As we rediscover “normal life” in the post-Covid world, we also realise that the extended lockdown had given us time to discover treasures of India’s cultural heritage which are being forgotten in the daily grind of earning a living. One such treasured discovery for us is the legendary Bollywood lyricist of 1950s & 60s, Sahir Ludhianvi (1921-1980). To appreciate the man’s brilliance you might want to listen to this sublime hour long Youtube program from Saregama Music which recounts his life and gives you his ‘greatest hits’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
As Rajesh Pallan’s piece in the Indian Express says: “A recipient of the Padma Shri in 1971, Sahir was born as Abdul Hayee on March 8, 1921 in Ludhiana of undivided Punjab. His mother, Sardar Begum, was the eleventh of twelve wives and her husband’s wanton ways and illicit relations forced her to leave him. Sahir was separated from his father and lived with his single mother, who faced the trials and tribulations of life alone but with strength.”
What made Ludhianvi uniquely interesting was his treatment of religion (he had little time for it), his attitude to politics (he was an avowed Marxist) and his attitude to conventional middle class Indian life (he did not marry but had a stormy romance with the equally successful novelist & poet Amrita Pritam – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amrita_Pritam). This potent cocktail gave us some of most memorable and most frequently lyrics in Bollywood history: “In the lyrics Sahir penned for films like Pyaasa, he laid bare the ills plaguing our society by challenging the establishment:
“Yeh daulat ke bhhokhe rivaajon kee dunia
Yeh dunia agar mil jaaye bhi to kiyaa hai?”
(This world is teeming with those who hunger for riches. Even if we acquire this world, it would mean nothing)”
At Marcellus we have the privilege of having clients scattered all over India including the city of Ludhiana, the city whose name Sahir Ludhianvi carried with pride and a city which hasn’t forgotten him: “As soon as one enters the corridors of Government College, Ludhiana, one encounters the most celebrated alumnus of the college, Sahir Ludhianvi: A group picture featuring him adorns the wall, his not-so-creditable mark-sheets are preserved in old magazines, there’s a copy of his admission form, duly signed by him. One also finds there an auditorium and a botanical garden, Gulistaan-e-Sahir, dedicated to the poet who wrote not for art’s sake but for all of humanity, for life’s sake.”
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