Sahir Ludhianvi wrote songs of the people. They were the public philosophies that informed moral values and attitudes of the society, expressed Javed Akhtar, acclaimed poet, lyricist, screenplay writer and social activist. He was speaking at the ongoing 20th Pune International Film Festival (PIFF) where he delivered the Vijay Tendulkar Memorial Lecture.
Dr. Jabbar Patel, veteran filmmaker and the festival director of PIFF was also present on the occasion. The lecture was conducted at PVR Icon, Pavilion mall. This year’s memorial lecture was focussed on the writings of Sahir Ludhianvi in the honour of his birth centenary. Akhtar, who closely knew the legendary poet and lyricist, spoke at length about the art and craft of the poet. He said, “Sahir always wrote songs that could speak to people. Even his romantic songs included a reference to nature and made them bigger than just a man-woman relationship.”
Akhtar also highlighted that Sahir never took writing for films casually. Many of his poems which were published in books were also included as songs in the film. “The greatness of his poetry and lyrics is that most of them need not be sung or composed. One can just narrate them as poems and the words will still have the same impact,” added Akhtar. He further added that poets such as Sahir, Majruh and Shailendra were the products of the progressive writer’s movement and their ideology and politics informed their art.
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“Nowhere in the world right wing or fascist regimes have ever been able to produce a great poet. Poets are people who love and welcome the limitless possibilities of human life and relationships. Sahir was one of them,” said Akhtar. He further added that the songs that Sahir and the likes of him wrote were the songs that embraced humanism. “Rejection of values and hate cannot produce great art or poetry,” he said.
While narrating some of Sahir’s poetry that was included in films, Akhtar emphasized that a right combination of art and craft can produce a good poet. “Art cannot be good without a great craft. Any good art requires four elements namely simplicity, intricacy, forgetfulness and cleverness,” he said.
When asked about why Sahir’s songs are still relevant today and why today’s songs feel irrelevant to the current generation, he emphasized on the shift of society from having collective consciousness to giving more importance to individual aspirations. “Today’s music is fast and does not give much importance to words. Also, there are hardly any sad songs as if nobody ever faces a heartbreak or difficulties in their life.
Society is pretending to have bravado and to be happy. The embarrassment associated with the expression of loss or sadness has totally changed the dynamics of art and literature” He stressed that people often talk about how films are influencing society, but we must also talk about how society is influencing films. Akhtar also shared some of his memories of the veteran playwright Vijay Tendulkar. He called Tendulkar a man full of surprises as he was a gentleman with a soft voice in his personal life, but when he wrote, his words used to feel like fire.
He said that when he first came to Mumbai, he thought that only Hindi, Urdu and Bengali languages had prolific literature. “When I came to Mumbai, I happened to see the Marathi play named ‘Gidhade’ written by Vijay Tendulkar. It simply opened my eyes. I was embarrassed of myself for not knowing a great playwright like him.”
Akhtar also said that languages are made for communication but sometimes they become the barriers between people and cultures. “Literature created by authors like Ismat Chugtai, Krishna Chandra and Vijay Tendulkar transcended these barriers through their powerful writing.”