Mandatory Sahir Post of the week!

Sahir_Ludhianvi,_(1921-80)

This post is unabashedly about the best lyricist/ poet Hindi film music (in my opinion) has ever seen.

I have mentioned before in this blog that I adore Sahir Ludhianvi and that one or more of his songs do find a way into this blog every week or so… But today I have a valid reason to go and and on about him.

October 25th 2014 is his thirty-fourth death anniversary.

He was born Abdul Hayee on March 8, 1921 in Ludhiana, where he was brought up by his mother, Sardari Begum.  He was extremely close to his mother. His father was a rich landlord who had a debauched lifestyle. His parents were estranged and due to this, Sahir had a difficult and disturbed childhood (full of poverty and strife). His one outlet was poetry and by the time he was in college, he was reading and writing quite a bit. Sahir Ludhianvi was his Takhallus (nom de plume).  He got this from a poem, Daagh written by Mohammad Iqbal sometime in 1937. This poem was about a great ninteeenth century Urdu poet, Daagh Dehlvi. The lines were “Is chaman mein honge paida bulbul-e-shiraaz bhi; Saikdon Sahir bhi honge, sahib-e-ijaaz bhi”  (Anecdote taken from Sahir: The People’s Poet by Akshay Manwani)

Sahir means a magician and from then on Abdul Hayee became Sahir Ludhianvi – the magician from Ludhiana! So very apt. He was indeed a magician with words.

This list of my favourite songs is a small tribute to him. This is in no way a complete list and is in no order – Just the songs I remember right now! 🙂

1) Laage Tose Nain (Chandi Ki Deewar, 1964, N.Dutta): This is a classical duet by Talat Mahmood and Asha Bhosle, based on a bandish in Raga Shuddha Sarang. The film starred Bharat Bhushan and Nutan and the music was by N. Dutta. This is a song I wouldn’t have ever connected to Sahir. Sahir was much influenced by Marx and had gotten into much trouble with authorities due to his communist views and ideology and his social inclinations did come across in most of his songs. The fact that he could write such a typical classical composition is a proof of his genius. Not just the lyrics, the entire composition is very melodious and the singing flawless. I have not seen the song or the movie. This seems to be a song in which the guru is teaching music to his student. There are several songs picturised in such a scenario. For example wonderful Kahan Se Badra Chhaya from Chashme Bhaddoor or Mehmood impersonating an old musician to teach his lady love in Ajhun Na Aaye Balama from Sanjh Aur Savera.

But well, in the absence of the video, do listen to this wonderful classical number – Laage Tose Nain Laage.

2) Suno Gajar Kya Jaaye (Baazi, 1951, S.D.Burman): Baazi is a landmark movie of the early fifties. A very successful crime thriller with brilliant, foot-tapping music, it had many stalwarts associated with it. Produced by Navketan films, it was directed by Guru Dutt. The story/ screenplay & dialogues were by the legendary Balraj Sahni and starred a very young Dev Anand and Geeta Bali. Geeta Bali plays a dancer and hence has some classic songs to lip synch to. There is the delicious Tadbeer Se Bigdi Hui and then the lilting Dekh Ke Akeli Mohe Barkha Sataye to name a couple. But the song I mention here is Suno Gajar Kya Gaaye. A dance number, just like the other two, this one is about Time and the impermanence of life. Man doesn’t have a moment to lose as time goes passing by – all of us in equal measure. What we have is the now, and we shouldn’t lose that. This seems to be a constant theme in Sahir’s songs – across various movies – I had briefly looked at three such songs in an earlier post in this blog and had missed this song then.

So here it is now.

3) Teri Duniya Mein Jeene Se Toh Behtar Hain Ki Mar Jaayein (House No 44, 1955, S.D.Burman):  As a hit lyricist- music director combo, Sahir-S.D.B were on par with other legendary combinations like Shakeel Badayuni-Naushad or Shailendra-Shankar Jaikishan. I remember reading somewhere that as a duo, Sahir and S.D.B worked together for some 17 films. This is one of their notable efforts. Hemant Kumar gets to sing two brilliant solos in this movie – the very romantic Chup Hai Dharti Chup Hai Chand Sitare  and this one. Lata Mangeshkar sings the very lovely Phaili Hui Hai Sapnon Ki Baahein and there is the Asha Bhosle dance number Dum Hai Baaki Toh Gham Nahin.

