Versatile Verbsmiths’ Vibrant Verses – 1 Saahir – the rebel

ஸாஹிர் லுதியான்வி: இந்திப் பாட்டுலகிற்கு கிடைத்த பெரும் கொடை

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Saahir Ludhianvi is one of the greatest lyricists in the world

Writing under the nom-de-plume Saahir Ludhianvi [Ludhiana’s Enchanter] poet – born Abdul Hai [March 8 1921-October 25 1980] turned out some of the best lyrics that adorned the Hindi silver screen. Even his life was poetic till the very end.

Saahir had enough reasons to be angry with the world at large.

His biological father Fazal Mohammad had tortured the poet’s mother [the 4th wife of the carelessly criminal Casanova] Sardar Begum in their hometown Ludhiana. It resulted in a bitter divorce, enforced poverty and a battle for the custody of the future poet. The Begum won. It was poetic justice. Mohammad had many wives. None of them gave him a son.

The court battle forced young Saahir to take a serious decision as the judge asked him as to with whom he would like to stay.

Without hesitation, the young lad said, “with my mother.”

To make the son and mother rescind their decision, Mohammad left them penniless. Sardar Begum brought up her son – despite the tribulations.

The anger bubbled in this verbsmith’s heart.

இதையும் படியுங்கள்: நந்தினி

For Saahir, his mother was the universe.

For the Hindi movie Trishul [1978] – he wrote a verse – that is – in my opinion – an endearing recognition to the labours of his mother – attributing his later day success to her. Its English rendering:

You shall remain with me, young fella
So that you realise
What travails you mother underwent
To help you grow
So, you shall see
Those who cruelly trampled
My motherly love
Witness the dagger-words, deeds
Piercing my ears, eyes
I shall not accord you
Merciful shades’ comfort
Instead
The heat of life will temper you
Morph you into steel
To acquire the pride
Of being called my son
I shall accompany till I can
Then move away
Into the silence of yonder
Viewing you from my sky-perch
With a bleeding heart
Flowery blessings’ tears
Flowing from the eyes
You have none other than me
You are all I have
I am all you have
House every pain I underwent
In your heart
You shall
Repay your debt to your mother
If those responsible for my agony
Remain unpunished
Remember
I shall not forgo
What you owe me for my milk!

For those who can understand Hindi or would like to enjoy the emotions portrayed by Waheeda Rehman [playing the mother] and Amitabh Bachchan [essaying the son’s role] listen to the song here

In 1940, while in Lahore – where he did his higher education – Saahir slammed Shah Jahan’s Taj Mahal [1] in a highly controversial satirical verse – whose opening line’s English rendering reads: An emperor made a mockery of love by abusing poor man’s money!

Saahir was in love with Punjabi poetess and writer Amrita Pritam and later had an affair with singer Sudha Malhotra. Neither of them could marry him because Saahir was born a Muslim and had turned into a bitter atheist. The women’s relatives did not permit it.

The resultant bitterness led to Saahir penning the immortal lines: I would like to create habitable compendiums of compassion within this world of hate [movie Nayaa Raasta – new path, 1970].

A young Amrita Pritam, madly in love with Saahir, wrote his name hundreds of times on a sheet of paper while addressing a press conference.

The duo would meet and sit facing each other without exchanging a word for hours, eyewitnesses have said. Saahir would keep smoking his cigarettes. After he left, the legend goes, Amrita used to lovingly smoke the butts.

இதையும் படியுங்கள்: மக்கள் முதல்வர்

Amrita had been married to a man – Pritam Singh from whom she had separated. She then chose to live with another man Imroz, recoiling from Saahir’s dalliance with Sudha Malhotra – in the 60’s.

At heart, however, Amrita always loved Saahir.

“The atmosphere full of smoke from Saahir’s cigarettes would be a welcome ambience when I meet Saahir again in the other world,” Amrita was quoted as saying when the poet died in 1980. [2]

Amrita’s life with Imroz affected Saahir and his poems. In 1963, for BR Chopra’s classic movie Gumraah [astray] Saahir penned his angst. The English rendering:

The immortal Saahir Ludhianvi wrote this for the movie Gumraah [Misled] made by BR Chopra in 1963. Its English rendering:

Let us be strangers once again

I needn’t then nurture expectations
Of heart-felt niceties from you
You needn’t henceforth
Continue sighting me
With a jaundiced vision

Avoidance of my heart’s
Expressive stumbles
To aid
Your secret mental convulsions’ exposure
Would be a good idea

