Millions of people love old Hindi film songs, but many of them don't know who wrote the vast majority of such songs, much less the meanings of words and imageries used in them. Majrooh Sultanpuri was a key lyricist in close to 2000 such songs, and his mind-boggling ocuvre examined just about every emotion you can think of in an awe-inspiring corpus that leapt over generations for well over half a century.
biography is an attempt to present the stunning repertoire of his work. In this book can be found a dedicated chapter on ghazals that explains what the form is about, even as it explores Majrooh's work in that area. There are chapters on other forms of poetry-the rubaayi, the nazm, free verse-as also on subjects like the words that he commonly used, the situationally-relevant lyrics he penned, the songs of inspiration that he wrote, the words he introduced into cinema, and on many diverse subjects such as sad songs, romantic ones, qawalis, mujras, and so on. Not to forget his opus in Bhojpuri. Majrooh was a poet for all reasons and we have attempted to demystify a great deal of his work.
The book lists all his songs and the films they appeared in, but it also examines some of his non-film work. In addition, we have looked in some detail at his personal journey In his extraordinary run, Majrooh worked with a few composers in well over a hundred as such, discerning writers have contributed a chapter each on his work with such music composers.
Manek Premchand is a music historian who has interviewed dozens of people from the Hindi cinema of yesteryear. He has a radio-host and is an adjunct faculty at Xavier's Institute of Communications and Manipal University. He has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and is the author of several books on film music, including Yesterday's Melodies, Today's Memories, as well as biographies of Talat Mahmood and Hemant Kumar.
A fair-sized corpus of Majrooh Sultanpuri's non-film work is available in Hindi and Urdu, but very little of it can be found in English. When it comes to Majrooh's huge film opus, there's very little that you may find in any language. This seems so odd, considering that his published work has much fewer than 150 non- film poems while his film lyrics run into a whopping 1900 plus songs. In other words, over 90% of what he wrote was for cinema, and yet only about 10% of whatever is written about his work has to do with cinema. That's on the quantity front. It's very hard to compare for quality, because non-film poems generally have more difficult words and more complex imagery, meant as they are to cater to academics and sophisticates of higher appreciation. Even so, an open-minded person who understands more complex thought structures and vocabularies will, when all is said and done, respect the fact that the poet has to simplify his language to reach a wider base of people listening to film songs. The writer's job becomes more difficult if, denied of the words and syntax that first occur to him, he has to offer high imagery for a delicate thought in simple words. That can sometimes be hard. Hopefully many open-minded academics exist to endorse the above point.
However, millions of poetry-loving people, especially those born during the 1960s and later, cannot read Hindi or Urdu fluently, so even whatever little is available for them to read isn't helpful. Many such people feel saddened that since the primary language they write and read is English, some of the work of great Hindi and Urdu poets goes above their heads. Interestingly, many people can understand a lot of Hindi and Urdu words when they hear them. They also recognise that lyrics are quite often the blueprint of a song, the building block upon which the composer and singer construct their edifice. They do like Majrooh's poetry, since that is an inseparable part of the songs they love so much. But there is sometimes this gap between his words and what many music lovers understand of them. Not just words, many people also miss out on the imagery the poet is trying to offer. This book is mainly an attempt to list Majrooh's film work and bridge the gap between his and poems our understanding of the same. But there's much more than that here, as we will find when we journey through these pages. That includes getting to know him personally too. For that, we can start here with his own family. meaning himself, his wife, his children and their spouses.
Majrooh Sultanpuri was born at Azamgarh on 1st October 1919 but was raised at Ganjehri village, 10 kilometres north-west of the city of Sultanpur where his parents lived. These used to be part of the United Provinces which were renamed Uttar Pradesh. They named him Asrar, which means secrets and is pronounced us- raar, meaning the 'As' and 'rar' are pronounced the way we pronounce the English words 'us' and 'car. His full name was Asrar ul Hassan Khan. His father Mohammedi Hussain was a constable in the police. Asrar's primary education was in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu, and his father wanted his only son to become a teacher in Islamic studies.
Mohammed Hussain's other children were 3 daughters, two older than Asrar, and one younger. Like many others of his time, Mohammed Hussain was charged up with the Khilafat movement and Gandhiji's call for the boycott of all things western, which also meant education. To get Asrar started, in 1930 the young boy was sent. 75 kilometers north-west to Tanda in Faizabad district. Here he started going to an institution to study the Arabic discipline called Dars-e-Nizami, which deals with subjects such as Islamic jurisprudence, the sayings of Prophet Mohammad. the Quran, Arabic texts, etc. He wasn't quite happy doing that here, only because it was going so slow. Thus, still wanting to pursue Islamic studies, in 1933 he went to Allahabad University to study and appear for the fast-track exams of Maulvi, Aalim, and Faazil, meaning the equivalent of Matric, Intermediate, and Graduate respectively. He reckoned that after clearing these exams, he would get a teacher's job. Asrar finished Aalim, but then he had to leave these studies too. As he shared with poet and radio host Ahmed Wasi in a radio interview, he was rusticated from there. His romance with the idea of teaching was over.
Changing tracks, he decided he would become a hakeem (a doctor using herbs inspired from the Unani, or Greek practices). For this he went to Lucknow in 1935, joining the famous Takmeel-e-Tib college of Unani medicine to qualify as a physician. Amazingly, he also got into a school to learn classical music. According to writer Israr Ahmed, his father got to know of this and didn't lose any time getting the boy off the rolls from that school". He finished his medical study in three years, after which he opened a clinic in that city. That clinic outing lasted a few months only because destiny pulled him away to become a poet instead. The thing is, Lucknow was a seat of culture too, and poetry was strongly in the air there. Asrar already had decent command over Urdu, Persian, and Arabic. Increasingly he had been visiting mushairas (poetry recital meets) and had got very excited about writing to showcase his work too.
Here's how the change started happening. In 1935, the very year he started learning medicine, there was a conference arranged by Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu. At this meet, someone encouraged Majrooh to read a poem from his writings. His content and delivery were received well, so he started writing more. As such, the young man began sailing in two boats: studying Unani medicine followed by opening a clinic, but also thinking a lot about poetry and writing it feverishly. He was also reading up a lot on the thoughts of Marx and Lenin, who were the flavour of the era. In time, his poetry was getting much depth too, enough to impress established poet Jigar Moradabadi, who took the young man on as his shagird. In 1939, Jigar Moradabadi, with his shagird Majrooh in tow, reached Aligarh and introduced the young man to the poetic atmosphere in that city. Aligarh was the base of traditional writers (as against Progressive Writers whom we'll soon meet), so here Majrooh got to understand what this side was thinking. Here, too, he stayed a few years and got popular in literary circles.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
North Indian Music (289)
Original Texts (60)
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