Teri Duniya Mein Jeene se is a typical Sahir song – philosophical and despondent as he questions the one above about the tears and sadness in his world and how it is better to die than live in such a world. It starts off beautifully. Kalpana Kartik in her bedroom humming this tune (Think it is Asha humming.. can anyone confirm?) as Dev Anand lies down outside in a shack and picks up after the humming stops.

4) Tum Mujhe Bhool Bhi Jao Toh yeh Haq Hai Tumko (Didi, 1958, N.Dutta): The melodious duet from the 1959 film, Didi, is sung by Sudha Malhotra and  Mukesh and is picturised on Shubha Khote and Sunil Dutt. Even in this situational song (please note that I have not watched the movie), where the heroine is admitting that she cant forget the hero because she loves him, Sahir gets in his larger world view – Zindagi sirf muhabbat nahin, kuch aur bhi hai… bhookh aur pyas ki iss duniya mein, ishq hi ek haqeeqat nahin, kuch aur bhi hain”  

The picturisation is quaint. Shubha Khote (in the days when she was not reduced to playing a comedienne opposite Mehmood only) is sitting on the banks of a river and remembering Sunil Dutt. He appears in the reflection and presents his point of view. He is involved in larger issues that society faces and has no time for love and exclusively for her – “Maine tumse hi nahin sabse Muhabbat Ki Hai!”

5) Jahan Mein Aisa Kaun Hai Jisko Gham Mila Nahin (Hum Dono, 1961, Jaidev): Hum Dono is a musical masterpiece produced by Navketan productions in 1961. Starring Dev Anand (in a double role) along with Sadhana and Nanda, each and every song of this movie is magical and is remembered to this day. You have two fantastic Rafi solos – the philosophical Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya, the melancholic but deeply contemplative Kabhi khud pe halaat pe rona aaya. The last antara (couplet) of Kabhi Khud Pe sums up the inherent selfish nature of human beings coherently – “Kaun Rota Hai Kisi Aur Ki Khatir Ae Dost, Sab Ko Apni Hi Kisi Baat Pe Rona Aaya.” – Priceless

Besides this, there are the two immortal Lata Mangeshkar Bhajans (Allah Tero Naam, Ishwar Tero Naam and Prabhu Tero Naam Jo Dhayo). And then finally there is the amazing romantic Rafi-Asha Bhosle duet, Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar

This song Jahan Mein Aisa Kaun Hai is set to exactly the same tune but the sentiment and mood is vastly different. A despondent and pessimistic Dev Anand is lying down. Sadhana looks on and first remembers the romantic duet and starts singing – “Dukh Aur Sukh Ke Raaste, Bane Hain Sabke Vaaste ….” The words are positive as she assures him that happiness and sorrow is a constant in everyone’s life and that they can together face all the hurdles life throws in their path. She is with him and will be his support and tries to get him out of his black mood! The words are hopeful, reassuring and very romantic at the same time.

6) Tang Aa Chuke Hain Kashmekash-e-Jahan Se Hum (Lighthouse, 1958, N.Dutta) : One of the finest Ghazals in Hindi film music, this song is sung by Asha Bhosle for the film Lighthouse starring Ashok Kumar and Nutan. The ghazal had already been used in a Hindi movie the year before in 1957. The movie was the classic Pyaasa and it was set to music by S.D. Burman (with no music at all) and sung by Mohd. Rafi. ( I had completely forgotten about this till Dustedoff reminded me of it sometime back.) Probably because it got completely overshadowed by the other gems of songs in that movie, or for whatever reason, it makes an appearance again in Lighthouse. Both the songs have the mukhda and one antara in common (Lo Aaj Humne Chhod Diya Rishta-e-ummeed….) but the rest of the antaras are different. This could be because of the situations in which the song figures in the respective movies. The song conveys and captures the pathos and sadness of a despondent and totally dejected human being – one with no glimmer of hope perfectly.

