Influence of Urdu poets on Bollywood songwriters
Several cultures postulate a cyclical construction of time, instead of a linear one. This may or may not be valid for history, but it manifests itself prominently in human culture. Literature, on the other hand, considering how motifs, plots, and expressions crop up over and over again over time, or repeat themselves even in its most popular form – movie lyrics. Bollywood is a good example.
Do you remember the phrase “Awaaz ki duniya ke doston…”? Most movie buffs would instantly place it as Rajesh Khanna’s catchphrase in the hit musical drama Anurodh (1977).
However, it actually dates back to the song Sitam the zulm the aafat the intezar ke din/Hazaar shukr ke dekhenge ab bahar he din, or more commonly Man darpan hai jag sara, sung by KL Saigal in Dushman (1939), featuring him, Prithviraj Kapoor and Leela Desai. The lyricist was Arzoo Lakhnavi.
It would be easy to pass this off as imitation, but we must remember that literature, like other forms of culture, and in all its spheres, is a human construction, and although it is subject to imitation, the most appropriate term would be inspiration. Or more importantly, his role in rescuing many forgotten poets from obscurity.
If so, how many beyond Urdu poetry connoisseurs/Bollywood historians would remember the name Syed Anwar Hussain Arzoo Lakhnavi (1873-1951)?
Yet in his time he was highly respected for his poetry, in and outside of films, responsible for crafting the lyrics of early superstars – Saigal (Karun kya aas niras bhayi in Dushman, 1939); Kanan Devi (Lachhami murat daras dikhaaye in Street Singer, 1938); as well as some of the early emerging stars such as Madhubala (Aayi Bhor Suhani in Beqasoor, 1950).
At this time, there was another notable lyricist, by the name of Pandit Sudarshan, whose work was the rather gloomy Andhe ki lathi tu hi hai, tu hi jivan ujiyaraara hai… for Dhoop Chhaon of Saigal (1935).
As Saigal aficionados may recall, it begins with a spoken verse: Dil ke phahole jal uthe seee ke daag se/Is ghar ko aag lag gayi ghar ke chiraag se, and although Sudarshan may claim the merit of the song, these lines were inspired by an 18th century prodigy.
Pandit Mehtab Rai Taban was 12 years old when he recited: Sholaa bhadak utha mere est dil ke daagh se/Aakhir ghar ko aag lag gayi ghar ke chiraagh se in a Delhi mushaira, impressive Khwaja Mir Dard, who was present.
And here it is important to stop and emphasize that this is not plagiarism or even imitation, but a key part of the Urdu poetic tradition, where even a couplet, or even a line , may be used by another poet, as it stands, or modified appropriately for another context.
Another prime example is that of Dilip starring Kumar-Nargis Mela (1948), which saw the genesis of a triad that was responsible for some of the film industry’s most impactful, moving and moving songs. hindi – music director Naushad, lyricist Shakeel Badayuni and singer Mohammed Raffi.
The film’s signature classic Yeh zindagi ke mele… wasn’t entirely Shakeel’s brainchild, however.
Yeh zindagi ke mele, yeh zindagi ke mele, duniya mein kam na honge/Afsos ham na honge… is inspired by the 18th century Faizabad master poet Mirza Mohammad Taqi Taqi, who declaimed: Duniye ke jo maze hain hargiz woh kam na honge / Charche yahin rahenge afsos ham na honge.
In 1969 Majrooh Sultanpuri, an unacclaimed poet and lyricist, borrowed a telling line from Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s immortal nazm Mujh se pehli se mohabbat mere mehboob na maang (already used in the Pakistani film Qaidi) for the overture to Rafi-rendu Teri aankhon ke siva duniya mein rakha kya hai… in Chirag (1969), with Sunil Dutt and Asha Parekh.
Majrooh then went to use the opening stanza of Pattaa pattaa buta buta hal hamare jane hai by Mir Taqi Mir… to start a similarly titled song in Ek Nazar (1972), with Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri, although the rest of the lyrics be his own.
Gulzar followed suit in Mausam (1975), using Ghalib’s verse Dil dhoondhta hai phir wahi fursat ke raat din / Baithe rahe tasavvur-e-jaanan kiye hue… to initiate the name song emotionally sung by Bhupinder and Lata Mangeshkar .
In our present age, with people’s attention spans steadily diminishing, shortened ways of conversing, and concentration on other means of recreation, poetic traditions don’t seem destined to attract so much attention. (IANS)
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