‘Naqsh’ ko fiqr raatain jaagti rahin,
Aaj woh so gaya sochte sochte
(‘Naqsh’ worried about nights that stayed awake,
Today, he sank into sleep brooding over it).
Born as Jaswant Rai Sharma in Faisalabad, Lyallpur in Pakistan, he chose Naqsh as his nom de plume along with Lyallpuri, out of love for his place of birth. Although he lived through communal violence during partition, displacement didn’t make Naqsh Lyallpuri bitter.
Humne kya paa liya Hindu ya Musalmaan ho kar
Kyon na insaan se mohabbat karain insaan ho kar
(What have we gained by pretending to be Hindu or Muslim,
Why shouldn’t we love human beings as fellow human beings).
Naqsh came to India in 1947, following Partition. After a brief stay at Lucknow, eventually he settled in Mumbai—where he breathed his last. He worked for a short while in a post office before he got a break for writing lyrics for Bollywood films in 1952. But it was only in 1970 when ‘Main tau har mod pe tujhko doonga sada’ sung by Mukesh became an instant hit.
Success and failure defy logic in Bollywood, he would often say. It was during the making of Henna in 1991 that director and filmmaker Raj Kapoor reportedly got teary-eyed on hearing his song Chitthiye: “Where have you been all this while, Naqsh Ji?” Raj Kapoor, however, died before the completion of Henna.
The poet—who was equally prolific in Punjabi—did betray his disillusionment at times, as in this lyric sung by Mohammad Rafi:
Jee karda hai is duniya nu,
main hass ke thokar maar deiyaan.
(I wish I could spurn this world with a smile.)
Known for simplicity and elegance, many of his love songs reflect a feeling of complete surrender, submission and devotion—hallmark of the poetry by Meer Taqi Meer— the 18th century bard from Delhi, who is remembered as Khuda-e-Sukhan (God of Urdu poetry). Sample this song from film Tumhare Liye:
Tumhe dekhti hoon, tau lagta hai aisay
....agar tum ho sagar, mein pyaasi nadi hoon.
(When i look at you, it feels......if you’re an ocean, i’m a thirsty river).
Even today, listening to his ghazals like Rasm-e-ulfat ko nibhaain to nibhaain kaisay, set to the tune in Raag Madhuvanti by iconic music composer, Madan Mohan and evocatively sung by Lata Mangeshkar in 1973, soothes aggrieved hearts, burning with hopelessness of unrequited love.
An unusual song written in the ghazal’s format: Yeh mulaqaat ek bahana hai (Khandaan – 1979) on the other hand, celebrates emotions of a love struck woman in the company of her man. The engaging composition and soulful rendition complement his immortal verses; and the song remains charming as ever.
Another evergreen song poignantly sung by Mukesh is Kai sadion se, kai janmon se—wherein he reflects emotions of a lovelorn heart pining for a love beyond the boundaries of time and space, counts among classics:
Rahon mein nazar aaya, apne he khayalon ka saaya
Kuch der mera mann lehraya, phir doob gai aasha ki kiran
(On the way, I came across shadows of my own thoughts
My heart swooned for a while, the ray of hope then went out).
Naqsh never believed in “excessive word play” and avoided “unnecessary embellishment”. In his poetry and life, Naqsh never bartered his values and ideals for material gains. A man of principles, he chose to live on his own terms and sometimes regretted that his family would’ve lived comfortably had he made some compromises. In one of his interviews, he stated: “My life would have been different but I was never a street-smart person. I’m not bitter about it. A person is nothing but the product of choices one exercises in life.”
Logo, darana chhod do tum waqt se mujhe,
Ye waqt baar baar mujhe aazma chukka
(Folks, stop reminding me of the times/ Times have tested me again and again).
Naqsh belonged to idealist school represented by Shailendra, Sahir, Kaifi, Majrooh and Shakeel Badayuni—a time when songs were composed to be sung by commoners and not meant just to be heard and viewed. Their songs invariably embodied dignity and grace.
After having worked with music directors like Naushad and Khayyam, in the changing times—when rhythm and sound took over melody and words—Naqsh satisfied himself with script-writing for some TV serials.
Palat kar dekh lena jab sada dil ki sunaai de
Meri aawaz mein shayad mera chehra deekhaai de
(Do turn around on hearing the call of heart,
You may get to see my face in my voice).
Even though Naqsh Lyallpuri is gone, the sweetness and melancholy of his melodious lyrics and intense poetry will continue to linger on—for long.
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