This is one of Asha’s best numbers…

7) Man Re Tu Kahe Na Dheer Dhare (Chitralekha, 1964, Roshan): Some years back, Outlook had conducted a poll among the current Hindi film music luminaries (singers, music composers and lyricists) to choose their favourite number of all time. This phenomenal Rafi song set to music by Roshan Lal Nagrath got the top spot. This 1964 Kedar Sharma movie was based on a Gujarati novel and boasts of some timeless music. I first watched this movie when I was a serious 14 year old and boy, what an impact it had! The story is based in the Mauryan times and reflected on the philosophy of love, sin and renunciation. Meena Kumari plays a dancer and Pradeep Kumar is a soldier who is in love with her. Ashok Kumar plays a sanyasi who heads an ashram. The sanyasi denounces the dancer’s wicked ways and this gets her thinking and she renounces material life and enters this sanyasi’s ashram. However, the sanyasi soon falls for her charms, raising the question – is it better to renounce the world to attain salvation or be a part of it and aspire for salvation? The amazing Lata Mangeshkar number, Sansaar Se Bhaage Phirte ho gives the point of view of the dancer regarding this existential moral question.

Man Re Tu Kahe Dheer Dhare features at a time when Pradeep Kumar is extremely low after Meena Kumari has renounced the world, broken their engagement and gone to the ashram. The words are very meaningful as he ponders about life and love in general. Sample the words – “Utna Hi Upkar Kare Koi Jitna Saath Nibhaye….” (a take on the inherent selfishness again?)

8) Aage Bhi Jaane Na Tu (Waqt, 1965, Ravi): Yes, I had written about this song in an earlier post – but this has to be here. This is one of my favourite songs ever. The song talks about the importance of living just in the present moment for we do not know what lies ahead or behind and the impermanence of time. Not only is this song one of my favourites, the movie that it features in is a personal favourite too. Waqt, B.R. Chopra production (directed by Yash Chopra) was a huge blockbuster when it released in 1965. It pioneered the concept of multi-starrrers in Bollywood. After all it starred Balraj Sahni, Raj Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Shashi Kapoor, Sadhana, Sharmila Tagore, Rehman and Motilal (as the lawyer) – all in one movie! It also brought in the wonderful lost and found formula -later patented by Manmohan Desai in the late seventies. (I am a great sucker for this particular formula – Yaadon Ki Baraat being another favourite!) The music by Chopra regular Ravi is very good – some lovely Asha solos (Kaun Aaya Ki Nigahon Mein and Chehre Pe khushi chha jaati hai), very pleasant Mahendra – Asha duets (Din Hai Bahaar Ke (Sharmila and Shashi look lovely!), Hum Jab Bhi Simat Ke Aapke Baahon) and that amazing Manna Dey number (Ae meri Zohrabeen which got a fresh lease of life in popular cinema thirty years later when Amrish Puri sang it in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995)).

In the movie, the three brothers (Raj Kumar, Sunil Dutt and Shashi Kapoor, who do not know they are brothers) meet and are all present in this particular song. This is decisive as post this song, an incident triggers off a chain of events that leads to the final denouement and reunion. Enjoy this brilliant timeless classic – Asha Bhosle, Sahir Ludhianvi and Ravi at their best!

9) Kiska Rasta Dekhe (Joshilay, 1973, R.D.Burman): A song from the fag end of his career. It is evident Sahir saab had certainly not lost his touch. Picturised on Dev Anand and Hema Malini, this song is from the 1973 film Joshila. In general, I am not too fond of films post 1970 (of course there are exceptions…. ) This song is an exception. I havent seen the movie. The singing and the music are spot on in conveying the poignancy that underlie the words.

