Sunday 28 October 2012

Forgotten partnership

I have been reading a lot of obituaries of the well known producer-director Yash Chopra whose sudden death on October 21st came as a shock to many as he seemed to be in good health just a month earlier when his 80th birthday (on 27th September) was celebrated with much fanfare in Bollywood, including a one to one session with one of his favourite actors, Shah Rukh Khan. However I found it sad that none of the journals/newspapers/web-sites seemed to remember or mention the strong relationship which Yash Chopra had with the doyen of Hindustani film lyrics – Sahir Ludhianvi till Sahir’s death in 1981.
Before embarking on his own with Daag in 1973, Yash Chopra used to produce films jointly with his elder brother  B.R. Chopra (under the banner, B.R Films) and together they gave us some great ‘socials’ like Dhool ka Phool, Dharamputra and Waqt. Sahir was the de facto song writer for the brothers he gave some memorable songs for these films-Tu Hindu banega na Musalman banega , Tere pyaar ka aasra chahata hun (Dhool ka Phool), Main Jab Bhi Akeli Hoti Hoon (Dhramputra), Ai meri zohrajabeen and the prophetic Aage bhi jaane na tu (Waqt).
When Yash Chopra decided to direct his first home production, Daag (Under Yash Raj films), the obvious choice for writing the songs was Sahir and he did not dissapoint.The movie’s music was a big hit with songs like Mere dil mein aaj kya hai and Jab bhi jee chahe. Sahir continued to write for all films directed by Yash Chopra subsequently –Joshila, Deewar, Kabhie Kabhie, Trishul and Kaala Pathar till his tragic death in 1981. Most of these movies like Deewar went on to cement Amitabh’s reputation as the angry young man and the soundtrack of these films (which was excellent otherwise) got overshadowed by the towering phenomenon of Amitabh. However, one movie which stands out mostly on the strength of its songs is Kabhie Kabhie which remained one of Yash Chopra’s personal favourites. The story itself was partly inspired by Sahir’s life (who had an affair with Punjabi poet Amrita Pritam but could not marry her because of her family’s reservation regarding his religion). The title song of the film Kabhi Kabhie mere dil mein khayal aata hai was adapted for the film by Sahir from one of his poems from his collection –Talkhiyan published in 40s. Amitabh essayed the role of a poet and Rakhee, his college sweetheart who subsequently gets married to Shashi Kapoor under parental pressure. The combination of Khayyam’s excellent music and Sahir’s powerful lyrics gave us one of the best soundtracks of Hindustani films. Also Amitabhs’ soliloquy - Kabhie Kabhie in his baritone voice remains unforgettable.
Yash was a fan of Sahir’s poetry even in his college days and used to carry a copy of Sahir’s poems with him. When he came to Mumbai to join his elder brother B.R. Chopra (for whose films Sahir was already writing songs), the first person he wanted to meet from the industry was Sahir. Before his marriage, Yash used to stay close to Sahir’s residence and they became good friends. Sahir was not an easy person to get along with but such was their friendship that Yash Chopra would change the music director as per Sahir’s likes and dislikes. Yash Chopra always wanted to work with S.D Burman but since Sahir had fallen out with S.D Burman post Pyaasa, the three of them could never work together.
Being a huge fan of Sahir, I once toyed with the idea of interviewing Yash Chopra regarding his relation with Sahir. I did make some feeble attempts to get in touch with him without any success. Looking at his excellent health I thought I had enough leeway to meet him and record the interview. Unfortunately, waqt proved otherwise.

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