Poets like Majrooh Sultanpuri pass this way just once. Farhana Farook takes you through the life and times of Hindi cinema’s most prolific lyricist
(OCTOBER 1, 1919 − MAY 24, 2000)
Hamaare baad ab mehfil mein afsaane bayaan honge, bahaare hum ko dhoondhegi, na jaane hum kahaan honge…
The lyrics, about looking back and moving forward, written by Majrooh Sultanpuri for Baghi (1953), sum up the poet’s wistfulness. Someone who fought hard not to let reality obscure his romanticism. Someone who understood that while infinitude is an ideal, everything eventually blurs given the transience of time.
Asrar ul Hasan Khan took on the name ‘Majrooh’ – meaning wounded – as his penname and almost lived it. An important figure in the Progressive Writers’ Movement, he was wounded by the post Independence let down. He was wounded by the fact that he wasn’t given his due as a poet-lyricist considering he was the most prolific and enduring amongst his peers. He remained wounded by personal tragedies and never being able to relinquish his responsibilities as a provider…
As part of the formidable quartet of lyricists, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni and Shailendra between 1950-60, Majrooh’s career, spanned five decades and around 300 films. From K.L. Saigal to Shah Rukh Khan, his words assumed the lexis of every generation. They could convey the sensuality of a mujra, the seduction of a cabaret. They could spawn dreams and stir passion. They could evoke love and soften rejection. Majrooh simply didn’t allow age to crease his heart and art. What better proof of his immutability than the fact that Monica O my darling… continues to top the party-hopper’s podcast five decades after it was written…
Majrooh Sultanpuri was born as Asrar ul Hasan Khan in a Pathan Muslim family in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh. His father, a police officer, averse to his son receiving English education, sent Majrooh to a madrasa. Later, Majrooh joined Lucknow’s Takmeel-ut-Tib College of Unani medicine. Always a poet at heart, the young practitioner, happened to recite his ghazal at a mushaira in Sultanpur to much applause. Legendary Urdu poetlyricist Jigar Moradabadi, impressed by the young bard, made him his shagird.
In 1945, Majrooh visited Bombay to attend a mushaira at the Saboo Siddique Institute, where he left filmmaker A.R. Kardar impressed by his perfect tarannum (tune) and talaffuz (diction). The filmmaker offered him Shah Jehan (1946). Majrooh, who wasn’t keen to write for films, relented when his ustaad Jigar urged him to do so to make ends meet. Composed by maestro Naushad, the songs of Shah Jehan became so popular that K.L. Saigal willed that his rendition from the film - Jab dil hi toot gaya - be played at his funeral.
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