Hope and disillusionment Monday, Mar 2 2009 

The lyrics of two Hindi film songs written ten years apart show starkly how the dreams nurtured by Indians of life after independence from British rule came crashing down to earth. 

In 1948, Nazim Panipati wrote a song expressing absolute glee over the British departing from India. It went: ‘ab Darane kii koii baat nahiin, angrezii chhoraa chalaa gayaa’ (film: ‘Majboor’, music: Ghulam Haider, singers: Mukesh and Lata). The joyful mood of the song is clearly evident from the very fact that the much-hated Englishman is referred to as ‘angrezii chhoraa’ (‘English boy’) and ‘vo goraa-goraa’ (‘that fair one’)!

Right in the beginning, the poet declares ‘ab Darane kii koii baat nahiin’ (‘there’s no need to fear now’). Why? Because, the poet says, ‘thaa jinakaa Dar vo gaye chale’ (‘the ones whom we feared have left’). Hope of better days is expressed in these words: ‘ab nahiin hai raaj firangii kaa / lo jhanDaa lagaa tirangii kaa / ab nahiin zamaanaa tangii kaa’ (‘British rule is no more / the tricolour is in place / the days of scarcity are over’). The numerous troubles that the British gave us were expected to go with them: ‘dukh-dard firangii laaye the / hamen laakhon rog lagaaye the / gaye vahiin jahaan se aaye the’ (‘the British brought with them sorrow and pain / they gave us numerous afflictions / (what a relief that) they have left whence they came’).

In 1958, Sahir Ludhianvi wrote a bitter satire on the state of the young republic in the song ‘chiin-o-arab hamaaraa, hindostaan hamaaraa / rahane ko ghar nahiin hai, saaraa jahaan hamaaraa’ (‘China and Arabia are ours, India is ours / we don’t have a place to stay, but the whole world is ours’) (film: ‘Phir Subah Hogi’, music: Khayyam, singer: Mukesh). It was a bitter, but brilliant, take-off on the poet Iqbal’s poems ‘Tarana-e-Milli’ and ‘Tarana-e-Hind’ (i.e., ‘saare jahaan se achchha’).

What is the state of the common man in India ten years after the ‘angrezii chhoraa’ left?

They are deprived of shelter and education: ‘kholii bhii chhin gayi hai, benchen bhii chhin gayi hain / saDakon pe ghuumataa hai, ab kaaravaan hamaaraa’ (‘our rooms and our (school) benches have been forced from us / we now roam the streets’).

The authorities have become oppressors: ‘jeben hain apanii khaalii, kyon detaa varnaa gaalii / vo santarii hamaaraa, vo paasabaan hamaaraa’ (‘our pockets are empty, why else would / that sentry, that protector of ours (the police) abuse us?’).

Capitalists dominate the economy: ‘jitanii bhii bilDingen thiin, seThon ne baant lii hain / fuTapaath bambaii ke, hai aashiyaan hamaaraa’ (‘all the buildings are distributed among themselves by the wealthy / the pavements of Bombay are our refuge’).

Common folk find it difficult to get work: ‘taaliim hai adhuurii, milatii nahiin majuurii / maaluum kyaa kisiiko, dard-e-nihaan hamaaraa’ (‘our education is incomplete, we don’t get work / who does know our pain?’)

Even if this is an overly pessimistic scenario, Nehru’s mixed economy seems to have produced dissidents in the very first decade of independence.

Shop talk Tuesday, Jan 27 2009 

Sunday, 25th January, 2009. Big Bazaar, the retail store chain. Particular instance of the store at Hebbal in Bangalore. Have no reason to visit. Attracted significantly enough to decide to visit by 16-page booklet announcing great shopping festival and ‘exciting offers’ that came with the Times of India a day earlier . With my wife. On our two-wheeler. 5-km ride, first on Bellary Road and then on Tumkur Road.

Pass the giant store from the opposite side of the road. Notice, with shock and awe, tremendous activity around the store. Long, long line of two-wheelers parked on tiny side road. Expectedly, have trouble finding a parking slot. Park, far away from the store itself.  Forced to un-park by a guard who says this parking slot is for those visiting a bar in a shopping complex. Now park in front of a darshini, the typical south Indian fast food veg restaurant. Nobody objects. Probably safe, but lingering worry on state of two-wheeler when I return.

Approach the store. Notice that entrance is not directly through the sliding doors, but through a maze designed to hold a long, long queue of peoople. Bemused. Wondering if we have come to Tirumala or Sabarimala. People actually slipping under barricades to get in ahead of others. Curiouser and curiouser.

We enter the store on Level 1. Sales promotions galore. Not all of them bargains. Nearly all promotions offering some goods free on purchase of some others. Almost no outright discounts. Maximum glut, we feel, is in the clothes section. Buy 2 get 2 free. Buy 5 get 7 free. Wondering, how many people want to overhaul their wardrobe by buying 12 clothes at once? Thinking, we don’t even have that much space at home.

People swarming all over the place. Imagining what an ant must feel like on an anthill. All ‘ants’ have shopping carts or tug-along bags stuffed with stuff. Shopping carts frequently have a child or two seated in them, as if children are also offered on a discount on Level 5 of the store.  No aisle or passageway is empty. At any given moment, every passageway has at least one frantic shopper checking out bargains. The American dream.

Typical scenes of people buying completely unncessary stuff. Lot of people carrying two foam pillows each, offered for the price of one. Seems lot of people suddenly want to be very, very comfortable at home with extra pillows. A couple has bought 10 buckets. Probably to distribute in their locality.

Consumer behaviour is contagious. I go in search of an empty shopping cart. Find one near the exit. We select an airtight container and a ladies’ purse. Our real need is to buy groceries. So we reach Level 4, the Food Bazaar. Maximum crowd. Serpentine queues for billing, except that no serpent in the world grows to this length. Dumbfounded by this consumer onslaught. The consumerist Singh is king, or so it appears.

Finally decide to beat a hasty retreat. As hasty as the crowds allow. Drop our shopping cart unobtrusively in a corner. Make our way through jostling crowds near the billing counters on Level 1. Successfully pass through and exit. Security guard at exit looking for bills and articles to check, surprised at not finding any. Walk to two-wheeler, which is safe, thank God. Drive away to home and hearth.

Had certain thoughts while inside this insane shopping asylum. How do you define economic slowdown? How big has the great Indian middle class become? Will the retailers profit, even after offering nearly every good at a discount? When will the countless items in the inventory of that giant store finally all move out? Will it ever happen, even after so many people have bought so many of those items, most of which they didn’t need in the first place? What comes over us when we enter a crowded supermarket with stocked shelves and see others with full shopping bags? Competitive spirit? Animal instinct? Supermarkets resemble casinos. You come out with empty pockets when you had not expected to leak money.

‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ Tuesday, Jul 10 2007 

This engrossing novel by Italian writer, historian, and philosopher Umberto Eco has been described as the “thinking man’s ‘Da Vinci Code’ “. Having read both, I must say I have felt quite distinct feelings after reading the two novels. Whereas ‘The Da Vinci Code’ read like yet another thriller, albeit with a controversial theme, ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ reads like a scholarly work. It is almost a reference book on Western occult and secret societies.

Although the novel has liberal doses of occult, religion (mainly Judaism and Christianity), and medieval history, the real theme is psychological. It is about how people believe outlandish conspiracy theories that, though internally consistent, may be entirely imaginary explanations of history or the real world.

Jacopo Belbo, Diotallevi, and Casaubon are three editors at Garamond Press, a small publishing firm in Milan, Italy. Casaubon, the narrator of the story, is a PhD student specializing in the history of the ever-fascinating Knights Templar. In publishing a series on occult literature, satirically named ‘Isis Unveiled’, they review dozens of occult texts written by several authors, whom they term ‘the Diabolicals’, in jest. From one such encounter with an author, they get an idea to formulate a ‘Plan’ of their own, based on all kinds of obscure occult, religious and historical texts that would give a new interpretation of the great secret of the Knights Templar and the few dozen secret societies that have been associated with the Templars over the centuries. They immerse themselves in the task wholeheartedly, initially aware of the purely fictional nature of their work. Their effort is meant to be a satire on the work of the Diabolicals. But, as they actually use all their knowledge and references to create a Plan that is remarkably consistent in all its details, they begin to suspect that it might really be the truth. Belbo and Diotallevi are particularly consumed by this thought, while Casaubon is very proud of their creation.

