Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Urdu poet Shaharyar passes away

Seene mein jalan aankhon mein tufaan saa kyon hain?
is shahar mein har shakhs pareshaan saa kyon hain?

These immortal lines, from the Hindi film Gaman, were born out of the pen of Aligarh-based Urdu poet and scholar, Shaharyar. Most lovers of Hindustani ghazals will remember his lyrics from the film, Umrao Jaan.

Dil chiiz kya hai aap merii jaan liiji'e
bas ek baar mera kahaa...maan liiji'e

Every time you see Madam Rekha in a Bollywood awards show, the above lines from Umrao Jaan are played in the background. These lines have become a signature, a shorthand for Rekha.

Well, the man behind these lines, the Jnanpith Award winning poet Prof. A. M. K. Shaharyar has passed away. I heard of his demise via Twitter this morning. The famous poet was 76 and was reportedly suffering from cancer. He is survived by a daughter and two sons.

Though Shaharyar Saheb was not as prolific as Javed Akhtar Saheb and Gulzar Saheb in film lyrics writing, his lyrics for films like Umrao Jan, Gaman and Fasle, are enough proof that he was a master of the genre.

Born in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, Prof. Shaharyar studied in Aligarh Muslim University, also my alma mater. He became a lecturer in the Urdu department in 1966 and rose through the ranks to assume the post of the department's chairman. He edited the Urdu literary journal, Fikr-o-Nazar. He retired from his job in 1996.

Shaharyar’s first poetic collection was ‘Ism-e-Azam’, published in 1965. It was followed by the publication of another anthology ‘Satwan Dar’ in 1969. I remember translating into English one of the poems from his fourth collection ‘Khwab Ka Dar Band Hai’ (1985). I have lost a copy of the same but it (my translation) was published in a literary journal in Aligarh. During my time in Aligarh, I also once had the opportunity of hearing him speak on Iqbal. He was a very erudite man and the legend was that his house had wall-to-wall bookshelves. He probably owned the richest private library in Aligarh.

For many festivalwallas, contemporary Urdu poetry begins and ends with Janab Javed Akhtar Saheb and Gulzar Saheb (no offense to them; I love them too). But Shaharyar Saheb was in a league of his own. It would be sad not to remember the contributions of this giant of modern Urdu poetry today, especially in an age when we are ready to shed tears for foreign musicians like Whitney Houston who died a victim of drug abuse. I know we live in a globalised world but let us not forget our own.

Rest in peace, dear Shaharyar Saheb.