Sahir Ludhianvi: Romantic rebel
Twenty-five years after his death, Sahir Ludhianvi's lyrics continue to resonate in people's minds.Updated: Oct 24, 2005 18:22 IST
Twenty-five years after his death, Sahir Ludhianvi's eloquent lyrics continue to resonate in people's minds, and no one in Bollywood is likely to take his place.
Though legions of lyricists have followed since his death October 25, 1980, seldom has there been a poet who brimmed with as much cynicism, scorn and disparagement for the modern world as Sahir (meaning enchanter or magician).
The poignancy in Sahir's creations was nurtured at a very young age when he faced his parents' estrangement as a teenager.
Born Adbul Hayee at Ludhiana in Punjab March 8, 1921, to Sardar Begum, one of his father Fazal Din's 14 wives, the Lahore High Court had to affirm Sahir's legitimacy when his own father questioned it.
This anguish is reflected in many of his lyrics like Tu mere pyar ka phool hai (Dhool Ka Phool, 1959) and Tu mere saath rahega munna (Trishul, 1978) - which rebel against the concept of illegitimacy.
"Even as a person he never bothered whom he was facing although he was very kind-hearted. He just lashed out at people," says veteran music director Ravi, who composed the music for some of Sahir's greatest lyrics like Chalo ek baar phir se (Humraaz, 1963), Aage bhi jaane na tu (Waqt, 1965) and Chhoo lene do naazuk hothon ko (Kaajal, 1965).
"After him Hindi film lyrics lost their potency. Today people can only write garbage. Show me someone who can match Sahir and I will return to the industry," Ravi said.
Sahir's anti-establishment nature was first seen after he migrated to Pakistan, when a warrant for his arrest was issued in 1949 by the government there because of his tirade against the authorities. As a result, he fled to Mumbai.
Though Naujawan (1951) was his debut film, Sahir's first major success came later that year with Guru Dutt's Baazi, where SD Burman set his poetry to music.
Thus began a successful collaboration with Burman that yielded some of his most popular songs, like Yeh raat yeh chandni phir kahaan (Jaal, 1952) and Teri duniya mein jeene se behtar hai ki mar jaaye (House Number 44, 1955).
Unfortunately the duo parted ways after reaching their high point with Pyasa (1957) in which Sahir bloomed into what he subsequently came to be known as - the romantic rebel.
Be it romance, patriotism, philosophy or devotional songs, he injected rebellion and cynicism into all his creations. The strong intellectual element in his poetry caught the imagination of the youth in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
Using his command over Urdu and Hindi, Sahir mocked religious dogma in Sansar se bhaage phirte ho (Chitralekha, 1965), grandstanding politicians in Jinhe naaz hai hind par woh kahan hai (Pyasa) and society in Aurat ne janam diya mardon ko, mardon ne usse bazaar diya (Sadhana, 1958)
Sahir's cynicism did not spare even the majestic Taj Mahal. While he wrote lyrics for Taj Mahal (1963), not a single song in it eulogised or even referred to the marble monument.
Instead he ridiculed the grand mausoleum, which he loathed for its opulence.
In Ghazal (1964), he wrote: Ek shahenshah ne daulat ka sahara lekar hum gareebon ki mohabbat ka udaya hai mazaak, meri mehboob kahin aur milakar mujhse (By building the beautiful mausoleum, an emperor has mocked at the poor man's love. My dear! Let's not make the Taj our meeting spot).
Although a bachelor, his romantic trysts with several women were well known. But the only woman important in his life was his mother.
Sahir, who was extremely attached to her, did not survive too long after she died in 1976.
Addiction to nicotine and alcohol took its toll and he succumbed to a heart attack, leaving behind a rich legacy of poetry.
First Published: Oct 24, 2005 18:22 IST