And then, as the summary on the back cover of the book says, ‘the Plan begins to take over’. Diotallevi dies of cancer, but attributes his death to their attempt to flout Jewish Kabbalistic norms and rewrite history. Certain people with deep occultist interests and beliefs, including some Diabolicals, get wind of the Plan, and they believe in it without question. They come to think that there is a secret which the three editors know, and which, despite their being members of obscure secret societies, they don’t. So they lure Belbo into a trap where he perhaps meets his end. The novel ends with Casaubon being anxious about his own end at the hands of the occultists, although the reader may never be completely certain that there are indeed such conspirators pursuing Casaubon.

(The plot and background of the novel can be found in some detail on this Wikipedia page.)

That is the beauty of the novel. By the end, fiction has got so mixed up with reality that one doesn’t know what to believe. That is the power of conspiracy theories with supposedly deep, earth-shaking secrets.

This is not a fast-paced thriller, and the pace quickens a bit only towards the end. Nearly two-thirds of the novel is a leisurely development of the plot, a few sub-plots, the Plan and the characters. It is full of (at times, exhaustingly full of) arcane religious rituals, secret societies, historical figures that supposedly were involved in the grand plan of the Templars. Indeed, the Plan is so carefully woven by the author that at times, it really seems true.

The book’s structure is also based on Jewish Kabbalah – divided into ten parts that are based on the ten Sefirot in the Kabbalah. In Kabbalah, a seeker gains incremental knowledge of the universe and of God by mastering each succeeding Sefirah. Similarly, with each succeeding part in the novel, the reader knows something more about what is really happening. Each chapter starts with a quote (mostly from really obscure, esoteric texts) that is appropriate to the advancement of the story in that chapter.

And finally, you wonder how one man could conceptualize a creation so complex, and yet so simple. As one of the blurbs on the book says, it is ‘endlessly diverting’. It has thrown up a huge number of leads in terms of further ‘research’ for me – occult, the fascinating world of secret societies, Western theology and history.

Ancient Athens and Modern US Thursday, Jul 5 2007 

I was reading a very brief history of the ancient Greek civilization at an excellent Website called The History Guide. While reading about the ancient Athenian city-state, I was struck by how similar it seemed to modern (post-WW II) USA. Of course, the parallels are not exact, but they are worth noting.

Two great city-states emerged in the Greek world around the 6th century BC – Athens and Sparta. Athens became a democracy (like the US, but a more direct one), while Sparta was an isolationist, militaristic city-state (like the Soviet Union). For half a century or more, each considered the other its principal rival and ‘strategic threat’. There was, in effect, a Cold War between them quite similar to the modern US-USSR Cold War. The major break in this similarity came when the Athens-Sparta Cold War actually turned ‘hot’, resulting in the series of skirmishes and battles collectively called the Peloponnesian Wars. One of the major reasons the modern Cold War never turned ‘hot’ may be because of the mutual deterrent nuclear weapons that each side possessed.

After Persia attacked Athens at Marathon and then at Thermopylae with relatively small forces (a weak parallel to the 9/11 attacks on the US), Athens and its allies defeated them and drove them back to their homeland. But, many Athenians were not satisfied with this victory and wanted to march into Persian territory and defeat the ‘barbarians’ in their own land. In order to do this, it gathered together a group of smaller city-states and formed an alliance called the Delian League, of which it assumed leadership. Much like the US, which launched the ‘global war on terrorism’, drafting allies by coaxing, nudging or coercing them.

Athens, like the US, was a democracy at home, and wished to ‘promote democracy abroad’. By driving the Persians back, it claimed to ‘liberate’ a lot of small city-states. Persia was a convenient rival around which to gang up with those city-states. The US chose to do the same by attacking Afghanistan and Iraq, and deliberately upping the ante against Iran and North Korea.

