The wind rattled the projector screen, making the imagery fluid as the monsoon clouds threatened to pour down. The sound check produced a cracking sound with music pieces played at various audio levels to choose the perfect balance. We adjusted the lights to create a feeling and a presence. We also tried to induce a mood so that at least for a couple of hours people could leave behind their worldly pressures and absorb themselves in the magical world of words. We had planned to discuss film lyricist in conjunction with Urdu.
After we introduced a packed audience to mehfil and welcomed the guests. We handed it over to Shama Zaidi Apa to talk about how songs and lyrics have been an integral part of our films, after which Salim Arif Saab extended the conversation. He brought up an interesting point about how we may forget the film, the actors, the crew but the songs and its lyrics get a life of their own outside the film and transcend through generations.
Javed Siddiqui Saab spoke about prolific lyricists like Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azmi and Shahryar. He mentioned his involvement with Shahryar in the film Umrao Jaan and that gave us a keyhole view of the man and the poet. He mentioned that these poets adapted their work to the mainstream such that they managed to bring the viewer to their level of understanding their work and hence elevating the quality of films churned out in that period.
The conversation was interspersed with medley of songs, which have been written by Sahir Ludhianvi and Shahryar’s In Ankhon ki masti ke from the film Umrao Jaan.
Sohail Warsi spoke about Majrooh Sultanpuri the lyricist whose contribution to Indian cinema has been immense not only with the quality of his work but also for the quantity of years that he has written. In every decade for the last sixty years you will find a gem of a Majrooh Song. We had the pleasure of having amongst us Majrooh Sultanpuri’s Daughter Saba Sultanpuri who recited a riveting poem written by her father.
We played a medley of songs written by Majrooh Sultanpuri, which encapsulated a song from different periods of cinematic history. With the ending of the song Pehla Nasha from the film Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, there was an interval.
The fragrance of chai and conversations about these lyricists wafted through the air for ten minutes until everyone settled down once again, yearning for more.
We commenced the second half of the session wherein Rahana Undre a lady doing her Phd in film lyrics and Urdu spoke about Lyricists Shakeel Badayuni and Rajendra Krishan giving a brief biography about them. Another pleasant surprise was in the form of Shakeel Badayuni’s son Javed Badayuni who spoke about his father giving the audience interesting anecdotes which helped in bringing gentle smiles on their faces.
We played Chaudhvin ka Chand from the film Chaudhvin ka Chand and Teri mehfil mein from Mughal-e-Azam
Time was flying away and compelling us to wrap up the evening, so we breezed through lyricists from the current era, Gulzar Saab and Javed Akhtar Saab. Saim Arif explained that the two lyricists come from very different background and thus have very distinctive styles.
Two hours is not enough to even briefly mention the plethora of good writing and lyricists that exist in our cinema, which is an inherent part of our cultural heritage. Urdu is as much part of our DNA as hindi cinema is. We just need to scratch the surface and there, it stares back at us.