Till the 80s, music was the common man’s muse, just what social media is, in today’s times. We heard news, jingles and music intently on radio with our parents and grandparents. In early 80s, Doordarshan brought the audio visual entertainment to our livings rooms. The limited, but good quality ensemble of music touched our hearts and psyche.
I was particularly intrigued by the lyrics of the songs and the ample use of Urdu vocabulary. Words like Sitamgar, Ulfat, Dastaan, Jazbaat, Ilm sounded complex and surreal. I tried guessing their meaning by the context of the song and situation. Every song used to be an integral part of the script and sometimes even revealed a crucial moment through a song sequence. A love triangle, betrayal or revenge, songs were not written to merely fit in randomly.
Much later li realised what I heard on radio was not just filmy music but nazms, ghazals and shayari by some of the most respected lyricists in the Indian music industry. Sahir Ludhianvi, Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Neeraj are some of the best songwriters from the era. Their songs often spoke about deep philosophies of life and universal truths. Some of them I have followed over the years.
Sahir Ludhianvi was a noted Urdu poet before he started writing lyrics for Hindi films. Known for his temperamental nature, he refused to write his songs to fit the music, he rather insisted music be composed for his writing. He demanded to be treated and respected on par with singers and due credit be given to the lyricist. At one point, it is said that he was adamant that his fee should be one rupee more than Lata Mangeshkar’s! He wrote some of the most beautiful, philosophical and soulful compositions in Hindi cinema’s history. Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya, Kabhi Kabhi, Ye Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye To Kya Hai. After forty years of his death, people are rediscovering his shayari and nazms and falling for them all over again. My favourite song is the gem from the movie Chitralekha sung by Mohd Rafi.
Man re tu kaahe na dheer dhare
Wo nirmohi, moh na jaane, jinkaa moh kare
Is jeevan ki chadhti dhalati, Dhoop ko kisne baandha
Rang pe kisne pahre daale, Roop ko kisne baandha
Kaahe ye jatan kare, Man re tu kaahe na dheer dhare
Utnaa hi upkaar samajh koi, Jitnaa saath nibhaa de
Janam maran ka mel hai sapna, Ye sapna bisraa de
Koi na sang mare, Man re tu kaahe na dheer dhare
Gopalsdad Neeraj was a renowned poet who wrote in Hindi and Urdu. He was also a professor of Hindi Literature and author. He wrote songs for several popular Hindi films like Prem Pujari, Gambler, Sharmilee, Mera Naam Joker. His songs rang with a raw, sweet romanticism. My favourite lines are from the Prem Pujari song:
‘Rang men pighale sona, ang se yun ras chhalake
Jaise baje dhun koi raat men halke halke
Dhup men chhaanw men, jhumati hawaaon men
Haradam kare jo intezaar, wo pyaar hai’
I came to learn about Gulzar for the first time through a children’s song album my uncle had gifted me. It had a peculiar and funny song from the movie Kitaab. Aa Aa I Ee Master ji ki aa gayi chitthi. The 1977 movie Kitaab was written, directed and produced by Gulzar. The quirky songs were written by him and composed by RD Burman. I was astonished at the nuanced portrayal of a child’s psyche through this movie. A legendary poet, Gulzar’s popularity and fan following has grown over the years, he is highly respected and read by the younger generation too. The depth of his thought is visible in many of his poems written in simple Urdu and Hindi, touching a raw nerve. My favourite lines are from the movie Namkeen directed by Gulzar.
Raah pe rahte hain, yaadon pe basar karte hain
Khush raho ahal-e-watan, hum to safar karte hain
Jal gaye jo dhoop mein to saaya ho gaye
Aasmaan ka koi kona odha, so gaye
Jo guzar jaati hai bas uspe guzar karte hain
The lines epitomise the mind set of a fakir, a traveller, an evolved human being. I listen to the song every time I feel weighed down by circumstances.
Compare these gems with the songs written today. Why even bother!
Zindagi ‘Gulzar’ Hai 🙂