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Monday, May 8, 2017

Sahir Ludhianvi The Poet of Musical Words that whet Appetite…(Part - III)

Here we pay our tribute to Sahir Ludhianvi, the Urdu poet and lyricist, who said, “Ashkon mein jo paya hai, woh geeton me diya hai” (what I got in tears, gave it back in songs), on his 96th birthday: March 8
Sahir Ludhianvi, a gifted poet with an analytical eye and perhaps, an innate cynicism and disillusionment towards society at large, wrote a song for Gumrah (1963) that reflects a great deal of emotional complexity and maturity, and yet reflecting lots of rationalism. The context was: societal circumstances prevent the love of two individuals flowering into marriage. Later, the heroine gets married to another. One day the protagonist happens to visit them and in that context, he suggests: “chalo ek baar phir se, ajnabii ban jaayen ham dono (Come, let us become strangers once again)”, for he believes that emotional separation makes it easier for their pain—“taalluq bojh ban jaaye to usko todnaa achhaa (Should a relationship become a burden, then it is best to end it)” to heal, perhaps.
For me, the refrain of this song is the last stanza: “voh afsaana jise anjaam tak laanaa na ho mumkin (For that tale which cannot culminate in a conclusion), / use ek khuubsuurat mod de kar chhodna achhaa (it is best to give it a beautiful turn and leave it be).” It is with his eloquence and nuanced use of language and importantly, sans praising love as an ideal, he—positing that it is counter-productive to invest energy into doomed romantic relationships— suggests that in the interest of everyone, it is sensible to put an early end to the love stories that simply cannot have happy endings.

Often times, his lyrics exhibit a romantic association with philosophy. Look at this simple song written for Hum Dono (1961)—“Main jindagi kaa saath nibhaataa chalaa gayaa (I just kept going with the flow of life), / Har fikr ko dhuein mein udaataa chalaa gayaa (Kept blowing away every worry like smoke) / Barbadiyon ka sog manaanaa fijul thaa (it was useless to be sad about whatever gone wrong) / Jo mil gayaa usi ko muqaddar samajh liyaa (Whatever I got, I considered that as my fate) / jo kho gayaa main us ko bhulaataa chalaa gayaa (whatever I lost, I kept going, forgetting it..) / Gam aur khushi mein fark na mehasoos ho jahaan (where no difference is felt between sorrow and joy) / Main dil ko us makaam pe laataa chalaa gayaa (I kept bringing myself to that point [of no difference])”. This song at once gives us an extemporaneous insight of life. Tells us that the protagonist, having taken stock of his life, cheerfully accepted it as given and instead of celebrating tragedies of life, learning to move forward with an eye on tomorrow, perhaps, kept going. Whenever I felt let down in life I used to hum the verse, “Har fikr ko dhuein mein udaataa chalaa gayaa.”
A similar marriage of philosophy with poetry can be seen in the song, “Mann re tu kaahe na dheer dhare (my heart, why don’t you take courage?) from the film, Chitralekha (1964) that addresses itself ostensibly to the mind, but is really appealing to the heart to be patient, to reconcile with its fate—doesn’t matter, even if it meant going unloved by the one loved, for (“is jiwan ki chadhti dhalati dhup ko kis ne baandhaa”) the rising and receding sunlight of this life, who had tied up? There is pain in the lyrics, in the singer’s voice and of course, in the accompanying music too, but as the poet tries to explain that beauty is ephemeral and the protagonist is best off alone, “janam-maran kaa mel hai sapnaa, ye sapnaa bisaraa de (togetherness through life and death, it’s a dream, forget this dream) / koi na sang mare man re …” (no one accompanies you in death) for no one can die with another, what we, the listeners perceive is: ‘Stoicism’—to be indifferent to pain and pleasure. But the big question is: will the heart accept it that easily? If cultivated consciously, perhaps, “yes”.
There is yet another song from film Waqt, “Aage bhii jaane na tu, piiche bhii jaane na tu (you may not know what lies ahead of you, nor do you know what lies behind you)/ jo bhi hai bas yahii ek pal hai (what is here now is only this very moment) … jeenevaale, soch le yahii waqt hai kar le purii aarzuu (O living soul, think fast: this is the time to fulfil all your desires)” that so passionately suggests to grab every moment of life, for who knows what lies next and so suggesting fatalism, advocates no letting of life slip through fingers.

