(Updated: May 24, 2020) First ever lyricist to win the Dadasaheb Phalke award, Majrooh Sultanpuri was in a league of his own. Seamlessly switching between writing for commercial cinema and ghazals, Majrooh saab was also a prominent member of the Progressive Writer’s Movement in the pre-independence India. His career spanning six decades, saw some of the finest gems in Hindi cinema. Songs that will continue to live on in our hearts.
Today, on his 20th death anniversary, here’s recalling 8 of his most memorable songs:
1. Tere Mere Milan Ki – Abhimaan (1973)
Majrooh’s lyrics are one of the most crucial elements of possibly the most heart wrenching finales in Bollywood. Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan’s tearful reunion in Abhimaan is effective because somewhere each one of us yearns for that reconciliation with a lost loved one. And Majrooh chooses the perfect words to express both the uncertainty and hope apparent only in the eyes of a lover while his/her body language betrays the feelings.
Tere mere Milan ki ye raina
Naya koi gul khilaayegi,
Tabhi to chanchal hai tere naina, dekho na
The first stanza offers a vivid picture of how the repenting couple sees their future. Shedding their egos aside, they’ve finally accepted each other to make a better future instead of the past suffering.
Nanha sa gul khilega angna
Sooni baiyyaan sajegi sajna
Jaise khele chanda baadal mein
Khelega voh tere aanchal mein
The second stanza is about the proactive efforts the protagonists are willing to put in to be happy. It is a refreshing and progressive thought as expectations are realigned with hard work and a changing mindset.
Tujhe thaame kayi haathon se
Miloonga madbhari raaton se
Jagaake ansooni si dhadkan
Balamava bhar doongi tera mann
Nayi adaa se sataayegi
Majrooh saab’s ability to weave complex thoughts with the most subtle suggestions makes this song one of the greatest of all time.
2. Raat Kali Ek Khwab – Buddha Mil Gaya (1971)
Rarely has any lyricist tackled the subtle but complex feeling of growing love. Majrooh Sultanpuri uses the perfect metaphor for fondness turning into deep affection with raat kali ek khwab mein aayi, aur gale ka haar hui.
Only a skilful poet could have conveyed such an inexplicable feeling with such simplicity and earnestness.
Ankhon mein kajal, aur laton mein kaali ghata ka basera
Saavli surat, mohni murat, savan rut ka savera
Sultanpuri saab perfectly captures the essence of the song which is the deep emotional connect with your lover rather than surface level beauty. And it’s apparent in the following lines:
Yun to Hasino ke, mahajabeeno ke, hote hai roz nazaare,
Par unhe dekh ke, dekha hai jab tumhe, tum lage aur bhi pyare.
Majrooh’s lyrics blend in organically with Hrisihikesh Mukherjee’s middle class values and sensibilities to create one of the most evergreen songs in Hindi cinema.
3. Chura Liya Hai – Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973)
How often do female leads declare their love unapologetically in Bollywood films? And despite the courage, Sultanpuri saab imbues that slight unmistakable vulnerability that a confident woman might experience with words like:
Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko, nazar nahi churana sanam.
Badal ke meri tum zindagani, kahin badal na jaana sanam
The lyrics are a masterclass in combining ‘dignity’ with ‘playfulness’ and ‘sexy.’ Sample the following lines and admire the poet’s skill:
Sajaonga lut kar bhi, teri badan ki daali ko
Lahu jigar ka dunga, hasi labo ki lali ko
He managed to perfectly balance tease and earnestness, fitting the words into the tune almost organically. The writer doesn’t unnecessarily use complex words. Each word has its place in the song and they are as pure as raindrops.
It is a testament to the great lyricist that this song is used even today, both as a reference and remembrance.
4. Ja Ja Ja Bewafa – Aar Paar (1954)
Ja Ja Ja Bewafa is to the 50s era what Tanhai (Dil Chahta Hai) is to the 2000s. An iconic song that every jilted lover adored, Ja Ja Ja Bewafa made Majrooh a household name. The deep dejection of unrequited love, a trademark Guru Dutt theme, is prominent in the lyrics.
The despondency is absolute as neither prayers nor pain seems to move the lover. Even the question of life and death is unanswered, thereby providing no closure.
Dil ki har jafa dekh li,
Beasar dua dekh li,
Kuch kiya na dil ka khayal,
Ja teri wafa dekhli
Kyun na gam se aahe bharun,
Yaad aagayi kya kahoon
Bekhabar bas itna bata
Pyaar mein jiyu yaa marun
The words reverberate off the heartache which Guru Dutt carried with him all the time. It was a humongous task for a newcomer like Majrooh, but he grabbed the opportunity and did it justice.
