, pouring his sentiments into the songs he penned for films. Coming from his pen, even the most mundane would have a message. For example, this song from Neelkamal: Khali Dabba Khali Botal Le Le Mere Yaar Khali se Mat Nafrat Karna, Khali Sab Sansar. His poetry could at once be sublime - Tora Man Darpan Ehlaye Bhale Bure Sare Karmo ko Dekhe Aur Dikhaye from Kajal (1965), introspective - Man Re Tu Kahe Na Dheer Dhare from Chitralekha(1964), invoking - Allah Tero Naam Ishwar Tero Naam Sabko Sanmati de Bhagwan from Hum Dono, esoteric - Khuda-e-Bartar Teri Zameen Par Zameen ki Khatir Jung Kyon Hai from Taj Mahal, and philosophical - Jahan Mein Aisa Kaun Hai Ki Jisko Gham Mila Nahin again from Hum Dono. There lay Sahir's spirituality. Ingrained in this spirituality was a quest for a greater humanity, better people, a livable world. Paradoxically, it always involved, and was about, the material rather than the metaphysical.

A colossus among song writers, Sahir fought for, and became the first film lyricist to get, royalty from music companies. He would deeply involve himself in the setting of tunes for his songs. Any wonder why they are extra melodious? There was a negative trait too: Sahir would insist he be paid a rupee more for each song than Lata Mangeshkar was. Call it a left-over of his zamindar background, or an example of success gone to the head, this egotism of Sahir has been heard of and written about.

Over two decades after his death, Sahir's songs remain immensely popular. His poetry continues to inspire radical groups and individuals and strikes a chord in sensitive people, leftist or not. Why else would a Vajpayee invoke Sahir while taking a dig at Pakistan?

Woh waqt gaya woh daur gaya jab do qaumon ka naara tha

Woh log gaye is dharti se jinka maqsad batwaara tha

Sahir died after a heart attack he suffered while playing cards. One suspects the poet, whose heart bled for others, never paid enough attention to his own life. There was a card-player nonchalance about himself, as seen in this Hum Dono song:

Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya

Har fikr ko dhuwein me udata chala gaya

Had Sahir (whose 22nd death anniversary falls on October 25) not allowed drink and cigarette smoke to consume himself, had he lived a fuller life like contemporaries Majrooh Sultanpuri and Kaifi Azmi did, it would have been interesting to watch him react to changing social values, to politics touching its nadir, to 'secular' becoming a dirty word, to the abuse of religion to spread hatred and get votes, to the supposed failure of communism, to the never-ending dowry deaths, to the intellectual inertia of the intelligentsia.... Perhaps he would have influenced thought as he did in the past. Maybe his message to the masses would have been the same as it was decades ago:

Tumse Quwwat Lekar, Main Tumko Raah Dikhaoonga

Tum Parcham Lehrana Saathi, Main Barbat par Gaoonga.

Aaj se Mere Phan ka Maksad Zanjeere Pighlana Hai

Aaj se Main Shabnam ke Badle Angaare Barsaoonga.

(Drawing from your strength, I shall show you the way

You wave the flag, comrades, I shall sing for you

My art will now melt your chains

From now on my poetry will rain embers)

Memorable Films

Naujawan (1951)

Baazi (1951)

Jaal (1952)

Taxi Driver (1954)

House Number 4 (1955)

Munimji (1955)

Devdas (1955)

Railway Platform (1955)

Naya Daur (1957)

Pyaasa (1957)

Sadhana (1958)

Phir Subah Hogi (1958)

Sone ki Chidiya (1958)

Dhool ka Phool (1959)

Barsaat Ki Raat (1960)

Hum Dono (1961)

Gumrah (1963)

Taj Mahal (1963)

Dil Hi to Hai (1963)

Aaj Aur Kal (1963)

Waqt (1965)

Kajal (1965)

Bahu Begum (1967)

Humraaz (1967)

Neel Kamal (1968)

Daag (1973)

Deewaar (1975)

Kabhi Kabhie (1976)

Trishul (1978)

Kala Patthar (1979)