The Peloponnesian wars changed everything, though, and the parallels drawn here, end. It was the democratic Athens which suffered the most and was devastated by these wars, while the militaristic Sparta emerged victorious, imposing a non-democratic government on Athens. The modern Cold War, on the other hand, ended with the Communist USSR disintegrating and the US emerging as a sole superpower.

Patterns do repeat in history, and people do forget historic lessons…

‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ – From the Book – 6 Monday, May 21 2007 

Translated from: ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ by Salil Dalal, published by Satya Media. Permission for putting up this post has been sought from Satya Media via email. No response has been received as yet. If Satya Media decides to disallow posting of this passage, this post will be taken down.

Text in box brackets [ ] is added by me.

SHAILENDRA

ramaiyaa vastaavaiyaa

Whence did Shailendra get these words – ramaiyaa vastaavaiyaa? He had been to a dhaba for food. There, the proprietor called the waiter by his name – Ramaiyaa, and Shailendra was so intrigued by this odd-sounding name that he made an opening line (mukha.Daa) of a song using it. And what immortal words he employed to follow these unique words? mai.nne dil tujhako diyaa.

[Alternative version: I have heard an alternative version of this anecdote. Shailendra had gone to a Goanese restaurant, but with either Shankar or Jaikishan (or perhaps, both). Apparently, ramaiyaa vastaavaiyaa means mai.nne dil tujhako diyaa in Konkani or some other language or dialect, and Shailendra heard those words in the restaurant and was charmed by them. This version of the anecdote has the merit that it can be easily verified by checking whether ramaiyaa vastaavaiyaa really means anything in any language. Besides, what is so odd about a person with the name Ramaiyaa?]

Absent-mindedness

Shailendra was so absent-minded that he lost attention toward his cigarette. Shailendra had a unique style of smoking a cigarette and shaking off ash. Once, there was a classical meet at music director Shankar’s place. In addition to the entire R. K. group, Dilip Kumar was also present there. Shailendra became so engrossed in sitarist Ravi Shankar and vocalist Ustad Amir Khan sahab‘s dual performance that he forgot to take puffs from his cigarette. His fingers were about to get burnt by the lighted cigarette when Raj Kapoor noticed. He exclaimed, “Pushkin, mind your cigarette!” (Raj Kapoor called Shailendra by the name Pushkin, after the Russian poet Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, who lay at the foundations of the people’s revolution.) The poet snapped out of his musical reverie when Rajsa’ab alerted him. And once, he had lighted a second cigarette while the first one was already lighted and between his lips. This may be all right – as a poet, one can consider him absent-minded, but shouldn’t there be a limit to it? Once he went to Sundarbai Hall with his wife to watch a play, and came back alone at night!

Song from ‘Amrapali’

In the song jaao re jogii from the film ‘Amrapali’, Shailendra conveys a profound thought with a simple, short line:

gyaan kii kaisii siimaa gyaanii, gaagar me.n saagar kaa paanii!

Shankar-Jaikishen had the tune of this song ready. But Shailendra was at a loss for words. The director, Lekh Tandon, took Shailendra to the National Park in Borivli. After four hours, the poet returned without having put down a single word in his 200-page notebook, his constant companion. But after arriving at the recording studio and listening to Shankar-Jaikishen’s full composition, Shailendra wrote the song in just 5 minutes, in a stanza of which he presented reality to ascetics with these words:

jiivan se kaisaa chhuTakaaraa, hai nadiyaa ke paas kinaaraa

[Alternative version: I have heard Lata Mangeshkar say, on the Vividhbharati radio channel, that the words of this song were ready, while Shankar-Jaikishen were unable to agree on a tune for the mukha.Daa. It was Lata who suggested how to take up the words jaao re, jogii tum jaao re, and then the composition fell into place.]

‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ – From the Book – 5 Wednesday, May 16 2007 

Translated from: ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ by Salil Dalal, published by Satya Media. Permission for putting up this post has been sought from Satya Media via email. No response has been received as yet. If Satya Media decides to disallow posting of this passage, this post will be taken down.

