Kolkata, January 2021.
“Sahir Ludhianvi’s song from the golden era `Man re tu kahe na dhir dhare’ captures our life’s reality and spirit during the Covid times. Sahir had a mastery over Hindi and Urdu and conveyed deep philosophical ideas in simple terms,” said UK-based television producer, director and author, Nasreen Munni Kabir, in conversation with ace journalist and film critic, Namrata Joshi, at an online session of Tete-a-Tea series organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation of Kolkata. The year 2021 marks the birth centenary of poet-songwriter Sahir Ludhianvi.
Film aficionados and booklovers logged in from across the country for an engaging and nostalgic session that focused on Bollywood’s iconic songwriter, lyricist and poet of yesteryears, Sahir Ludhianvi, who was born on 8 March,1921, in Ludhiana and came to Delhi from Lahore after Partition. Sahir’s Hindi film songs became immensely popular and even today, generations later, till echoes in our minds and has not lost its appeal.
Nasreen Munni Kabir has been promoting Indian films abroad for over five decades and has made over 100 programmes and docu-features on Bollywood legends. She has authored over 20 books on Bollywood icons and her latest book “In the Year of Sahir 2021 Diary” – conceived as a collectible diary – is a paean to the legendary songwriter-poet. Prabha Khaitan Foundation has gifted this unique Diary to all its Ehsaas Woman associates across 35 cities in India.
Responding to Namrata Joshi’s question – How did you discover Sahir? Nasreen said, “Honestly, to me, it was Pyaasa. The cinema was shown in London and it was the songs. The Urdu was difficult so I didn’t understand the whole meaning of his words. But I think he is amazingly romantic in one way, but underneath that there is a layer of melancholy which struck me. He described emotions in very simple and effective terms but there is a sad ending. They are not happy songs. I think the romantic songs that we remember are the sad ones. When we are sad, we listen to sad songs and not the disco songs. He really connects to people who are discerning and caring about the world but have a tinge of melancholy in the idea of romance.”
Commenting on what made Sahir’s lyrics stand out, Nasreen said, “Most of the Urdu poets of that era had to work in films in order to earn money because publishing was not paying money so much. Sahir worked with Arnold brothers and Chetan Anand. So from the very start, he was not working for C-grade films but with the top people of the era like Dev Anand and Sachin Dev Burman, who were very educated and sophisticated. He was moving in an educated milieu. He was not asked to lower the tone of his lyrics ever.”
“The most difficult thing was to appeal to everybody. One can only do that if he masters something and speaks in a very straightforward language. When one knows something, he or she will say it simply. Sahir knew how to use the language and in what context. He also knew the character and wrote poetry, lyrics and the song to suit the character of a particular film,” Nasreen said. Nasreen, however, believes that a film is made by a team and not just a director. It is more so in the Hindi cinema because there are various fragmentations in the creation of the film. But the director chooses the right person for each fragment and Sahir Ludhianvi always measured up to their expectations.