Writer/filmmaker Sagar Sarhadi was born in Baffa, Pakistan on May 11, 1933. Like millions of others, he became a refugee after Partition. Destiny brought him to Mumbai, where he lived in a small room with his elder brother’s family. He was of Marxist leanings and was interested in becoming an Urdu writer and poet. The need for financial security gravitated him towards films. After initial struggles, he became associated with Yash Chopra and the rest, as they say, is history. He became known for his dialogue and screenplays in Yash Chopra’s love sagas like Kabhi Kabhie (1976), Silsila (1981), Faasle (1985) and Chandni (1989), among others. He even wrote the dialogue for Basu Bhattacharya’s Anubhav (with Kapil Kumar, 1972), Raj Kanwar’s Deewana (1992) and Rakesh Roshan’s Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai (2000) but would forever be known for his association with Yash Chopra.
He turned director with Bazaar (1982). Starring Farooq Shaikh, Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah and Supriya Pathak, the film was reportedly based on a true story about Muslim girls in Hyderabad, who were being forced to marry rich expatriates for money. The film had some soul-stirring music by Khayaam, with songs like Dikhayee diye yun, Karoge yaad to and Dekh lo aaj humko jee bharke being popular even now. It was considered one of the hallmarks of the neo-realistic cinema in India and despite its art film tag, was a commercial success as well. Unfortunately, despite the film’s success, Sarhadi wasn’t able to carve a career as a filmmaker. He had set his heart on making the sequel to Bazaar but couldn’t see his dream come true.
He had planned a film called Tere Shaher Mein, starring Naseeruddin Shah, Smita Patil, Deepti Naval and Marc Zuber, but the film couldn’t be made. Also, his last project Chausar, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Amruta Subhash, couldn’t see the light of the day.
Sarhadi was said to be close to several women but he never married. He passed away on March 22 and is survived by his nephew, filmmaker and theatre personality Ramesh Talwar. Excerpts from his last interview with Filmfare...
How did Ganga Sagar Talwar change into Sagar Sarhadi?
There used to be a gentleman living in my neighbourhood who was called Ganga Sagar and hence I didn’t want people to confuse him with me. And Zia Sarhadi was quite a famous screen writer when I was starting out. He was from a border town like I was, so taking Sagar from my own name and borrowing Sarhadi from Zia saab I became Sagar Sarhadi. The nom de plume suited me and brought me fame.
Do you still retain memories of your home in Abbottabad, Baffa, which is now in Pakistan?
Why would we want to leave our ancestral home? We were told to run away otherwise we’d be killed. I left behind my beautiful village, which had a stream running alongside it. The best days of my life were spent there. I yearn to return to it always. In my memory and dreams I still do.
Coming to Mumbai after Partition must have felt like a cultural shock
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