8 March 1921
Ludhiana, Punjab, British India
|Died||25 October 1980
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Sahir Ludhianvi is the pen name of Abdul Hayee (8 March 1921 – 25 October 1980) who is popularly known as Sahir. Sahir was an Indian poet and film lyricist who wrote in the Hindi and Urdu languages. His work influenced Indian cinema, in particular Bollywood film. Sahir won a Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist for Taj Mahal (1963). He won a second Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist for his work on Kabhie Kabhie (1976) and he was awarded the Padma Shri in 1971. On 8 March 2013, the ninety-second anniversary of Sahir's birth, a commemorative stamp was issued in his honour.
Early life and education
On 8 March 1921, in a red sandstone haveli in Karimpura, Ludhiana, Punjab, India, Sahir was born to a Muslim family. His mother, Sardar Begum, left her estranged husband thus forfeiting any claim to financial assets from the marriage. In 1934, Sahir's father remarried and sued (acrimoniously and unsuccessfully) for custody of his son. Sardar Begum required protection from Sahir's father and suffered financial deprivation. Sahir's place of birth is marked with a small plaque on the building's arched entrance.
Sahir was educated at the Khalsa High School in Ludhiana. He then enrolled at the Satish Chander Dhawan Government College For Boys, Ludhiana. The auditorium there is named after him. As a college student, Sahir was popular for his ghazals and nazms (poetry in Urdu) and empassioned speeches. In his first year, however, he was expelled for fraternising with a female student on the principal's lawn.
In 1943, Sahir settled in Lahore. There, he completed Talkhiyaan (Bitterness) (1945), his first published work in Urdu. Sahir edited Urdu magazines such as Adab-e-Lateef, Shahkaar, Prithlari, and Savera  and became a member of the Progressive Writers' Association. However, when he made controversial statements promoting communism, a warrant for his arrest was issued by the Government of Pakistan. In 1949, Sahir fled from Lahore to Delhi. After Partition, Sahir moved to India as he missed his Hindu and Sikh friends who had fled from Pakistan and he preferred to live in secular India over an Islamic Pakistan. After eight weeks, Sahir moved to Bombay. He later lived in Andheri, a suburb of Mumbai. There, his neighbours included Gulzar, a poet and lyricist and Krishan Chander, an Urdu litterateur. In the 1970s, Sahir built a bungalow which he called Parchaiyaan (Shadows), after one of his works, and lived there till his death.
On 25 October 1980, at the age of fifty-nine, Sahir died a sudden cardiac death (he had been a smoker and drinker). He died in the presence of his friend, Rishi Kapoor. Sahir was buried at the Juhu Muslim cemetery. In 2010, his tomb was demolished to make room for new interments.
Sahir's work as a lyricist in the film industry gave him financial stability beyond his earnings as a poet. He made his debut with four songs performed in the film Azadi Ki Raah Par (1949). One of the songs was Badal Rahi Hai Zindagi. Both the film and its songs went unnoticed. However, after Naujawaan (1951), with music by S.D. Burman, Sahir gained recognition. Sahir's major success was Baazi (1951). Again, the composer was Burman. Sahir was then considered part of Guru Dutt's team. The last film Sahir made with Burman was Pyaasa. In Pyaasa, Guru Dutt played a poet named Vijay. After Pyaasa, Sahir and Burman went separate ways due to artistic and contractual differences.
Sahir did work with other composers including Ravi, Roshan, Khayyam and Datta Naik. Naik, a Goan, admired Sahir's poetry and their collaboration produced the score for Milaap (1955). From about 1950 until his death, Sahir collaborated with Baldev Raj Chopra (1914 - 2008), a film producer and director. Sahir's last work for Chopra was for Insaaf Ka Tarazu. Yash Chopra, an independent director and producer, also engaged Sahir.
In 1958, Sahir wrote the lyrics for Ramesh Saigal's film Phir Subah Hogi, which was based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment. The male lead was played by Raj Kapoor. It was presumed that Shankar-Jaikishan would be the composer but Sahir demanded a composer with a more intimate knowledge of the novel. Khayyam composed the film score. The song Woh Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi with its minimal background music remains popular. Khayyam collaborated with Sahir in many films including Kabhie Kabhie and Trishul.
Sahir was a controversial figure in that he was artistically temperamental. He insisted that the film score should be composed for his lyrics and not the other way around. He also insisted on being paid one rupee more than Lata Mangeshkar and this created a rift between them. Sahir promoted his girlfriend, Sudha Malhotra's singing career. He also insisted that All India Radio credit lyricists.
