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Ludhiana Personality :: Sahir Ludhianavi

Sahir Ludhianvi

Sahir Ludhianvi, real name Abdul Hayee, was born in Ludhiana on March 8, 1921. Sahir Ludhianvi is a pen name and it is a common practice for Urdu poets to attach the name of their birthplace in their pen-names (in his case, Ludhiana) Sahir belonged to a wealthy family but when his father married for the second time, Sahir and his mother left his father, both living a life of poverty.

Sahir went to Khalsa High School in Ludhiana and later to Government College, Lahore (capital of pre-partition Punjab) where Amrita Pritam became his most ardent fan. She has openly acknowledged her love for Sahir in interviews and her books. He was quite popular for his ghazals and nazms in the college. He was expelled from the college (some say it was the work of Amrita Pritam's father who did not approve Sahir as a potential match for his daughter because she was a Sikh and Sahir a Muslim and also because Sahir was poor).

He went to Lahore, Pakistan and had a chequered early career as editor of 'Adab i Latif', 'Shahkaar' and 'Savera' there. Also his first collection of Urdu poetry titled "Talkhiyaan" (Bitterness Galore) was published at this time, when he was 23. But his inflammatory writings (communist views and ideology) in 'Savera' resulted in an arrest warrant being issued by the government of Pakistan and so he left Lahore for Delhi somewhere in 1949). From Delhi, Sahir finally moved to Bombay

Poetry, lyrics and Bollywood
Sahir's poetry reflected the mood of the age. His poetry, similar to that of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, had the same lyricism and forcefulness. Sahir also participated in various mushairas and was a crowd-puller. But while Faiz was to appeal to the intelligentsia, Sahir's poetry was to flower as lyrics in the Bombay film industry where it found the medium that expanded Sahir's audience to far beyond the elite minority.

The song 'Mohabbat tark ki maine' (sung in the lilting, silken, shimmering voice of Talat Mahmood) written by him was his first recorded song. The first to be released was, however, the lilting 'Thandi hawain' sung by Lata Mangeshkar.

Sahir often insisted on writing the songs before the song was composed, against the Bollywood norm. However, some of his songs were written after the tunes were ready. For example, Maang ke saath tumhaara (Naya Daur, 1957 - music by O P Nayyar).

In 1958, Sahir wrote lyrics for Ramesh Saigal's movie Phir Subah Hogi, which was based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment. The male lead was Raj Kapoor and it was presumed that Shankar-Jaikishan (favorite duo of Raj Kapoor for music) would be the composers. However, Sahir insisted that only someone who has read the novel could provide the right score. Thus, Khayyam ended up as music director for the film and the song "Woh Subah kabhi to aayegi" (sung by Mukesh), with minimal background music remains an all-time hit. Khayyam went on to work with Sahir in many movies including Kabhie Kabhie.

It was on Sahir's insistence that the All India Radio started naming the lyricists along with the singers and the composers for the songs being aired. Before Sahir, the music director, followed by the playback singers usually took credit for the popularity and success of songs in movies. Sahir worked with many music directors including Ravi, Sachin Dev Burman, Roshan and Khayyam, and has left behind many unforgettable songs for fans of Indian Film Industry and film music. Pyaasa marked an end to his successful partnership with Sachin Dev Burman over what is reported to be Sachin Dev Burman's displeasure at Sahir receiving more admiration (and thus credit for the success) from audiences for the words of the lyrics than Sachin Dev Burman did for his memorable tunes.

At the height of his popularity, Sahir is known to have demanded excess payment of one rupee for writing the song over what was paid to Lata Mangeshkar (a very popular playback singer for Hindi songs) for singing it.

Sahir lived on the first floor of the main building of an Andheri outhouse. His famous neighbours included Gulzar and Urdu litterateur Krishan Chander. In the 1970s, he constructed 'Parchaiyaan', a posh bungalow, and lived there till his death. Journalist Ali Peter John, who knew the poet personally, says real-estate sharks have been eyeing Sahir's abode after the death of his sister. His belongings and trophies are in a state of ruin.

Failed love affairs (Amrita Pritam and Sudha Malhotra, an actress and a singer) had left Sahir an embittered man and he also had taken to drinking heavliy. The tragedies and pathos of his personal life most truly reflected in his poignant poetry. He remained single all his life and died on 25th October 1980 at the age of 59 of a heart attack.

Sahir Ludhianvi     Sahir Ludhianvi     Sahir Ludhianvi