The other day, I was scanning the wires in my newspaper office after doing my usual stuff when a news caught my eye: Nida Fazli passes away. I immediately checked with our news editor if we were carrying the item in the next day’s edition. After being told that we were, I thought about the man and the first thing that came to my mind was his film lyrics and ghazals.
I suddenly remembered that during my college days in the early 1990s, I had bought an audio cassette of ‘Aap To Aaise Na The’, put it in the tape recorder and not bothered to change it for two months. Reason: It had the song, ‘Tu is tarah se meri zindagi mein shamil hai, jahan bhi jaaon yeh lagta hai teri mehfil hai’, sung in three different moods by Mohammad Rafi, Manhar and Hemlata. I did not tire of listening to it time and again. It was much later that I realised that the man behind the beautiful lyrics was Nida Fazli.
Born in Delhi into a Kashmiri family that settled in Gwalior, Fazli was doing his final-year masters in English literature from the then Victoria College in the city in 1964-65 when communal riots broke out there. This made his father, who had a soft corner for Muhammad Ali Jinnah, decide to shift to Pakistan. But the sensitive Fazli, who looked up to Maulana Azad, thought relocation was no solution and decided to stay back.
He moved to Mumbai and started writing in Dharamvir Bharti-edited Dharamyug, Blitz and other magazines. He also questioned the “hollow Marxism” of Kaifi Azmi, Ali Sardar Jafri and Sahir Ludhianvi in a book and invited their wrath.
He was inspired by such diverse writers as Surdas, Amir Khusro and TS Eliot and tried to imbibe their best in a colloquial language. He would recite his Urdu poetry at various mushairas when one day, he got a call from filmmaker Kamaal Amrohi who was making ‘Razia Sultan’ and wanted him to write its last two songs as the original choice, Jan Nisar Akhtar, had passed away midway. He wrote ‘Tera hijr mera naseeb hai’, which was later immortalised in Kaban Mirza’s unique voice.
‘Razia Sultan’ took long in the making and by the time it was released, Fazli was already a household name, having worked in ‘Nakhuda’ and ‘Aap To Aaise Na They’. The song ‘Tumhari palkon ki chilmano mein yeh kya chhupa hai’ from ‘Nakhuda’ still makes me repeatedly hit YouTube though the last we heard of its actor, Raj Kiran, was that he was in the US, having fallen on bad days.
My favourites among the songs Fazli wrote are ‘Ajnabi kaun ho tum, jab se tumhe dekha hai’ and ‘Chand ke paar jo sitara hai, woh sitara haseen lagta hai’ from ‘Sweekar Kiya Maine’; ‘Tere liye palkon ki jhalar bunu’ from ‘Harjaee’; and ‘Kabhi kisi ko muqammal jahan nahin milta’ from ‘Ahista Ahista’.
His association with Jagjit Singh gave us some unforgettable ghazals. ‘Har taraf har jagah beshumar aadmi, phir bhi tanhayion ka shikar aadmi’ never fails to give me a lump in the throat. The ‘Sarafrosh’ director rejected innumerable drafts by Fazli before the lyricist came up with the winner in ‘Hosh walon ko khabar kya’.
When he recited his ‘Ghar se masjid hai bahut door, chalo yoon kar lein, kisi rote hue bachche ko hansaaya jaaye’ in Pakistan, and clerics confronted him saying whether he thought a child was more important than the mosque, he politely told them that man made mosques, whereas a child is Allah’s creation.
I have long discarded that audio cassette and switched to CDs but that particular song still haunts me. And as I write about the man after his sudden death, I am reminded of his ghazal, ‘Apni marzi se kahan apne safar ke hum hain, rukh hawaon ka jidhar ka hai, udhar ke hum hain’.
The writer is assistant news editor, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh