Wednesday, November 30, 2022

10 superbly lyrical songs by Majrooh Sultanpuri

When it came to longevity, Majrooh Sultanpuri was unparalleled as a lyricist. He had his first hit in the 1946 film Shahjehan, and continued to write till he passed away in 2000. In the 1990s, he created great songs in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander and Khamoshi: The Musical.

Though many of us known him for his work with filmmaker Nasir Hussain, or films like Dosti (1964), Abhimaan (1973) and Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988), there were also many masterpieces he wrote earlier in his career. To mark his 22nd death anniversary on May 24, we choose 10 such songs from the 1940s and 1950s. The order is chronological.

1. Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya – Shahjehan (1946)

When it comes to sad songs, this one comes high on the list, with Majrooh writing, “Jab dil hi toot gaya, hum jee ke kya karenge”. Music was by Naushad, and the song was sung by and filmed on the legendary Kundan Lal Saigal. The composition was in raag Bhairavi.

2. Uthaye Ja Unke Sitam – Andaz (1949)

One of Lata Mangeshkar’s early gems was composed by Naushad in raag Kedar. Majrooh used the ghazal style and wrote, “Uthaye ja unke sitam aur jeeye ja, yunhi muskuraaye ja, aansoon piye ja”. Lata’s singing was styled on Noor Jehan here. The song was filmed on Nargis with Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar making brief appearances.

3. Ae Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah – Arzoo (1950)

Talat Mahmood got his break with this song, composed by Anil Biswas. Majrooh wrote, “Ae dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal jahaan koi na ho, apna paraya meherban na-meherban koi na ho”. The song was picturised on Dilip Kumar.

4. Babuji Dheere Chalna – Aar Paar (1954)

This Geeta Dutt classic was shot on Shakila, who did a western dance with Guru Dutt looking on. Music was by O.P. Nayyar. Majrooh’s lines were, “Babuji dheere chalna pyar mein zara sambhalna, ho bade dhoke hain, bade dhoke hain is raah mein”.

5. Har Baat Puchhiye – Chandni Chowk (1954)

A highlight of this rare song was that it featured Lata, Asha Bhosle and Shamshad Begum, who were accompanied by a chorus. Music was by Roshan who used his trademark qawwali style. The words were, “Har baat puchhiye, yeh haqeeqat na puchhiye, haan har baat puchhiye, yeh haqeeqat na puchhiye, ae ji humko kisi se kyon hai, haan mohabbat na puchhiye”. Meena Kumari was the heroine.

6. Jaane Kahaan Mera Jigar – Mr & Mrs 55 (1955)

This frothy duet by Mohammed Rafi and Geeta Dutt was picturised on Johnny Walker and Yasmin, who appeared in very few films. Nayyar composed the music, with Majrooh writing, “Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji, abhi abhi yahin tha kidhar gaya ji; Kisiki adaaon par mar gaya ji, badi badi akhiyon se dar gaya ji

7. Yeh Hai Bambai Meri Jaan – CID (1956)

This iconic song captured the mood of ‘Bambai’ with some sarcasm in place about the difficulties of living there. “Ae dil hai mushkil jeena yahan, zara hatke, zara bachke, yeh hai Bambai meri jaan”, wrote Majrooh. Music was by Nayyar, with Rafi and Geeta Dutt singing. It was filmed on Johnny Walker and Kumkum. The song is relevant even today.

8. Mana Janaab Ne – Paying Guest (1957)

Majrooh wrote some great songs for S.D. Burman, and interestingly, both share their October 1 birthday, with the composer being 13 years older. This hit was sung by Kishore Kumar and featured Dev Anand and Nutan. The lines were, “Maana janaab ne pukara nahin, kya mera saath bhi ganwaara nahin, muft mein banke, chal diye tan ke, wallah jawaab tumhara nahin”. The film also had Lata’s evergreen ‘Chand Phir Nikla’.

9. Hum Hai Raahi Pyar Ke – Nau Do Gyarah (1957)

Dev Anand was seen driving from Delhi to Agra during this song sung by Kishore. S.D. Burman gave the music with Majrooh writing, “Hum hai raahi pyar ke hamse kuch na boliye, jo bhi pyar mein hua hum usi ke ho liye”. The whistle gave this song a unique flavour. The film also had the Kishore-Asha duet ‘Aankhon Mein Kya Ji Rupehla Baadal’.

10. Jalte Hai Jiske Liye – Sujata (1959)

Talat Mahmood’s velvet voice suited Sunil Dutt, who was shown singing this to Nutan over the telephone. S.D. Burman cast his magic again, and Majrooh wrote the intense lines, “Jalte hain jiske liye, teri aankhon ke diye, dhoondh laaya hoon wohi, geet main tere liye”.

While we have chosen songs up to 1959, the Majrooh magic was in full flow even ithrough the 1960s and beyond. He had his own style, and wrote for different moods. In the Nasir Hussain films Teesri Manzil, Yaadon Ki Baraat, Hum Kisise Kam Nahin and Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai, he wrote many breezy numbers for music director R.D. Burman. That could make another case study.

Narendra Kusnur
Narendra Kusnur is one of India’s best known music journalists. Born with a musical spoon, so to speak, Naren, who dubs himself Kaansen, is a late bloomer in music criticism. He was (is!) an aficionado first, and then strayed into writing on music. But in the last two decades, he has made up for most of what he didn’t do earlier.

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