The extraordinaire of Majrooh Sultanpuri
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The extraordinaire of Majrooh Sultanpuri

He always made sure to keep political symbolism alive with his words.

The extraordinaire of Majrooh Sultanpuri

Chura Liya Hai Tumne Jo Dil Ko is one of the many golden songs that still tops everyone's retro playlist. This song and many more were penned by Majrooh Sultanpuri- one of the finest Urdu poets and film lyricists of all time.

Born as Israr Hassan Khan on the eve of Eid in Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh, his birth year is a debatable issue. According to Akhtar Farooqui, he was born in 1918, whereas some other source mentions the year 1919. The date, however, unanimously has been decided on October 1. Khan was sent to a Madrassa, where he learned Urdu, Persian, and Arabic. Like most families, his father, a constable at Sarai Mir Police Station, did not want him to pursue music. He was thus sent to Unani medicine to train as a traditional physician.

In the years of his studies, he got himself enrolled in a music school. His poetic journey thus began at an early stage, and he used his pen name 'Naseh.' In his youth, he fell in love with a girl but could not receive her affection. He thus changed his pen name to 'Majrooh' (the wounded). When his father learned about Majrooh's music school, he stopped him from learning music. Out of choice, he practiced as Hakim, but his fate wanted something else.

Being unsuccessful in his practice, he soon started reciting poetry at various Mushairas (poetic soirees) in Sultanpur. Jigar Muradabadi was the one who shaped his poetic temperament and took him to Bombay's Mushaira in 1945. This is what kickstarted his career as a film lyricist. Film director AR Kadar, who was present in the audience, was impressed by Majrooh and hired him as a lyricist. Since then, Majrooh has written innumerable songs for Bollywood and the Bhojpuri film industry.

Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya, Thaare Rahiyo, Oh Mere Dil Ke Chain are one of the many songs he wrote, which are still on everyone's lips.

Majrooh was skeptical about being known as a Bollywood film lyricist. Though this identity earned him recognition and many awards. He, however, always made sure to keep political symbolism alive with his words. He could keep the meaning of Ghazals intact when it saw a fall. He also named his collection of poems 'ghazals.'

To distinguish himself from film lyricists, he also penned revolutionary poems for which he had to go to jail. Unlike mainstream Urdu poetry of love and longingness, his poems spoke of breaking the chains of oppression.

Dekh zindan se parey rang-e-chaman josh-e-bahar
Raqs karna hai to paon ki zanjir na dekh

(Look beyond the prison walls what flowers have bloomed, at the exuberance and fervour of spring
If you want to dance, don't look at the shackles of your feet)

He also wrote in protest of the Nehru Government, where he compared Nehru with Hitler:

Aman ka jhandaa is dharti pe
kisne kaha lahrane na paaye
ye bhi koi Hitler ka hai chela,
maar le sathi, jaane na paaye!
Commonwealth ka das hai Nehru
maar le sathi, jaane na paaye!

(Such unease with our flag of peace! Is it some protégé of Hitler, or a mere slave of the Commonwealth? It is Nehru, my friends. Take him by the collar lest he gets away)

He refused to apologise for what he wrote. As a result, he was put behind bars, and even then, he continued to compose. As a member of the Communist Party and All India Progressive Writer's Association, he also followed the slogan of Yeh Azaadi Jhoothi Hai and when the movement weakened, he wrote:

Hum ko junoon kya sikhlate ho, hum the pareshan tumse zyada.
Chaak kiye hain ham ne azizon chaar gareban tum se ziyada.

He also saw sometime underground and was arrested for protesting against the arrest of Faiz Ahmed 'Faiz' in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. He breathed his last on 24 May 2000 but is still remembered through his words.