MAJROOH SULTANPURI

Tuning with S. D. Burman

That Majroohsa’ab had developed good tuning with Sachin-da, not only professionally but also personally, was seen during the making of ‘Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi’. It was decided that Majrooh Sultanpuri would write the lyrics to S. D. Burman’s music for this Guru Dutt film. Sachin-da became bed-ridden after a sudden heart attack. Guru was requested to wait for a month or so. But Guru Dutt did not accede to this request. So Majrooh took the position: “No Burman-da, no Majrooh”. At last, O. P. Nayyar came in as music director for ‘Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi’ and the songs were written by Kaifi Azmi in place of Majrooh.

Borrowed lines

The roots of the song,

झूम झूम के नाचो आज, गाओ ख़ुशी के गीत
आज किसी की हार हुई है, आज किसी की जीत

jhuum jhuum ke naacho aaj, gaa_o Kushii ke giit,
aaj kisii kii haar hu_ii hai, aaj kisii kii jiit

written for Mehboob Khan’s film ‘Andaz’ that starred Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Nargis, lay in lines created by Prem Dhawan at the time of the country’s independence. Music director Naushad had obtained permission from Prem Dhawan to allow Majrooh to use these lines in the mukha.Daa.

Peer pressure

Sahir Ludhianvi wrote the song ‘zi.ndagii bhar nahii.n bhuulegii vo barasaat kii raat‘ keeping Madhubala in mind. Roshan provoked Majrooh, saying he did not have it in him to write such a song. In reply to this provocation, Majrooh wrote for Meena Kumari in the film ‘Aarti’:

अब क्या मिसाल दूं मैं तुम्हारे शबाब की
इन्सान बन गई है किरन माहताब की

ab kyaa misaal duu.N mai.n tumhaare shabaab kii
insaan ban ga_ii hai kiran, maahataab kii

‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ – From the Book – 4 Wednesday, May 16 2007 

Translated from: ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ by Salil Dalal, published by Satya Media. Permission for putting up this post has been sought from Satya Media via email. No response has been received as yet. If Satya Media decides to disallow posting of this passage, this post will be taken down.

MAJROOH SULTANPURI

First impression

[Senior poet Jigar Muradabadi had brought a young Majrooh to Mumbai mushaayaraa]

It was the year 1945. A gala was organized on the grounds of Mumbai’s Sabu Siddiqui Institute. The mushaayaraa (poets’ council) was dull despite Sagar Nizami being the compere. Syed Shahabuddin Desanvi, the organizer, also looked on in despair. At this juncture, Majrooh was introduced as the shaagird (disciple) of Jigar Muradabadi and thrust in front of the cool audience of that Mumbai evening. The fair, well-built novice poet, dressed in a black closed-neck sherwani and white Lakhnavi trousers, approached the microphone and started to recite a ghazal. What happened then was similar to the events in a film (or, what happened next in Majrooh’s real life was perhaps repeated in films). Without a preface, Majrooh began:

शब-ए-इन्तज्ञार की कश्मकश में, न पूछ कैसे सहर हुई
कभी इक चराग़ बुझा दिया, कभी इक चराग़ जला दिया

shab-e-intazaar kii kashmakash me.n, na puuchh kaise sahar hu_ii,
kabhii ik charaaG bujhaa diyaa, kabhii ik charaaG jalaa diyaa

Amidst shouts of “Bravo!” and “Encore!”, that evening belonged to Majrooh.

Extra credit on debut

All ten songs of the film ‘Shah Jahan’ were credited to Majrooh, but the fact is that three of them were written by the poet Khumar Barabankvi (chaah barabaad karegii; ai dil-e-beqaraar jhuum; bedard na kar).

