Asrar ul Hassan Khan (1 October 1919 − 24 May 2000), better known as Majrooh Sultanpuri, was an Indian Urdu poet. He is known for his work as an Urdu poet, and as a lyricist and songwriter in the Bollywood film industry, where he wrote Hindustani lyrics for numerous Bollywood soundtracks.
He was one of the dominating musical forces in Indian cinema in the 1950s and early 1960s and was an important figure in the Progressive Writers' Movement. He is considered one of the finest avant-garde Urdu poets of 20th century literature.
In his career spanning six decades, he worked with many music directors. He won the Filmfare Best Lyricist Award in 1965 for "Chahunga Main Tujhe" in the film Dosti, and the highest award in Indian cinema, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for lifetime achievement in 1993. In the 1980s and 1990s, most of his work was with Anand-Milind, their most notable collaborations being Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Lal Dupatta Malmal Ka, Love, Kurbaan and Dahek.
He also wrote timeless classics with Jatin-Lalit for films like Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (including the song Pehla Nasha) and Yaara Dildara (including the song Bin Tere Sanam), which are still heard to this day on the airwaves.
Majrooh Sultanpuri was born as Asrar ul Hasan Khan in a Pathan Muslim family, in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where his father was posted in the Police Department in 1919/1920. His father, though, a police officer, was not too keen on his son receiving English education and Majrooh was therefore sent for traditional 'Madrasa education' which led to his obtaining the qualification first of Dars-e-Nizami – a seven-year course which concentrated on religious affairs along with proficiency in Arabic and Persian- and then the certificate of Alim. He thereafter joined Lucknow's Takmeel-ut-Tib College of Unani medicine (Greek System of Medicine). He was a struggling Hakim when he happened to recite one of his ghazals at a mushaira in Sultanpur. The ghazal was a hit with the audience and Majrooh decided to drop his fledgling medical practice and began writing poetry seriously. Soon he was a 'regular' at mushairas and a "shagird" i.e. disciple of the then top name in Urdu Mushairas viz Jigar Moradabadi. While Majrooh is popular as a film lyricist and is widely known in that capacity, be it known that he also created one of the best-known verses of Urdu poetry:
"Main akela hee chala tha janibe manzil magar, log saath aate gaye aur carvan banta gaya!" (I set off alone towards the destination but people joined in and soon it became a caravan!)
In 1945, Majrooh visited Bombay to attend a mushaira at the Saboo Siddique Institute. Here his ghazals and poetry were highly appreciated by the audience. One of the impressed listeners was film producer A.R. Kardar. He contacted Jigar Moradabadi who helped him to meet Majrooh. However, Majrooh refused to write for films because he didn't think very highly of them. But Jigar Muradabadi persuaded him, saying that films would pay well and would help Majrooh to support his family. Kardar then took him to music composer Naushad who put the young writer to test. He gave Majrooh a tune and asked him to write something in the same metre, and Majrooh wrote Jab Usne Gesu Bikhraye, Badal Aaye Jhoom Ke.... Naushad liked what he wrote and Majrooh was signed on as the lyricist of the film Shah Jehan (1946). The songs of the film became so immensely popular that K.L. Saigal wanted Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya to be played at his funeral.
Film Shah Jehan (1946) was followed by S. Fazil's Mehndi, Doli (1948), Mehboob's Andaz (1949) and Shahid Latif's Aarzoo. Just as Majrooh was establishing himself as a lyricist and songwriter of repute, his leftist leanings got him into trouble. The government wasn't amused by his anti-establishment poems and he was jailed in 1949 along with other leftists like Balraj Sahni. Majrooh's arrest took place during a nationwide arrest of communists after the 2nd Congress of the Communist Party of India in which the communists had decided to carry out a revolution against the Indian government. Majrooh was asked to apologise, but he refused and was sentenced to two years in prison. While he was in prison, his eldest daughter was born. During this time his family experienced considerable financial difficulties. Raj Kapoor commissioned a song ("Ek Din Bik Jayega Maati Ke Mol") from Majrooh for his 1975 film Dharam Karam which he paid him Rs. 1000 for the song.
Majrooh's political beliefs were further manifested when his second daughter married the son of the Urdu writer and socialist Zoe Ansari. Toward the end both Majrooh and Zoe Ansari were disenchanted with the direction socialism had taken in the Soviet Union and China. Their desire to better the lives of the masses found an outlet in their writings.
Awards and recognitions
Majrooh went on to write lyrics for popular films throughout the 1956s. Along with Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Khumar Barabankvi Majrooh was considered the most notable ghazal writer. Majrooh won his only Filmfare Best Lyricist Award for the song "Chahunga Mein Tujhe Saanj Savere" from Dosti. He was also awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1993. He was the first lyricist to win the prestigious award named after Dadasaheb Phalke.
Association with Nasir Hussain
Majrooh and Nasir Hussain first collaborated on the film Paying Guest, which Nasir wrote. After Nasir turned director and later producer they went on to collaborate in several films, all of which had huge hits and are some of Majrooh's best remembered works:
- Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957)
- Dil Deke Dekho
- Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon
- Teesri Manzil (1966)
- Baharon Ke Sapne
- Pyar Ka Mausam
- Caravan (includes the song Piya Tu Ab To Aaja)
- Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973)
- Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1977)
- Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai
- Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)
- Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (1992)
- Akele Hum Akele Tum
Majrooh also was instrumental in introducing R.D. Burman to Nasir for Teesri Manzil. The trio worked in 7 of the above-mentioned films. Burman went on to work in 2 more films subsequent to Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai.
Majrooh Sultanpuri had been suffering from lung disease for some time and had a severe attack of pneumonia and died in Bombay on 24 May 2000. He was aged 80 at the time of his death. Municipal corporation of sultanpur built a garden "Majrooh Sultanpuri Udyaan" in his memory near diwani chauraha.