10) Ishwar Allah Tero Naam (Naya Raasta, 1970, N.Dutta):

I have been intrigued for a long time about this. This man has written probably the best devotional numbers in hindi film music! Just look at the range- you have this one and then Allah Tero Naam (Hum Dono), and then that brilliant Asha song from Kaajal, Tora Man Darpan Kehlaye and that fervent Rafi prayer from Naya Daur, Aana Hai Toh Aah Raah Mein… I am sure I have listed only the ones I can remember…. (there probably are more!) And what amazes me each time I listen to the lyrics, the philosophy they convey is one of humanism and not any religion. To be a better human being and keep one’s conscience clear and pure is more important in Sahir’s worldview.

Ishwar Allah Tero Naam is sung by Mohd Rafi and the music is by N. Dutta. If I remember right, the movie stars Jeetendra and Asha Parekh. This song is close to my heart as I have some personal memories associated with this. At one point in time, I used to dance a bit and a decade back, was based in an European country and I got an opportunity to perform at an event and one of the songs I performed on (based on audience, theme and recommendation of my dance teacher) was this one. This bhajan again exhorts human beings to be granted “sanmati” (good sense) and not get swayed by and fall prey to divisions triggered by caste, creed, religion. The futility of human existence is touched upon and what matters is not birth but deeds – what brilliant lines really- “Janam Ka koi Mol Nahin, Janam Manushya Ka Tol Nahin Hai… Karam Se sab ki Hai Pehchaan..Sabko sanmati De bhagwaan…”

Thirty-four years may have passed since Sahir left this world. His poetry is as relevant today, as it was then. In fact it is more relevant now – come to think of it – we live in a world full of violence and strife!

7 thoughts on “Mandatory Sahir Post of the week!

  1. So you finally dedicate a post to your one ‘true love’ Sahir Ludhianvi 🙂

    As you know I am not a fan of this genre of music but i did take a listen to – Tang Aa Chuke Hain Kashmekash-e-Jahan Se Hum – because of your description of it. I must say I quite enjoyed it.

    • Yes and with a reason too … 🙂 Thank you for reading and listening to his songs. Focus on the meaning and the words – he was a genius…very deep profound thoughts are conveyed so simply and beautifully… (and there I go again!)

  2. Those were the golden days… of Indian cinema and music. Even with the less technically advanced studios, they created magic, mainly because of the creative excellence that was drawn from an immensely gifted talent pool. Sahir Ludhianvi has been one of my favorites too, as he was my Uncle’s favorites, and I grew up listening to a lot of his songs. Pyaasa is what Pyaasa is due to Sahir sahab. I am surprised, Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shayar, doesn’t feature on this list, though as you rightly identify, it is difficult to pin point just a handful of great ones from his extremely great range of work. Thanks for the great write up. It brought back many memories

    • Thanks for commenting! 🙂 Glad to know you liked it. It was a toss-up between Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shayar Hoon and Kiska Rasta Dekhe in this list…To be honest, why i picked Kiska Raste Dekhe last night while writing this, I do not remember! And as it happened, I stopped at ten and remembered many other Sahir songs I have loved…. maybe some other day…

      • Yehi hota hai – some artistes are beyond this top ten or favorites categorization. You love every song of theirs, and depending on the mood, circumstance, and reference, you can think up of a hundred songs! 🙂
        So, I know how tough it is to pick top ten. I would fumble if someone asked me to pick my favorite Jagjit Singh songs, 🙂

  3. Kiska rasta dekhe was the reason I watched Joshila. It is the only good thing about the film, which is pretty ghastly otherwise. 🙂

    Superb list, Harini: really nice (but then, I am a Sahir fan too, so I am happy to come across any list of his songs). From your list, one which I especially love is Aage bhi jaane na tu – everything about that song is wonderful, down to the fact that it’s one of the few songs in Hindi cinema where a lot happens during the course of the song; it’s not as if the story comes to a halt.

    • Thanks, Madhu – Aage bhi Jaane Na tu is one of my favourite songs as well. It is so crucial to the story and the music, singing, everything. This list was a painful one to make – I happen to like almost all his songs (esp the ones from the fifties and sixties!)…

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