- "मैं पल दो पल का शायर हूँ, पल दो पल मेरी कहानी है
- पल दो पल मेरी हस्ती है, पल दो पल मेरी जवानी है
- मुझसे पहले कितने शायर, आए और आकर चले गए,
- कुछ आहें भरकर लौट गए, कुछ नग़मे गाकर चले गए
- वो भी एक पल का किस्सा थे, मै भी एक पल का किस्सा हूँ
- कल तुमसे जुदा हो जाऊँगा, जो आज तुम्हारा हिस्सा हूँ"
Sahir was different from his contemporaries in that he did not praise Khuda (God), Husn (beauty) or Jaam (wine). Instead, he wrote bitter yet sensitive lyrics about the declining values of society; the senselessness of war and politics; and the domination of consumerism over love. His love songs, tinged with sorrow, expressed his realisation that there were other, starker concepts more important than love.
Sahir might be called the "bard for the underdog". Close to his heart were the farmer crushed by debt, the soldier gone to fight someone else's war, the woman forced to sell her body, the youth frustrated by unemployment and the family living on the street for instance. Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India said he was moved by Sahir's lyrics in Pyaasa. Vijay, as he is passing through a red light area sings,
- "ये कूचे, ये नीलामघर दिलकशी के,
- ये लुटते हुए कारवां ज़िंदगी के,
- कहाँ है कहाँ है मुहाफ़िज़ खुदी के?
- जिन्हें नाज़ है हिंद पर,वो कहाँ हैं?"
Sahir's poetry has a Faizian quality. Like Faiz, Sahir gave Urdu poetry an intellectual element that caught the imagination of the youth of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and reflected the feelings of the people of the age. He roused people from an independence-induced smugness. He would pick on the self-appointed custodian of religion, the self-serving politician, the exploitative capitalist, and the war-mongering super-powers. Sahir wrote with verve about the arrest of progressive writers in Pakistan; the launch of the satellite Sputnik and the discovery of Ghalib by a government lusting after minority votes. He wrote Kahat-e-Bangal (The Famine of Bengal) at 25 years of age. Subah-e-Navroz (Dawn of a New Day), mocks the way people celebrate while the poor exist in squalor. Of the Taj mahal, he wrote,
- "मेरे महबूब कहीं और मिला कर मुझसे,
- बज़्म- ए-शाही में ग़रीबों का गुज़र क्या माने.
- सबत जिन राहों पर है सतबते शाही के निशां
- उसपे उल्फत भरी रूहों का गुज़र क्या माने?"-
The poet asks his lover to meet him anywhere else but at the Taj Mahal: although the tomb has been a symbol of luxurious monarchy for years, there is no need for beautiful (but not famous) hearts to travel to meet there.
Of his legacy, Sahir writes,
- "kal aur aayenge naghmo ki khilti kalian chunnewale, mujhse behtar
kehnewale, tumse behtar sunne wale;
- kal koi ujhko yaad kare, kyun koi mujhko yaad kare, masroof zamana mere liye kyun waqt apna barbad kare?"
- "Tomorrow there will be more who will narrate the love poems. May be someone narrating better than me.
- May be someone listening better than you. Why should anyone remember me? Why should anyone remember me?
- Why should the busy age waste it's time for me?"
- Mahmood K. T. (2000) "Kalām-i Sāḥir Ludhiyānvī. A collection of Ludhiavni's poetry with English translation.
- Abbas K. A. (1958) Shadows Speak: (Parchhalyan). 29 pages.
- Hassan R. (1977) The Bitter Harvest: Selections from Sahir Ludhiavni's Verse. 169 pages.
- Sucha S. (1989) Sorcery (Sahri): poetry. 
- Gaata jaye Banjara (1992). A collection of film lyrics.
- Bitterness: Talkhiyan
- आना है तो आ, sung by Mohammed Rafi, in Naya Daur (1957) O.P. Nayyar, composer.
- Jane Kya tune kahi, sung by Geeta Dutt, Jane Woh Kaise, sung by Hemant Kumar and ये दुनिया अगर मिल भी जाए तो क्या है, sung by Mohammed Rafi in Pyaasa (1957) S.D. Burman, composer.
- Chin-o-arab hamara, hindustan hamara, rehne ko ghar nahi hai, saara jahan hamara, sung by Mohammed Rafi in Phir Subah Hogi (1959) Khayyam, composer.
- तू हिंदू बनेगा ना मुसलमान बनेगा, sung by Mohammed Rafi in Dhool Ka Phool (1959) Datta Naik, composer.
- ये इश्क़ इश्क़ है, sung by Mohammed Rafi and Manna De in Barsaat Ki Raat (1960) Roshan, composer.
- ना तो कारवाँ की तलाश है, sung by Mohammed Rafi, Manna De, Asha Bhonsle and Sudha Malhotra in Barsaat Ki Raat (1960) Roshan, composer.
- अल्ला तेरो नाम ईश्वर तेरो नाम, sung by Lata Mangeshkar in Hum Dono (1961) Jaidev, composer.
- चलो इक बार फिर से अजनबी बन जाए हम दोनों, sung by Mahendra Kapoor in Gumrah (1963) Ravi, composer.