Past convictions
Perhaps snag your steps
Towards me

The world at large
Repeatedly reminds
That I am chasing a mirage
Owned by others

Walking alongside me
May result in your
Getting embarrassed
With the past

Cobwebbed thoughts
May contribute to mishaps

When an acquaintance
Morphs into affliction
The memories are best forgotten

Connections causing
Emotional convulsions
Are best rendered asunder

Ending epics that may not
Attain fruitful completions
Would be more beautiful
When jettisoned as poetic twists
Of a romantic tale

Hence
Let us be strangers once again

Those wishing to hear and see the visual where actors Sunil Dutt, Mala Sinha and Ashok Kumar are featured as playing three characters of a love triangle in the film , listen to the song here

As a poet, Saahir was irrepressible, always picking up quarrels. His inherent bitterness always got the better of him.

He always rebelled against what he called “the system”.

Saahir had antagonised SD Burman and OP Nayyar – when both were at their peak. Yet, the industry could not ignore him. He remained a highly sought after lyricist till his end. There was something more unique. Saahir always wrote his lyrics … sans a tune. The composition was always built around his lyrics.

When asked once about his angry streak, he had replied, “My rebellious nature make the world think that perhaps my heart hates odes of love. Perhaps, I find solace in struggle.”

இதையும் படியுங்கள்: கலாமின் கனவை நனவாக்குங்கள்

The lyrics for the very occasion and attitude of the songster are from the 1957 classic Pyaasa [the thirsty man] rendered into English:

Throne and diadem adorn
This society – the antithesis of humanity
Full of practices that hunger for wealth
So what if one gets this entire world?
Bodies wounded, souls thirsty
Confused visions, saddened hearts
Is this a place of universal greed?
Toy like human existences
Hankering after corpses to live
Amidst a throng where death
Is cheaper than life
Youth abandoned and astray
Beauties paraded like markets’ merchandise
In this milieu, a human being is nothing
Faith and friendship are nothings
Love has no value at all
Burn and reduce this world to smoke
Remove it from my sight this very moment
Those who wish to, can take care of this place!

Readers wishing to see the song [said to have inspired ace filmmaker Maniratnam] that features the frustration in the eyes of the hero played by actor par excellence Guru Dutt may listen to the song here

Despite his bitterness, Saahir wrote some of the zaniest love poems. Here is the English version of one from Yash Chopra’s Daag [smear] released in 1973:

Can I tell you what my hearts says?
With your permission today please?
May I set your tresses once more?
Could I apply vermillion on your forehead again?
You worshipped me like a God
My love commands me
To morph you into Divinity
Regardless of someone searching for us
They will not find our den
As you will hide me from the world
And so shall I
Your pain will disappear
When you melt into my arms
And I shall forget my pains
Under the shade of your flowing hair

To listen and see the audio-visual effect, click here

And he could be naughty like a teenager when he chose to.

Here is the gem of a duet from Nayaa Daur [new times]

Its English rendering:

இதையும் படியுங்கள்: ஆப்பிள் போனும் பிராடா கேன்டியும்:நீங்கள் பார்க்காத அமெரிக்கா

Girl [played by Vyjayantimala]

When your hair sways in the wind
Damsels’ hearts are aflutter darling!

Man [essayed by Dilip Kumar]

When such a beautiful face arrives
How can a man not have a roving eye?

Girl

The mating season’s arrival
Has been marked by ripened berries

Man

You too could come my way
I am bloody tired of waiting

Girl

I worship your village
Because you live there

Man

Use the ruse of getting water
To meet me
For our paths are the same

Using moonlight on my roof
Allow me to behold your winsome face

Girl

The neighbourhood voyeurs would jeer
Wait till spoiler moon hide its face!

Man

Your gait wriggles like a serpent
This charmer is gonna carry you off

Girl

Come what may I won’t be carried away
For my heart is always yours!

One of his protégés is lyricist Javed Akhtar. Like Saahir, the latter, in the beginning of his career’s struggle had a serious issue with the biological male parent – Jan Nisar Akhtar who was also a lyricist. In the 60’s – during his period of struggle – Javed had little or no money.

Often, Javed would rant and rave against his father.

Saahir used to patiently hearing him out, and all the while nudging him to eat some food, just like any concerned parent would do.

இதையும் படியுங்கள்: வந்து சேராத பணமும் நடக்காத தேர்தலும்

Both possessed strong personalities and hence had their tiffs.