5. Pehla Nasha – Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992)
Lyricists often struggle with staying relevant in modern times. Sultanpuri saab is that rare genius whose penmanship defied time. With Pehla Nasha, he etched himself in the minds of the young audience as strongly as he was revered by the generations prior.
No song defines first love better than Pehla Nasha in the Indian context. The words in sync with the music infuse a slow intoxication the first crush brings with it. The youthful innocence and dreams of everlasting intimacy couldn’t have been better said:
Udta hi firu, in hawaon mein kahin
Ya mein jhul jaaun in ghataon mein kahin,
Ik kardu aasman aur zameen.
Majrooh saab plays to the purest of youth’s emotions. The words remind you of the times when some of your most obstinate friends would become the most pliant, obedient kids talking to their crush. You would totally tease them but secretly end up behaving like them with your own crush.
Usne baat ki, kuch aise dhang se,
Sapne de gaya wo hazaaron rang ke,
Reh jaaun jaise mein haarke,
Aur chume wo mujhe pyaar se
Sultanpuri saab always kept it pure and simple which is the reason his lyrics remain relevant even 25 years after.
6. Rooth Ke Hamse – Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992)
His most underrated masterpiece is my personal favorite. We, so often, take our loved ones for granted. His gorgeously gloomy lyrics take us through this whirlwind of emotions related to the unimagined enormity of losing a loved one.
Rooth ke hamse kabhi jab chale jaaoge tum,
Ye na socha tha kabhi, itne yaad aaoge tum,
The incredulity and deep anguish is the essence of this song as it weaves a vivid picture of the sweetest moments of childhood sibling camaraderie.
Main to na chala tha do kadam bhi dum bin,
Phir bhi mera bachpan yahi socha har din,
Chod ke mujhe bhala ab kahaan jaoge tum
It pains to even think of the most important support in your life leaving you. And Majrooh saab’s sensitive lyrics pull on the precise strings of sibling love hate relationship. This one is dedicated to all the elder siblings (blood and otherwise) that have been the pillars of support in my life.
7. Papa Kehte Hai – Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)
Majrooh Sultanpuri’s versatility is incredible. How many lyricists can claim a spectrum of such distinct variety? One of his most famous creations is the most recallable college farewell songs.
His lyrics express emotions like making an identity, ambition, trepidation about future and just plain obliviousness about your career. Popular among youngsters of its generation, it’s as relatable even today.
The first stanza takes us through the varied ambitions of college graduates while the protagonist is still unsure about his career.
In the second, things get interesting where we realize that the protagonist indeed has a dream unlike any other.
Meraa toh sapna hai ek chehra, dekhe jo usako jhume bahar
Gaalo me khilatee kaliyo kaa mausam, aankho me jadu hontho me pyar
Banda yeh khubsurat kam karega, dil kee duneeya me apna naam karega
Meree najar se dekho toh yaro, kee meree manjil hai kahan
The words lend us a perspective on our character, who just wants to win hearts and be happy.
Majrooh Sultanpuri never lets the lyrics get too convoluted. His songs are accessible and relevant across generations, rendering his work timeless.
8. Rahi Manwa Dukh ki Chinta – Dosti (1964)
There are certain songs that stir the collective conscience and bring about a change in people’s outlook. In post-independent India, Majrooh Sultanpuri managed to do this almost single-handedly with this composition.
Dukh Ho Ya Sukh, Jab Sada Sang Rahe Na Koi
Phir Dukh Ko Apnaiye, Ke Jaye To Dukh Na Hoye
He brought a refreshing attitude to people that suggested suffering is nothing to be afraid of, in fact it is your best friend. There is never any heavy handedness in the lyrics. Your heart readily believes in the unique conviction which Majrooh brings to the lyrics.
Dur Hai Manzil Dur Sahi, Pyar Hamara Kya Kam Hai
Pag Me Kante Lakh Sahi, Par Ye Sahara Kya Kam Hai
Hamrah Tere Koi Apna To Hai
Sultanpuri saab skilfully and literally turns darkness into an illuminating path to happiness in the following stanza:
Dukh Ho Koi Tab Jalte Hai, Path Ke Deep Nigaho Me
Itni Badi Is Duniya Ki, Lambi Akeli Raho Me
Hamrah Tere Koi Apna To Hai
The song reminds us of how significant the job of a film lyricist is. The pen is not just mightier than a sword, it is inspiring in ways unimaginable and far reaching than any weapon in the world.
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