Jailed

Majrooh was married to Firdaus on May 5, 1948. So his family expanded, and expenses were going to increase. Yet, instead of getting to work, the poet went to jail. The reason? A workers’ agitation was on in Bombay in those days. In one such labourers’ rally, Majrooh made a speech and called Jawaharlal Nehru “a slave of the Commonwealth” and “a Hitler”. Majrooh recited the following controversial lines:

अमन का झंडा इस धरती पे
किसने कहा लहराने न पाए
ये भी है हिटलर का कोई चेला
मार ले साथी, जाने न पाए!

aman kaa jha.nDaa is dharatii pe
kisane kahaa laharaane na paa_e
ye bhii ko_ii Hitler kaa hai chelaa,
maar le saathii, jaane na paa_e!

An arrest warrant was issued in his name by the Government of Bombay State. Majrooh went underground. He eluded the police. But when a meeting of progressive writers was held to protest the wrong implication of playwright Sajjad Zaheer – Raj Babbar’s fathe-in-law and Nadira Zaheer’s father – in the Rawalpindi conspiracy, Majrooh came out of hiding. His was a strong voice in the meeting, and he was arrested by the police as soon as he descended from the stage. He was lodged in the Arthur Road Jail for an year.

‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ – From the Book – 3 Monday, May 7 2007 

Translated from: ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ by Salil Dalal, published by Satya Media. Permission for putting up this post has been sought from Satya Media via email. No response has been received as yet. If Satya Media decides to disallow posting of this passage, this post will be taken down.

SAHIR LUDHIANVI

Controversy involving fellow-poet 

Sahir was not a sycophant himself, but he could not do without his own courtiers. Nida Fazli has noted that the well-known poet Jan Nisar Akhtar was among these courtiers. In a 1984 interview to a Karachi-based newspaper, Majrooh Sultanpuri had alleged thus: “Some of Sahir’s songs were penned by Jan Nisar Akhtar. Jan Nisar being poor, Sahir paid him Rs. 500 a month”. Publication of excerpts of this interview by a Delhi-based Urdu periodical caused quite a stir in the world of Urdu literature. 

Romantic poet 

Kaifi (Azmi) used to categorize Sahir as a “fundamentally romantic poet”. Despite consistent talk of revolution, farmers and labourers in Sahir’s poetry, Kaifi held a different view. Without naming names, Kaifi used to say that those poets who didn’t know whether a worker in a textile mill worked in the standing or the sitting position, or was unaware of the harvest season for wheat, or the quantity of water required for paddy cultivation, talk of the labour-farm revolution only fashionably. 

Song of self-esteem 

Remember the song of self-esteem from the film ‘Humraaz’ that Sunil Dutt sings in front of Army jawans? 

मुंह छुपा के जियो, और सर झुकाके जियो,ग़मों का दौर भी आए तो मुस्कुराके जियो 

na mu.Nh chhupaa ke jiyo, aur na sar jhukaake jiyo,Gamo.n kaa daur bhii aa_e to muskuraake jiyo 

This song had such an impact on Army jawans that they named an Army post the ‘Sahir Ludhianvi post’ during the Indo-Pak war. Sahir considered this honour by Army jawans to be greater than any of the prestigious awards he got – the Padmashri, the Soviet-Nehru Award, the UP Sahitya Akademi Award, or the Maharashtra State Award. 

His last bow 

(Sahir had collapsed at his friend and personal physician Dr. Kapoor’s house on 25th October, 1980)

Javed Akhtar, the son of long-time personal friend Jan Nisar Akhtar, made arrangements for an ambulance to shift Sahir’s dead body to his Juhu residence ‘Parchhaiyan’. When Javed’s maternal uncle Majaaz (Lucknowi) had died, Sahir had similarly made arrangements for an ambulance to carry Majaaz’s body.

‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ – From the Book – 2 Monday, May 7 2007 

Translated from: ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ by Salil Dalal, published by Satya Media. Permission for putting up this post has been sought from Satya Media via email. No response has been received as yet. If Satya Media decides to disallow posting of this passage, this post will be taken down.

SAHIR LUDHIANVI

Amrita Pritam and Sahir 

Amrita-ji’s poetry collection ‘Sunehde’, which she had written keeping Sahir in mind, was declared the winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1957. When she received the news on the phone, Amrita-ji reacted thus: “Oh God! I did not write these सुनेहड़े (suneha.De) for any award. The one whom I had written it for (Sahir) didn’t read them. Now what do I care if the whole world reads them?” What happened subsequently has made her affinity towards Sahir even more well-known. 

