Akhlaq Mohammed Khan-The UMRAO JAAN lyricist: Interview

He is the man behind the unforgettable lyrics ‘Dil cheez kya hai’ from the 1981 classic ‘Umrao Jaan’. Urdu academician and poet Akhlaq Mohammed Khan ‘Shahryar’ has stayed away from film music for years and says he can never write for today’s songs as they just provide instant gratification.

Umrao Jaan
Umrao Jaan

New Delhi, March 23 (Calcutta Tube) He is the man behind the unforgettable lyrics ‘Dil cheez kya hai’ from the 1981 classic ‘Umrao Jaan’. Urdu academician and poet Akhlaq Mohammed Khan ‘Shahryar’ has stayed away from film music for years and says he can never write for today’s songs as they just provide instant gratification.

‘The songs that are being made nowadays – I can’t write such songs. It’s not that I am against those songs but I know I can’t write like that. That is why I am not writing for films any more. When a film is being made where my songs would be suitable and needed, then I will definitely write,’ Shahryar, now 73, told IANS in an interview.

The lyrics of songs from ‘Umrao Jaan‘ like ‘In aankhon ki masti‘ and ‘Justuju jiski thi’ still continue to find fans, but the poet who penned the words refrained from being active in Bollywood soon after his first outing as a lyricist.

Asked the reason, the poet said: ‘After ‘Umrao Jaan‘, I did write lyrics for more films. One of them was ‘Anjuman‘ made by Muzaffar Ali and many more that unfortunately could not release due to certain circumstances.’

‘Then there was one called ‘Habba Khatun Zuni‘. All the songs got recorded; in fact the film also was almost complete, but because of the Kashmir issue it got shelved. Then there was one called ‘Gaman‘ that also got shelved.

‘Another reason for my absence from the Bollywood scene was that I don’t consider myself a professional lyricist, plus I don’t live in Mumbai,’ he added.

Shahryar, who lives in Aligarh, was awarded the 1987 Sahitya Akademi Award in Urdu for his poetry collection ‘Khwab Ka Dar Band Hai’. He retired as chairman of the Urdu Department at the Aligarh Muslim University in 1996.

The poet, who likes the works of lyricists like Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Kaifi Azmi among others, says that songs made today are not evergreen, unlike the ones in earlier decades.

‘Nowadays songs are not evergreen. They are being made on ‘throw away’ culture. One day they are the most famous songs but after a month nobody listens to them. This is because most of them lack melody,’ said Shahryar, who has come out with poetry collections like ‘Ism-e-azam’, ‘Satvan Dar’ and ‘Hijr Ke Mausam’.

‘Also, it’s a myth that people today only like music made in today’s times. One should go to the music shops…it will become clear that old songs and ghazals witness massive sales. People are going to buy such music as well,’ said the poet, who was in the capital to participate in the Shankar-Shad Mushaira.

Asked how important a place music has in society, he said: ‘The foundation of society is laid on art, music, culture and poetry. You can’t call a man educated if he is not exposed to at least any one of these…This exposure is very important.’

(Ruchika Kher can be contacted at ruchika.k@ians.in)

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Review

I saw the original movie when I was 10 back in 1982. Remakes of a successful film are always difficult because to many they will never live up to ones expectations. This one by JP Dutta was a great effort. Aishwariya looked and acted great and Abhishek had a haunting presence. And Shabana Azmi is her usual excellence. The music is wonderful – Anu Malik’s stuff here is reminiscent of his “Refugee” soundtrack (which overall was better) but there are some real gems here especially “Tumhari mehfil mai aa gai hai” (gives me shivers). For many of us this movie will be nothing new – if you have seen the original or “Pakeezah” or even “Memoirs of a geisha”. But it there are new and younger audiences out there who really should give it a try. –platform47.com

Review

A film like Umrao Jaan is not for the laity. The movie’s setting (19th century Lucknow), its story, its characters and the dialogues they speak, nothing conforms to the cinematic tastes of a contemporary viewer. Yet the heart-rending tale of Umrao Jaan stands out for a sensitive viewer to empathize with. And full credit should be given to J.P. Dutta for sensible, skillful direction and to Aishwarya Rai for her emphatic performance.Umrao Jaan is the story of a woman whose life is filled with one misfortune after another. She is jilted in love, she is raped, she is turned back by her own estranged brother and mother. But Umrao Jaan forgives them all and resigns to her fate.Arguably, Aishwarya Rai has given the best performance of her career so far in this movie. She captures the nuances of her character convincingly. She credibly brings forth the longings, unfulfilled desires and pain of Umrao Jaan. Although she spends the major part of the second half weeping and crying, never does she make it look melodramatic. A commendable performance indeed.Eminently watchable if you are an Ash fan. –platform47.com

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