Book Review: ‘Sahir Ludhianvi – The people’s poet’ explores a poet’s mind



“Thukra raha tha mujhko badi der se jahaan, main aaj sab jahaan ko thukra ke pii gaya”
(The world has ignored me far too long. Today, having spurned the world, I drown myself in liquor).

Writing an unbiased biography isn’t a cakewalk, especially when it’s on someone like Sahir Ludhianvi who is known to have ruffled feathers with the stalwarts of the Indian Film Industry, including SD Burman and OP Naiyyar, to name a few. The book, ‘Sahir Ludhianvi – The People’s Poet’ by Akshay Manwani chronicles the poet and lyricist’s journey in documentary film-like style.

Unlike other biographies, Akshay Manwani deliberately avoids the route of banal trivia and anecdotes glorifying him. Instead, the author shares an unbiased account of Sahir and leaves on the reader to interpret him.

“Tumhaare ahad-e-wafaa ko main ahad kya samjhoon? Mujhe khud apni mohabbat ka aitbaar nahin”
(How do I believe your promises of fidelity? When my own ability to love remains in doubt)

The love story of Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam or relationship with Sudha Malhotra never reached fairytale endings and were eventually aborted midway by the poet and lyricist. Like he wrote in the song from ‘Gumraah’: ‘Woh afsaana jise anjaam tak laana na ho mumkin, usey ek khoobsurat mod dekar chhodna acha’ (The story which cannot be brought to a happy ending, it is better to give it a beautiful turn and leave it).

Sahir, though, explained his bachelor status as: “I am not against the institution of marriage, but as far as I am concerned, I have never felt the real need to get married. In my opinion, the relationship between a man and a woman may not necessarily be confined to a relation between husband and wife.”

“Maana ke is jahaan ko gulzaar na kar sakey, kaantey kuch kum hi kar gaye, guzrey jidhar se hum.”

(I agree, I could not change this world entirely, but hopefully, I made it a better place to live)

An active member of the Progressive Writers’ Movement, Sahir Ludhianvi had a knack for infusing his philosophy in his lyrics and resonated with people’s conscience. His songs like ‘Jinhe naaz hai Hind par’ from Pyaasa, ‘Yeh desh hai veer jawaano ka’ from Naya Daur and ‘Jaagega insaan zamaana dekhege’ from ‘Aadmi aur Insaan’ reaffirm this fact underlined by author Akshay Manwani.

Sahir, in his own words writes:
“Films are the most effective medium of our age. If they are used to bring about constructive and positive change, people’s thought processes and social progress can be influenced greatly and very rapidly.”

In the book, Gulzar states, “Sahir Ludhianvi merged his poetry and social conscience in all his songs, but he totally refused to learn the film medium, and wrote only what he wanted. He is the only poet whom the industry accepted as he is, with his language, his vocabulary and his imagery.”

Javed Akhtar muses, “Majrooh Sultanpuri was more lyrical than Sahir, but, if I may say so, not as responsible as Sahir. He has written much more than Sahir. But he made compromises.”

“Kal aur ayenge nagmon ki khilti kaliyan chunnewale,
Mujhse behtar kahnewale tumse behtar sunnewale,
Kal koi mujhko yaad kare, kyun koi mujhko yaad kare,
Masroof zamana mere liye, kyun waqt apna barbaad kare?”

(Tomorrow, other lyricists will come, adding beauty to every song. There will be better writers than me, better listeners than you. Who will remember me tomorrow, why should I be remembered tomorrow? The busy inhabitants of this world, why should they waste their time for me?).

On a parting note, I would like to share this gem of an anecdote from ‘Sahir- The people’s poet’:
Sahir ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam had met at an Asian writer’s conference. Their identity batch had been interchanged by mistake and when someone pointed this out, Sahir laughed. He said the organizers made a mistake and they i.e. Amrita and Sahir chose not to correct it. Many years later, when Amrita came to know about Sahir’s sudden death at midnight, she thought: death had wanted to knock on my door but went to his instead, since the badge carrying my name was attached to his coat.



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