On the declaration of the award to ‘Sunehde’, a press photographer arrived to photograph Amrita Pritam. The photographer instructed Amrita-ji to pose for the photo in the fashion of poets, pretending to write something on a blank sheet of paper. Amrita-ji writes in ‘Rasidi Tikat’: “कलम लेकरएक अचेतसी दशा में उसका नाम लिखने लगी, जिसके लिये सुनेहड़े लिखे थेसाहिर, साहिर, साहिरसारा काग़ज़ भर गया!” “kalam lekar… ek achet-sii dashaa me.n usakaa naam likhane lagii, jisake liye suneha.De likhe the… Sahir, Sahir, Sahir… saaraa kaaGaz bhar gayaa!” (Taking a pen (in hand), quite unconsciously, I began writing the name of the one for whom I had written these सुनेहड़े (suneha.De)… Sahir, Sahir, Sahir… and the entire sheet was filled!). The entire sheet was covered with the chanting of Sahir’s name. 

 

On the origin of a song 

Sahir, Amrita and Imroz (Amrita’s husband) met for the first time, had drinks together and dispersed. That night, Sahir recited a creation of his to Amrita on the phone: “मेरे साथी ख़ाली जाम, तुम आबाद घरों के बासी, हम हैं आवारा बदनाम” “mere saathii Kaalii jaam, tum aabaad gharo.n ke baasii, ham hai.n aavaaraa badanaam”. Connoisseurs of film songs will quickly recall the song from the 1964 film ‘Dooj ka Chand’, composed by Roshan and rendered by Rafisa’ab:  

महफ़िल से उठ जानेवालों, तुम लोगों पर क्या इल्ज्ञाम मेरे साथी, मेरे साथी, मेरे साथी ख़ाली जाम 

mahafil se uTh jaanevaalo.n, tum logo.n par kyaa ilzaam,mere saathii, mere saathii, mere saathii Kaalii jaam

‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ – From the Book – 1 Monday, Apr 30 2007 

Translated from: ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ by Salil Dalal, published by Satya Media. Permission for putting up this post has been sought from Satya Media via email. No response has been received as yet. If Satya Media decides to disallow posting of this passage, this post will be taken down.

SAHIR LUDHIANVI

The Case of the Borrowed Song

Krishna Chander was the dialogue-writer for the film ‘Doraha’. His was a big name in Urdu literature. He obtained permission from Prem Dhawan, the film’s lyricist, to get Sahir an entry in the film as another lyricist. But Prem Dhawan is rumoured to have extracted a favour in return. Nobody is quite certain, but one song was mentioned in hushed tones in this context. Like ‘Doraha’, the Dilip Kumar-Madhubala starrer ‘Tarana’ also had music by Anil Biswas. Prem Dhawan is said to have borrowed a song from Sahir – who was eager to gain a foothold in films in those days – and credited himself with it. Those who have heard and known Sahir’s poetry and Prem Dhawan’s other songs, at least the other ‘Tarana’ songs, can realize that the poetry in this song was coloured by Sahir’s style. Which is that song?

सीने मे सुलगते हैं अरमां, आंखों में उदासी छाई है
ये आज तेरी दुनिया से हमें तकदीर कहां ले आई है

siine me.n sulagate hai.n aramaa.N, aa.Nkho.n me.n udaasii chhaa_ii hai,
ye aaj terii duniyaa se hame.n taqadiir kahaa.N le aa_ii hai

This song, rendered by Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar, though credited to Prem Dhawan, was actually created by Sahir. This fact became well-known later in the world of film music. ‘Tarana’ had three lyricists: D. N. Madhok, Prem Dhawan, and Kaif Irfani. A fourth name – that of Sahir – could have been added. With सीने मे सुलगते हैं अरमां (siine me.n sulagate hai.n aramaa.N) becoming the most popular song of the film, the strength of Sahir’s pen in achieving popularity was tested successfully, although in another’s name!

Note: Devanagari script typed on Monusoft Type Pad

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