Right from the era of Aristotle to these days there have been numerous attempts to define Poetry. Every Thinker, Philosopher & Writer has had his say but Poetry could never be defined to precision.
This ultimate art form has always had as much of impact upon me as any other artistic manifestation. Friends, I have something interesting to share. As a boy in high-school, I always believed Hindi Poetry was a fiefdom of writers from UP/Bihar until I grew up to know Sahir Ludhianvi. I grew increasingly fond of his lyrics. In fact, my yet-to-be-developed mind had so strong a conviction for all good writers belonging to Bihar & UP that i could have assumed Ludhiana to be somewhere near Bhagalpur, had my knowledge of Geography been any weaker.
Yes! Sahir was the one who busted my childish myth and further went on to develop in me an admiration for the pen of Punjab. I grew up through my teens and came to know about more such iconic poets. For me, it was a surprising revelation. This was the land of Faiz, Bulleh Shah, Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Waris Shah, Amrita Pritam and so on. Mature & Learned, I looked out of Bihar and found people outside could also think!! You can pardon me, for those were my school days and it was a process of enlightenment.
My journey of understanding the literary acumen of Punjab could never have started but for this legendary lyricist of Indian cinema. Deliberating on writers & poets from the land of five rivers, or for that matter the Punjabi/Urdu literature is a topic I can never do justice with. Neither am I that qualified, nor have the authority. So, I would restrain myself to Sahir Ludhianvi and intend to shed some concentrated light on him. Sahir's indomitable personality is as much a topic of discussion as is his breathtaking poetry.
One of the legends of Urdu Poetry, he could easily touch & strike a chord with the audience with words deep and profound in meaning. Born Abdul Hayee on March 8, 1921 at Ludhiana, Sahir Ludhianvi too had his shades of grey, his imperfections which tendered beauty to an attractive personality. Sure, he was Arrogant, Egotist and an antonym of humbleness by the mildest of standards as the critics would say. But no one can deny the fact that he was an iconoclast, a crusader and a maverick. His roller coaster life can be best underlined by his own song "Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya, har fiqr ko dhuwein mein udaata chala gaya." This composition from Hum Dono picturised on DevAnand succinctly describes his debonair life story.
From an ideological point of view, his was a voice against Capitalism, Supression, Corruption & Materialism. With such communist undertones, the Faizian genre was quite evident in Sahir's writings.
A tendency to fight for his beliefs and rights came naturally to him. He was the first ever song writer to get royalties from Music companies after a bitter struggle and his insistence on writing the song before its music was composed was against the usual Bollywood norms and tradition. He once demanded a rupee more than what was paid to Lata Mangeshkar and it was indeed for his efforts that All India Radio began crediting lyricists alongwith singers & musicians before playing a song. Sahir Ludhianvi was a crusader and that too a bitter(talkh) one for many. I must say his collection of urdu poetry is aptly titled -Talkhiyan.
Raj Kapoor starrer "Fir Subah Hogi.." was an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel "Crime & Punishment". Shankar Jaikishan, as usual, was the obvious choice of Raj Kapoor for this 1958 film. But, Sahir had other plans. He insisted on a musician who had read Fyodor's novel. Ultimately, Sahir's choice, Khayyam superceded and a highly acclaimed song "Woh Subah kabhi toh ayegi.." was born. The song showcases a huge contrast between reality and the poet's hopes for future.
"Jinhe naaz hai Hind par wo kahan hain.." and "Ye duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya hai.." from Guru Dutt's Pyasa are sublime proofs of his contemplative mind at a very young age.
Renowned Punjabi writer Amrita Pritam got her surname from a marriage to Pritam Singh, a Lahore merchant, but, she was best known as an ardent admirer of Sahir Ludhianvi. She left her husband and had a relation with Sahir which ended when Sahir fell for Sudha Malhotra. Heartbroken Amrita found solace in Imroz, a lesser known artist and Sahir remained a bachelor throughout his life.
Some of today's senior journalists recollect how during a press conference Amrita Pritam wrote Sahir's name hundreds of times on a sheet of paper. "Mann rey tu kaahe na dheer dhare.." so very well suits the fickle mind of the artist.
The biggest contribution of such classic writers is that they enhance the power of written communication and Sahir's poetry has truly created a benchmark for future generations. We had this song from Kabhi Kabhi "Main pal do pal ka shayar hun.." where Sahir further writes.. "Kal koi mujhko yaad kare, kyun koi mujhko yaad kare? Masroof zamaana mere liye kyun waqt apna barbaad kare." This was the only time he got himself wrong and the only point where I don't endorse his words because aur kuchh ho na ho, Sahir ko zamaana yaad zarur rakhega, chahe kitna bhi Masroof ho jaye......