Now I must invite you to listen that soothing number of 1963, “jo vaadaa kiyaa woh nibhaanaa padegaa (You must fulfill the promise that you made) / roke zamaanaa chaahe, roke khudaayii (Should society or divinity attempt to stop you) / tum ko aanaa padegaa (you must still come to me)” from the film, Taj Mahal that fetched him his first Filmfare Award as the “Best Lyricist” in 1964. In a way, this song of everlasting romance—“yah maanaa hamen jaan se jaanaa padegaa (I accept that I must leave this life) / par yah samajh lo tum ne jab bhii pukaaraa (But understand this: whenever you call out to me) / ham ko aanaa padegaa (I must come to you)—reflects the Sufi-poets belief that love with the beloved is same as the love with God.
How I could move away from this film without referring to that unusual song of Hindi-cinema-world, where Sahir questions “khuda-e-bartar” Superior Lord thus: “terii zameen par zameen ki khaatir, yeh jang kyon hai?—Why is there this war over land in your world?” In his anxiety to express his aversion for wars as also highlight the futility of wars, he goes on questioning: “This land is yours, we are yours. Then what is this question of ownership and possession? (zameen bhi teri hain ham bhi tere, yeh milkiyat ka sawaal kya hai?); Why these traditions of bloody murder? (yeh qatl-o-khuun ka rivaaj kyon hai?); in this world, instead of celebration of love, why celebration of arrows and rifles? (jahaan men jashn-e-vafaa ke badle, yeh jashn-e-tiir-o-tafang kyon hai?). He won’t stop there; he prays to khudaa-e-bartar: “ghariib maaon shariif bahnon ko aman-o-izzat kii zindagii de—grant poor mothers and noble sisters a life of peace and respect”, and so on … for universal happiness.
Sahir, the atheist, and the poet of hope—“Wo subah hamii se aayegi”—had penned a beautiful bhajan set to music by Ravi based on the raga, Darbari in the film, Kaajal“tora man darpan kehalaaye (Your mind is said to be the mirror) / bhale bure saare karmon ko dekhe aur dikhaaye (deeds good and bad, it watches and shows all!) / … man hee devataa, man hee eeshwar / man se badaa naa koee (mind is celestial, mind is God / None there is greater than mind) …”, which Asha Bhosle sang so elegantly—which needs to be heard for enjoying its spiritual rationalism.
Now, before concluding I wish to invite you to that classic qawwali from the film, Barsat ki Raat to fully appreciate Sahir Ludhviani’s perception about religion, romanticism, literary aesthete and the very philosophy of life: “Na to caaravaan ki talaash hai (I am not in search of a caravan) / Na to humsafar ki talaash hai (I am not in search of a fellow traveler).” For him love means: “Dil ishq, jism ishq hai, aur jaan ishq hai (My heart is love, my body is love, and my life is love) / Imaan ki jo poochho to imaan ishq hai (If you ask for faith, then that is love too).” Love, for Sahir is free, love is neither Hindu nor Muslim (Ishq aazad hai, Hindu Na Musalmaan hai ishq). Religion for him is: Ishq, love. The commands of God and Mohammed are love (Allah rasool ka farmaan ishq hai), the teachings of Mohammed are love, the Quraan is love (Yaanii Hadith ishq hai, Quraan ishq hai), the wishes of Buddha and Christ are love (Gautam kaa aur Maseehaa kaa armaan ishq hai). He perceives love as the one that turns clay into idols and idols into Gods (Khaaq ko but, aur but ko devtaa karta hai ishq). And reaching the pinnacle of his visualization, Sahir proclaims: God loves his created beings—“bande ko khuda karta hai ishq”—for that is love, Haann yeh ishq ishq hai…
It is in the late 70s that he got his second Best Lyricist Filmfare Award for the lyrics that he penned for Chopra’s film, Kabhi Kabhi, a simple adoration of a woman: “Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayaal aataa hai (Sometimes this thought enters my heart) / Ki jaise tujhko banaayaa gaya hai mere liye (That you were created only for me). 
But the best pick of mine from this film would be: “Main pal do pal ka shaayar huan (I am but a poet for a moment or two), pal do pal meri kahaani hai (My story is of a moment or two) / Pal do pal meri hasti hai (My image is for a moment or two), pal do pal meri jawaani hai (My youth, for a moment or two).As the song advances and as I listen him saying, “Kal tumse juda ho jaaoonga (Tomorrow I will depart from you) / Woh aaj tumhaara hissa hoon (But for today, I’m a part of you)” I wonder if Sahir Ludhianvi is reciting it as though it is his signing off gift to fans and that thought inevitably makes me choked. And as he comes to the lines, “Kyun koi mujhko yaad kare (But why should anyone remember me) / … / Kyun waqt apna barbad kare (Why waste its precious time)”, I wish I were able to tell him: “No”, you will be remembered, for you gave us poetry, poetry smeared with musicality. Through your poetry, you have shown us: “Zindagi sirf mohabbat nahin kuchh aur bhi hai”. Your poetry in cinemas is timeless, which is why you are forever.
Khuda Hafiz …. 


Acknowledgements: Thanks for the video clippings to


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