Majrooh Sultanpuri was one of the three frontline lyricists who passed away at a ripe age—the other two legends being Anand Bakshi and Indeevar. With 250-plus films to his credit, and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1993 (Hindi cinema’s first lyricist to be so honoured by this highest award in cinema), Sultanpuri also remained an ace Urdu shaayar. In that field as well, he was conferred both the Ghalib Award and the Iqbal Samman for excellence in his literary works.
Majrooh Sultanpuri & The Lyricist’s Immortalised Tunes
Initiated into the nuances of songwriting by his first composer, Naushad, in Shahjehan (1946), Sultanpuri was a fast learner, and when writing for a film, he always thought of the character’s intellectual levels and background. Like with all legendary composers and songwriters, the song situation was paramount for this age-less wonder, and, as it happened, most of his favourite composers got him to write to already-composed tunes.
What else can explain his magical innings of about 2000 songs, many of which are timeless, ageless and full of youthfulness? Here are 12 songs that are hot favourites even with the current generation.
‘Aaj main oopar’/ Khamoshi—The Musical / 1996
Jatin-Lalit’s catchy tune was embellished by charmingly youthful words to celebrate the ecstasy of first love. Kavita Krishnamurthy rendered this frothy number with gusto, but what is worth remembering first and foremost is the fact that the 1919-born Sultanpuri was 77 when he wrote this for the 20-something Manisha Koirala!
‘Babuji dheere chalna’/ Aar Paar / 1954
No wonder Sultanpuri’s pen helped then-youngsters such as O.P. Nayyar, and later R.D. Burman, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Rajesh Roshan, Anand-Milind and Jatin-Lalit take off in their careers. Within this seductive melody by Geeta Dutt was a home-truth as well, suggesting the genius of this man in mixing spice with substance.
‘Bachna ae haseenon’/ Hum Kisise Kum Naheen / 1977
How many lyricists could rewind mentally to their youth to write such naughty, self-preening lines as ‘Bachna ae haseenon lo main aa gaya (Caution, girls, here I am)? With the combination of Rishi Kapoor grooving to this hep Kishore Kumar-R.D. Burman creation, Sultanpuri came up trumps in this all-hit score. When the film released, the lyricist was all of 58 years young!
‘Dil vil pyaar vyaar’/ Shagird / 1967
This playful mukhda might have been written off-the-cuff by composer Laxmikant, but after mock-reprimanding him, ‘Will you let me do my work my way?” the ace songwriter came up with an immensely effervescent Binaca Geet Mala topper of a song, filmed on a youthful Saira Banu and rendered by Lata Mangeshkar for Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
‘Haal kaisa hai janaab ka’ / Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi / 1958
The Kishore-Asha question-answer duet was written by Sultanpuri for another ageless wonder, composer S.D. Burman. The Ganguly brothers (Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Anoop Kumar)’s creation had Sultanpuri writing other bubbly songs as well, like Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si. But then most of Majrooh’s cream was about a film score, not just individual songs.
‘Humein tumse pyar kitna’ / Kudrat / 1981
Majrooh worked extensively for R.D. Burman, and the male version of this song (the female version was differently tuned for Parveen Sultana) remains cherished over four decades down as another Kishore Kumar-Rajesh Khanna evergreen.
‘O haseena zulfonwali’/ Teesri Manzil / 1967
This Rafi-Asha Bhosle duet probably ranks highest among the all-hit score of this Nasir Husain production directed by Vijay Anand in its youthful appeal. Teesri Manzil made the trade first notice the unique talent of R.D. Burman.
‘O mere dil ke chain’/ Mere Jeevan Saathi / 1972
The hypnotic combination of poetic lyrics and R.D. Burman’s irreplaceable tune has long outlasted the flop this film was. Kishore Kumar’s voice throbbed with passion, but then that was a compelling requirement because of Majrooh’s potent words for Rajesh Khanna.
‘Papa kehte hain’ / Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak / 1988
This youth anthem was Aamir Khan’s launch-pad as well as that of composers Anand-Milind and singers Udit Narayan (who sang this easy-on-the-ears ditty) and Alka Yagnik. Again, Sultanpuri was 69 when the film released, and propelled many new careers!
‘Pehla nasha’ / Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander / 1992
This was Jatin-Lalit’s first signed film. And for 30 years now, this song remains an anthem for youngsters, especially young lovers. Udit Narayan and Sadhana Sargam sang this beauty filmed on Aamir Khan and Ayesha Jhulka.
‘Piya tu ab to aaja’/ Caravan / 1971
How many cabaret numbers (a classic genre by themselves) from the past have recall value among the youngsters? Well, this R.D. Burman-composed and rendered (with Asha Bhosle) zinger probably tops the list. Even for those who have never watched the wonderful Helen perform.
‘Ruk jaana nahin’ / Imtihan / 1974
The Kishore Kumar-rendered theme song of the film was a soul-stirring melody composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal with Sultanpuri’s pen delivering super-inspirational words. The Vinod Khanna-Tanuja starrer had other hits too by the poet, including Roz shaam aati thi but this stunner remains in a league of its own.
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