It is often said that ‘melody was queen’ in the 60s, 70s and 80s. I would say that it was ‘queen’ because the words (or lyrics) were the ‘king’. The combination had created a ‘musical kingdom’ that continues to rule our hearts, and stir our souls. Imagine for a moment that ‘era’ to be ‘non-existent’! I am sure it will slump your heart in deep despair. And, why not?
The indisputable wordsmith Sahir Ludhianvi would taunt singers and composers (Lata Mangeshkar and SD Burman) that without rich and meaningful ‘lyrics’, they had little to show to the world. Perhaps an arrogant statement, but decades later I wonder if he wasn’t ‘right’. Teamwork for sure, but what would it be without quality words and the embedded multilayered meanings! I leave it upon you to make a sense of it.
Although it is tough to pick one from the amazing group of poets/lyricists of those days, I am taking liberty to talk about Dadasaheb Phalke laureate Majrooh Sultanpuri. Revolutionary in spirit but romantic at heart, Majrooh Saab created some 2,000 songs of impeccable verses.
If you were to make a selection, and I am sure more than one-third if not more half of your choicest songs would have his poetic expressions. Did you hum any of these: ऐसे तो न देखो, के हमको नशा हो जाये or चाहूँगा मैं तुझे, साँझ सवेरे or चुरा लिया है तुम ने जो दिल को, नज़र नहीं चुराना सनम or इक दिन बिक जायेगा, माटी के मोल or तुम बिन जाऊँ कहाँ, के दुनिया में आके or even ऐसे न मुझे तुम देखो, सीने से लगा लूँगा.
Not surprisingly, all the above songs belong to Majrooh, and I purposefully picked on these to not let go the context of my narrative. There is more to his memorable contribution, and I will try bring out one of his classy number of lyrical imagination, and deep philosophy.
Asit Sen was a Bengali filmmaker who made some classics viz., ‘Mamta’, ‘Khamoshi’ and ‘Safar.’ If you have missed out on any of these, I suggest you better get hold of these movies for what these have on offer. You will not regret but will surely do if you miss out. Of all Majrooh’s lyrics for the film, the one that stands out is रहें ना रहें हम, महका करेंगे. Lata’s voice is composed by Roshan.
When you listen to this song, mark the couplets for what these convey. जब हम न होंगे तब हमारी खाक पे तुम रुकोगे चलते चलते could be a tribute as much to Majrooh Saab as to the loved ones whose memory continues to haunt us. The melancholy is evident but it helps us embrace reality that nothing ever is lost if we accept this verse – रहें ना रहें हम, महका करेंगे बन के कली, बन के सबा, बाग़े वफ़ा में.
In a sense, it guides us to love and appreciate everything that is around us to continue to feel the presence of all those whom we loved, and may have lost to the world. The songs features Dadamuni Ashok Kumar and irresistible Suchitra Sen.