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Reflecting real more than reel

Reflecting real more than reel
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He was called the ‘Bard of the Underdog’. In those intensely melodramatic and emotional times when lyricists were constantly hunting for new metaphors...

He was called the ‘Bard of the Underdog’. In those intensely melodramatic and emotional times when lyricists were constantly hunting for new metaphors to describe religion and women, Abdul Hayee aka Sahir Ludhianvi, (1921-1980) refused to make them centre stage of his works.

With the music directors working with their own favourite wordsmiths by and large, he was one, if picked up for a movie assignment, used to insist that lyrics would be penned first and the tunes composed later and not the other way around. Along with all these idiosyncrasies, it is said that he insisted that he be paid a rupee more than Lata Mangeshkar, the top playback singer of those days. Do you need any more proof of the fierce, craft-conscious lot that writers were of that era?

Born in a fairly affluent background, Sahir, whose works were said to be inspired by Faiz came to be known as a ‘people’s poet’. By no means was he a rabble rousing pen pusher but had big banners like BR Chopra Productions and his younger brother Yash Chopra using his services throughout. His bitter, sensitive lyrics as the Wikipedia profile of his describes captured the ‘declining values of society, the senselessness of war over politics and domination of consumerism over love’. Ironic that that entire he saw as evils continue to plague modern society a good 40 years after his death.

Beginning with the iconic SD Burman and director Guru Dutt in ‘Baazi’ released in 1951, Sahir was responsible for the lyrics of many of the latter’s films in his first phase till ‘Pyaasa’. A host of music directors like Khayyam and Ravi repeatedly used his works.

Despite the conservatism overhang of Indian cinema, hypocritical at best, Ludhianvi led an open life as his affair with Punjabi writer Amrita Pritam was well known, other than many of his own dalliances, written about elaborately in an earlier column during his death anniversary.

He also dared to promote his girlfriend, Sudha Malhotra as a competitor to Lata Mangeshkar, a task easily imagined than executed, as the results show. Many a talented life has been lost to vices, the world over. Sahir’s death too at the age of 59 on March 8, 38 years ago is ascribed to his heavy smoking and addiction to liquor. Yet his words live forever in the minds and hearts of Hindi film music lovers.

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