Celebrating a Giant: The Majrooh show is dazzling musical delight

A musical evening was organized on May 31 as a tribute to Majrooh Sultanpuri. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar

Good poetry needs no occasion to be celebrated. Even less, do good lyrics. On of the mainstays of Hindi cinema in its first eight decades were great songs, written by master poets and lyricists who knew how to blend popular appeal with exquisite thoughts, all tailored to characters in specific situations in thousands of movies.

There were songs that made the stories on screen achieve an unprecedented dimension, ‘numbers’ of all hues that outlived the films themselves but made a permanent place in the hearts and minds of listeners. And among the foremost names in this hallowed department was the hakim (Unani medicine practitioner) from Sultanpur, Asrar-ul-Hassan Khan, better known to the world as Majrooh (the wounded soul) Sultanpuri, a poet who became a lyricist and earned the highest distinctions in both fields.

Not only was he honored with the prestigious Ghalib Award in 1980 and the Iqbal Samman in 1992, but he became the first-ever lyricist to win the highest honor ever in Hindi cinema—the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, in 1993. Having written about 2000 songs in over 250 films between 1946 (his debut in A.R. Kardar’s Shahjehan) and his death on May 24, 2000, the veteran not only worked with composers from Anil Biswas, who began in 1932, and Naushad, who had made his debut in 1940, all the way to the 1990s composers Jatin-Lalit, A.R. Rahman and Anand Raaj Anand.

On May 31, at Mumbai’s Deenanath Mangeshkar Sabhagriha, Miraj Events, in association with Andalib Sultanpuri, the lyricist’s son, held a show, “Majrooh—The Maverick Poet”, a 180-minute-plus musical extravaganza of the writer’s timeless hits presented by established stage talents like Miraj partners Rajessh Iyer and his wife Minal, Priyanka Mitra, Mohammed Salamat, Mukhtar Shah and Gul Saxena.

Sanjay Marathe, a film music veteran was the arranger and the show was wittily anchored by RJ Gaurav. The orchestra showed its mettle in many a song, especially with the musical piece of Honthon mein aisi baat from Jewel Thief. The show was in aid of the Pragatee Foundation and was produced by Mars Foundation.

With so many chartbusters and perennial gems to choose from, Andalib did admit that there would be multiple complaints from the audience (the hall was packed to capacity) about their missing favorite songs in the long playlist.

The timeless titan and longest-lasting lyricist of Hindi cinema had worked with almost every significant name, and some prominent combinations with multiple composers were either represented sparsely or not at all. Missing completely from the list were names like composers Ravi (China Town, Dilli Ka Thug), Madan Mohan (Dastak, Chirag and more), Chitragupta (Oonche Log, Aulad, Akash Deep etc.), Anand-Milind (Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak) and Ghulam Mohammed (Pakeezah). Roshan was also represented only with the farewell classic of the show, Rahe na rahe hum (Mamta).

Rajessh Iyer and Mohammed Salamat render a Kishore-Rafi song on the show. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar

The choice was clearly dictated by entertaining songs of varying hues with a touch of modernity in their orchestration, and also because originally, composer (Laxmikant-) Pyarelal was to be the Chief Guest but did not attend. The Guests of Honor were composer (Jatin-)Lalit Pandit and Shahid Rafi, son of Mohammed Rafi, who was among the most frequent singers of Majrooh’s songs. Both the guests took to the microphone, belting out J-L’s Pehla nasha (Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander) and Rafi’s Bade hain dil ke kaale (Dil Deke Dekho).

The first half of the show was dominated by Laxmikant-Pyarelal creations like Koi jab raah na paaye (Dosti), Na jaa kahin ab na jaa and Allah yeh ada (both from Mere Humdum Mere Dost), Haal kya hai dilon ka (Anokhi Ada), Mehboob mere (Patthar Ke Sanam), Ruk jaana nahin (Imtihan), Duniya pagal hai (Shagird) and Je hum tum chori se (Dharti Kahe Pukar Ke) while the post-interval segment began with the magnificent Taaron mein sajke (Jal Bin Machhli Nritya Bin Bijli).

R.D. Burman has scored music for the maximum films of Majrooh, and his work was also represented by Kahin karti hogi (Phir Kab Milogi), Tum bin jaaoon kahaan (Pyar Ka Mausam), Bangley ke peeche (Samadhi), O mere dil ke chain (Mere Jeevan Saathi), Lekar hum deewana dil (Hum Kisise Kum Naheen), Ek din bik jaayega (Dharam Karam), Aaj ki raat koi aane ka hai (Anamika), Piya tu ab to aaja (Caravan) and Aaja aaja main hoon pyar tera (Teesri Manzil).

Composers S.D. Burman (Khwab ho tum from Teen Deviyan and Yeh dil na hota  from Jewel Thief), Rajesh Roshan (Kya mausam hai from Doosara Aadmi  and Angrezi mein kehte hai from Khud-daar), Naushad (Mera pyar bhi tu hai from Saathi) and O.P. Nayyar (Jaiye aap kahaan jayenge from  Mere Sanam) were the other composers whose timeless beauties were presented.

The singers were excellent, and Priyanka Mitra and Rajessh Iyer stood out among them. Interesting anecdotes by the anchor as well as Andalib, Lalit Pandit and Shahid Rafi enlivened the melodious proceedings further.



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