Friday, May 24, 2013
Last Updated: 24 May 07:29 AM IST
15 September 2012
Raja Mehdi Ali Khan had a great sense of humour, which is clearly reflected in his comic songs, writes ac tuli
When we think of yesteryear Hindi film lyricists who excelled in writing ghazals, the names that immediately strike our minds are Majrooh Sultanpuri, Shakeel Badayuni, Kaifi Azmi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Sardar Jafri, Jaan Nissar Akhtar, Rajinder Krishan, Qamar Jalalabadi, and Hasrat Jaipuri All these writers had excellent command over the Urdu language which is considered a prerequisite for writing good ghazals. Surprisingly, lyricist Raja Mehdi Ali Khan who has penned some of the most charming ghazals for films has been almost forgotten.
Born in Karimabad (it’s in northern Pakistan now) in undivided India, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan lost his father when he was still a child. He was brought up and educated by his mother Hebay Saheba, a noted Urdu poetess of her time, according to Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal. There is, however, some confusion about the year in which he was born. Information available about him says that he was born in 1928, but the same source of information also says that in the early 40s he was working at All India Radio, Delhi. Well, that cannot be. Obviously, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan must have born earlier than 1928.
He came to Bombay at the instance of his friend Sadat Hasan Manto, noted Urdu short story writer. Manto was then scripting stories for films made by the newly-established company Filmistan with Ashok Kumar at the helm. Settled in Bombay, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan began by writing dialogues for films and even did a cameo role in the film ‘Eight Days’. But his heart was not in writing dialogues for films, nor in acting in them. He was a poet and therefore very keen on writing lyrics for films.
He got his first big break when he was asked to write lyrics for Filmistan’s ‘Do Bhai’ (1947), starring Kamini Kaushal, Rajan Haksar and Ulhas. Its music was composed by S.D. Burman. Two songs that Raja Mehdi Ali Khan wrote for this film are now considered evergreen classics of Hindi film music. The songs are, ‘Mera sundar sapna beet gaya…’ and ‘Yaad karo yaad karo ik din hum ko yaad karo ge’, both sung by Geet Roy (later Dutt) in her sad, tearful voice.
The partition of the country in 1947 was preceded by communal riots, but Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and his wife Tahira never thought of migrating to Pakistan. They decided to stay in India. Filmistan’s next film ‘Shaheed’ (1948) with Dilip Kumar and Kamini Kaushal in the lead gave this lyricist the chance to pen several memorable songs. The most famous song of this film was, ‘Watan ki rah hamen watan ke naujawan shaheed ho…’ Set to music by music composer Ghulam Haider and sung by Mohammad Rafi, Khan Mastana and chorus, it is one of our best patriotic songs from films.
In our film industry some yesteryear music directors were known for their preference to work with lyricists of their choice. Thus, in most of the films for which Naushad composed the music, Shakeel Badayuni was the lyricist. Similarly, Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri often teamed up with Shankar-Jaikishan and Sahir Ludhianvi-Roshan partnership always produced excellent songs. Raja Mehdi Ali Khan had his jugalbandi with music director Madan Mohan. It proved to be the most creative phase of his life. ‘Aankhen’ (1950) and ‘Madhosh’ (1950) were the two films with which Madan Mohan started his career as music director. Raja Mehdi Ali Khan was the lyricist for these films. The ghazal he wrote for ‘Madhosh’, ‘Meri yaad mein tum na aansoo bahana…’, was sung by Talat Mahmood in his rich, velvety voice so feelingly that it keeps haunting lovers of soft, sweet music even today. For ‘Ankhen’ his song, ‘Preet laga ke meine kya phal paya, sudh-budh khoee chaen gwaya…’, was a sad, melancholy song rendered by Mukesh in his inimitable baritone.
The songs for which Raja Mehdi Ali Khan-Madan Mohan pairing is remembered by connoisseurs of Hindi film music are, ‘Agar Mujh se mohabbat hai, mujhe sab apne gham de do…’ , ‘Mein nighahen tere chehre se hataoon kaise’, ‘Yehi hai tammana tere dhar ke saamne, meri jaan jaye…’ (Aap Ki Parchhaiyan, 1964), ‘Jo hum ne dastaan apni sunayee, aap kyo roye..’, ‘Lug ja gale key phir yeh haseen raat ho na ho’ (Woh Kaun Thi, 1964), ‘Aap ki nazron ne samja pyar ke qaabil mujhe…’, ‘Hai issi mein pyar ki aabroo, wo jaffa karein mein wafa karun…’ (‘Anpadh’, 1962), ‘Aap yun hee agar hum se milte rahe, dekhiye ek din pyar ho jaye ga…’, ‘Phir tere shehr mein lutne ko chala aaya hoon…’ (Ek Musafir Ek Haseena’, 1962), ‘Aap ko pyar chhupane ki burri aadat hai…’ (Neela Akash, 1965), ‘Aap ke pehloo mein aakar ro diye…’, ‘Naina barsey rimjhim rimjhim’, ‘Tu jahan jahan chale ga, mera saaya saath ho ga…’ (Mera Saaya, 1966), and ‘Ik haseen shaam ko, dil mera kho gaya…’ (Dulhan Ek Raat Ki, 1966)
Raja Mehdi Ali Khan had a great sense of humour, which is clearly reflected in the comic songs that he wrote for some films. Take, for instance, his song for ‘Aankhen’ (1950), ‘Hum se nain milana BA pass kar ke, hum se preet lagaana BA pass kar ke, BA nahin hoon lekin mein hun ishk mein MA pass…’ was a hilarious duet sung by Mukesh and Shamshad Begum. Another comic song that he wrote for ‘Anpadh’ (1962), ‘Sikandar ne Porus se ki thi ladayee, jo ki thi ladayee, to mein kya karoon’ was rib-tickling. Of course that naughtily romantic and comical song, ‘Jhumka gira re Bareli ke bazaar mein…’ in ‘Mera Saaya’ is an all time favourite of film music buffs.
Apart from writing lyrics for films, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan wrote poems and short stories for Urdu magazines like ‘Biswin Sadi’, ‘Shama Bano’, and ‘Khilona’. A collection of his poems was published in two books with the titles ‘Andaz-e- Bayan Aur’ and ‘Mizraab’.
Raja Mehdi Ali Khan was a good trencherman. He lived his life on his own terms. He loved palatable dishes. He used to say that whereas most people in this world eat so that they could live, he lived so that he could eat. So, his uncommon fondness for tucking into savory dishes was a topic of good-natured raillery among his friends. But, as the time passed, he acquired a good girth. Obviously, his growing obesity was not doing his heart any good. He died of cardiac arrest on 29 July 1966.