It so happened, it is said, that on one occasion, the words exchanged went a bit too far.

“Why don’t you recommend me to some of the producers? A word from you would get me work! I wouldn’t be around in your place … staying overnight after food because I have no proper roof over my head…”

Becoming a bit tense, Saahir lent him Rs.200. If one goes by the comparable prices of the gold sovereign – the equivalent is roughly Rs.20,000 today!

Javed soon got his breaks, but somehow, the money remained unpaid.

Whenever, the younger poet tried to give it back to his surrogate father – the latter would cryptically say – “I know when to get it back.”

After Saahir’s death and burial, a near inconsolable Javed was about to return home from the burial ground when one of the mourners requested the sum of Rs.200.

“Apparently, the grave-digger hasn’t been paid,” came the explanation.

Javed – referred to sometimes as ‘Jaadu’ by ace lyricist Gulzar – parted with the cash – and muttered under his breath rather tearfully – “I have repaid the money – Saahir Saahab – but will never be able to repay you for all you did for me!”

[1]

Operative excerpts from the relevant Wikipedia dossier on Taj Mahal:

The Taj Mahal [Palaces’ Crown] is an ivory-white marble mausoleum that stands on the south bank of the Yamuna River in the north Indian city of Agra.

It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned 1628–1658) to house the tomb of his favourite consort, Mumtaz Mahal.

Mumtaz [palace’s leader elect], ironically, was Shah Jahan’s [born as Prince Khurram] second wife. She was mother to the sons who succeeded their father – Dara Shikoh [little Darius] and Aurangzeb [born Mohiuddin]. Shikoh was defeated in battle and executed by his younger sibling.

Jahan’s elder daughter Jahanaaraa Begum [Worlds’ Empress] who hated Aurangzeb – kept her old man company as he spent his last days in a prison – from whose windows – he could view the Taj.

The Taj tomb is the centrepiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenulated wall.

Construction of the mausoleum was essentially completed in 1643 but work on its periphery continued for another decade. The cost is estimated at Rs.32 million in CE 1653 [roughly US$1 billion or Rs.7000 crores] today.

The Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The Taj Mahal attracts 7–8 million visitors a year. In 2007, it was declared a winner of the New7Wonders of the World (2000–2007) initiative.

Ironical

It is a matter of supreme irony that Saahir’s first Filmfare Award [considered India’s Oscar] was for the movie entitled Taj Mahal [released 1963]. Its opening lines’ English translation:

You will have to keep your promise
Even if the world opposes
And divinity impedes

[2]

The love triangle with Saahir at one end, Amrita and her second husband Imroz at the other ends, in itself, is a sheer poetic epic.

Operative excerpts from Nirupama Dutt’s epitaph for Amrita who passed away in 2005 citing Uma Trilok’s book A Love Legend Of Our Times [Penguin, published 2006].

Amrita first met Saahir Ludhianvi in 1944 in a place called Preet Nagar [love city] during a poetry recital. It was love at first sight.

“I do not know whether it was the magic of his words or his silent gaze, but I was captivated by him,” Amrita had been quoted as saying afterwards. They could never marry because of several reasons.

Amrita passed away in 2005 after becoming one of the few women in India to win the Sahitya Academy winners [India’s equivalent of the Booker Prize].

As the flames licked the remains of the poetess, Imroz stood gazing at hit stoically at a distance – away from the crowd.

“Amrita lived with the memory of Saahir, did it bother you?”

The question had been put to the painter of repute, with whom Amrita lived for the last 40 years of her life. He had designed her book wrappers all his life and perhaps loved more deeply than Saahir.

“No. I accepted it. There is no hassle when one loves without ego, without argument, without making artificial arrangements, and without calculations. Saahir and Amrita had lived under a single roof sometimes in separate rooms. It had been a strange kind of love,” was the answer.

“Don’t be sad,” Trilok told Imroz.

Slowly, Imroz turned with an inexplicable expression, looked at Trilok in the eye and said, “Why be sad? Nature did what I could not do!”

Post Script – a small personal note:

Saahir was one of those who inspired me to pen poems in Hindi. I consider myself blessed for my writing talent was honed by him on a few occasions at his Bombay home named Parchaayiyaan [shadows].

Two of the lines – of a poem by yours truly appreciated by the immortal lyricist:

Ye worldly wise, be happy with your happiness
And allow me to enjoy my sadness

“You have come of age, naujawaan [young man],” the immortal Saahir Saahab had said.

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