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Sahir Ludhianvi-Amrita Pritam love story: One that played out through letters, silences and pain

Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam love story compassed a universe of love, pain, acceptance, loss, remorse, sensuality and almost everything in between. On Sahir’s birthday, a look at their life together.

music Updated: Mar 08, 2019 17:37 IST
Nivedita Mishra
Nivedita Mishra
Hindustan Times
Sahir Ludhianvi-Amrita Pritam,Sahir Ludhianvi Happy Birthday,Amrita Pritam
Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam love story is one that deserves an epic narration on the big screen. (HT Photo)

Poet and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi and Punjabi poet Amrita Pritam’s love story is the subject of filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s next film. According to a report in Mid Day, the biopic will star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan in the lead roles. While Abhishek will be seen as the famous Bollywood lyricist Sahir, Aishwarya will play the role of the celebrated Punjabi poetess Amrita.

This is a story that was waiting to be told and one that the millennials should know. However, to an entire generation of Indians in the 1960s and 1970s, it was known and often spoken about. Passion and pain were the only ingredients in this tragic love story.

On Sahir’s birthday on Friday, it is worth revisiting this amazing yet unrequited love story.

It all began in 1944, when Amrita, a married woman, met Sahir, a budding poet and lyricist, for the first time. A report in Firstpost says it was at a mushaira (poetry reading session) at a village somewhere between Lahore and Delhi. It is said that their romance began, like it happens in films, instantly. Her beauty and her talent with words and his passion and idealism were the ingredients of this fascinating yet agonising romance. What is amazing is that although the two met on several occasions, their romance unfolded only through letters, silences and words.

It is believed that Amrita was deeply in love and was willing to walk out of her unhappy marriage (she was married at 16) but Sahir never committed himself to this relationship. It was left for painter Imroz to fill in the void in Amrita’s life but that was much later. She did eventually walk out of her marriage and, while she reportedly stayed with Imroz for four decades, they never married.

Portrait of an artist, Amrita Pritam. ( HT Photo )

In an interview to Indian Express, Imroz described his relationship with Amrita by saying while with Sahir, it was illusive, with him, it was real. He also said how he never bothered about her affection for Sahir as he was so sure of his love for her. Meanwhile, the relationship between Sahir and Amrita suffered its final blow when the lyricist reportedly began his relationship with singer Sudha Malhotra. However, some still believe that Amrita was his one true love and that there may have been several reasons as to why he couldn’t commit himself to her. For one, love and relationships took a secondary place in his life, as compared to his “social critique” and “political idealism” says the Firstpost article.

Much of Amrita Pritam’s love for Sahir Ludhianvi were expressed through her works. ( HT Photo )

Another reason was his obsession with his mother (Sardar Begum), one that the said article, quoting a filmmaker Vinay Shukla says could have bordered on “Oedipal fixation”. His mother had brought him up as a single mother, after she left her abusive husband. His commitment to his mother was complete. However, if there was one woman he loved it was Amrita, the Sudha factor notwithstanding.

Narrating an incident told to him by another famous poet/lyricist of the day, Jaidev, Shukla said how once while collaborating on a song in the 1970s, Jaidev had noticed a dirty cup on the table and had remarked that it needed to be cleaned. Sahir had immediately reacted saying nothing should be done to it as it was the cup in which Amrita had had coffee, the last time she had visited him!

Meanwhile, Sahir was a permanent fixture in Amrita’s life, even after she left him for Imroz, as he often figured in her writings. While he hid his affections, she was always expressive about hers. In her book, Rasidi Ticket, she has spoken about him evocatively and how they would sit and gaze into each other’s eyes.

Amrita Pritam with Imroz. ( HT Photo )

What may come as a surprise to many is that Amrita had deep feelings for another person, Sajjad Haider, a friend from her radio days and one who moved to Pakistan. However, the connect was at the level of friendship. Imroz was quoted in Indian Express as saying, “Sajjad also was a very close friend of Amrita since her radio days. A friend in the real sense. For the first time in Sajjad Haider’s company, Amrita realized that a poem does not only get created out of passion of love, it can come out of a deep friendship also.”

This too panned out through letters; he reportedly returned her letters to Amrita before his passing away.

As is often the case with sensitive people, love takes myriad shapes in their consciousness. Sahir and Amrita love story is one such an experience. It compassed a universe of love, pain, acceptance, loss, remorse, sensuality and almost everything in between.

Author tweets @mniveditatweets

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First Published: Mar 08, 2019 17:34 IST