Majrooh Sultanpuri: A lyricist who wrote for every mood, every genre

Majrooh Sultanpuri was the first lyricist who was given the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. He created songs for many moods and emotions. Most lyricists together couldn’t have done this

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media
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Iqbal Rizvi

It was the year 1994, he was 75-years-old and about fifty years he had spent writing lyrics for Hindi films. After writing more than 3000 songs for about 700 films, this poet was given the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1994. He is Majrooh Sultanpuri. He was the first lyricist who was given this award. He did not rest after that and continued writing till his last breath.

‘Gham diye mustakil, kitna nazuk hai dil ye naa jana…’ and  ‘Jab dil hi toot gaya to jeekar kya karnege…(Shahjahan, 1945) to ‘Aaj mein oopar aasman neeche..’ (Khamoshi the musical), Majrooh created songs for many moods and emotions. Most lyricists together couldn’t have done this.


Born on October 1, 1919, Asrar Ul Hasan Khan used Majrooh as his pen name. Since he belonged to Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, he became popular as Majrooh Sultanpuri. Two years before India gained freedom, Majrooh had come to Bombay to participate in a mushaira . At that time, famous film producer Kardar signed him up for writing lyrics for his new film Shahjahan. Majrooh wrote seven songs for this film which were composed by Naushad. These songs became popular and two of them ‘gham diye mustakil…’ and ‘jab dil hi toot gaya..’ transcended the boundaries of time and space and are still popular after 73 years.

After his first film, Majroh never looked back. Before Majrooh emerged on the scene of film lyrics, Aarzu Lakhnavi, Kedar Sharma and DN Madhok were popular lyricists. Majrooh learnt a lot from these three poets. He learnt that in film music, background score is more important than words. And film songs can be popular only in the language of the masses.

Film after film Majrooh’s style changed and became more refined with the changing generation of music composers. Gradually he became deft in expressing deeper and intense emotions in simple words of common language. It is a difficult task to make a list of the hit songs written by him. He was the only lyricist who wrote in all the styles right from a Qawwali, bhajan, mujra, cabaret to gazals and folk songs. He was the one who began the trend of writing a song in question-answer style. The mukhda of his songs was often very catchy and captivating. ‘Teri aankhon ke siva duniya me rakha kya hai’, ‘chirag dil ka jalao bahut andhera hai…’, ‘shaam-e gham ki kasam aaj gamgeen hain hum..’ are a few examples of the fascinating and profound way his songs began.

Majrooh’s journey in the film world was not an easy one. He believed in the communist ideology and faced many difficulties due to this, so much so that he even had to spend two years in jail because of his political beliefs. He worked with many talented composers but it was with Sachin Dev Burman that he gave many hits. Majrooh and SD Burman together enriched the Hindi film music with the melodious songs in films like Paying Guest, Nau Do Gyarah, Sujata, Kala Paani, Teen Deviyan, Jewel Thief etc.

When SD Burman’s son RD Burman joined hands with Majrooh, they gave melodies of a different kind — ‘Piya tu, ab to aaja..’ O mere sona re sona re sona..’ ‘Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko..’ and many more such songs which were vivacious, sprightly and hummable dance numbers.

By the end of seventies, many of Majrooh’s contemporary lyricists had either passed away or had bid farewell to the film industry. Film music was also changing rapidly. In such a phase too, whenever Majrooh got the opportunity, he wrote hit songs catching the pulse of the youth.

On May 24, 2000, he died in Mumbai. His songs have now become an integral part of the history of film music and are still loved by the film music lovers.

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