- तुम अगर साथ देने का वादा करो, sung by Mahendra Kapoor in Hamraaz (1967) Ravi, composer.
- मन रे तू काहे ना धीर धरे? sung by Mohammed Rafi and संसार से भागे फिरते हो, भगवान को तुम क्या पाओगे sung by Lata Mangeshkar in Chitralekha (1964) Roshan, composer.
- Tora Mann Darpan Kehlaye sung by Asha Bhosle in Kaajal (1965) Ravi, composer.
- ईश्वर अल्ला तेरे नाम sung by Mohammed Rafi in Naya Raasta (1970) Datta Naik, composer.
- मै पल दो पल का शायर हूँ sung by Mukesh in Kabhi Kabhi (1976) Khayyam, composer.
- कभी कभी sung by Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar in Kabhi Kabhi (1976), Khayyam, composer.
- aye meri zoharjabin (waqt) sung by Manna Dey, Ravi, composer.
- aagey bhi jane na tu (waqt) sung by Asha Bhonsle, Ravi, composer.
- Saathi haath badhana-naya daur sung by Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhonsle.
- मेरे दिल में आज क्या है (daagh ) sung by Kishore Kumar, Laxmikant Pyarelal, composer.
- Main zindagi ka sath nibhata chala gaya in Hum Dono (1961) sung by Mohammed Rafi, Jaidev, composer.
In 2010, Danish Iqbal wrote a stage play entitled, Sahir, about the poet's life. It was successfully directed by Pramila Le Hunt in its Delhi premier. It used song to narrate Sahir's life. Iqbal also wrote the play, Amrita: a Sublime Love Story. It was directed by M. S. Sathyu in a number of towns.
Sahir Ludhianvi: the People's Poet by Akshay Manwani The book is the product of interviews and writings about Sahir given by his friends such as Yash Chopra, Dev Anand, Javed Akhtar, Khayyam, Sudha Malhotra, Ravi Chopra and Ravi Sharma. The book also analyses Sahir’s poetry and lyrics in the context of his personal life. Sahir’s contribution to the Progressive Writers’ Movement is also discussed.
- 6th Filmfare Awards (1958), nominated for "Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist" for Aurat Ne Janam Diya's Sadhna
- Filmfare Best Lyricist Award (1964) for Jo Wada Kiya in the film, Taj Mahal.
- Filmfare Best Lyricist Award (1977) for Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein in the film, Kabhi Kabhie
- Coppola C. "Politics, Social Criticism and Indian Film Songs: The Case of Sahir Ludhianvi." Journal of Popular Culture 1977 10(4) p896-902. "Perhaps the best known and certainly the most legendary songwriter in Indian films today is Sahir Ludhianvi." Accessed 8 July 2015.
- "Padma Shri." My India. Government of India.
- "Sahir: A poet par excellence." Indian Express.com, 8 March 2006.
- "President releases a Commemorative Postage Stamp on Sahir Ludhianvi." Public Information Bureau, National Informatics Centre, India. 8 March 2013. Accessed 22 November 2015.
- "Sahir: The poet lives on." Tribune.com 24 October 2004.
- Pandit P. Sahir Ludhianvi: Life Sketch and Poetry Rajpal and sons, 1995, p12.
- Verma C. and Abid S. "Main Sahir Hoon" Star Publications. 2014. ISBN 817650629X (in Hindi).
- "Sahir Ludhianvi in Unki Nazar Unka Shahar." Rajya Sabha TV, 27 January 2012 at YouTube.
- "Sahir memorial." Tribune India.com 1 June 2005.
- "Biography – Sahir Ludhyanvi." Urdu Poetry.com Accessed 30 August 2011.
- "Biography." Down melody lane.com
- Pritam A. Rasidi Tikat
- "‘तुम्हारे शहर में आए हैं हम, साहिर कहां हो तुम’ (साहिर-1)" The Bhopal Post July 2010.
- Jaisinghani B. "Rafi, Madhubala don't rest in peace here." The Times of India 11 February 2010. Accessed 14 February 2010.
- Saran S. "Ten Years with Guru Dutt – Abrar Alvi’s Journey." p111-112.
- "Sahir Ludhyanvi – Chalo Ek Baar phir se Ajnabee." Cineplot.com 22 July 2010. Accessed 30 August 2011.
- "Taj Mahal speaks" Rehanqayoom poet blog. February 2012.[dead link]
- Mahmood K. "Kalām-i Sāḥir Ludhiyānvī. Star Publications, 2000. ISBN 9788176500302 Accessed at Google Books 19 november 2015.
- Abbas K. "Shadows Speak: (Parchhalyan)." P. P. H. Bookstall, Bombay 1958. Accessed at Google Books 19 November 2015.
- Hassan R. "The Bitter Harvest: Selections from Sahir Ludhiavni's Verse." Aziz Publishers, 1977, Lahore. Accessed at Google Books 19 November 2015.
- Sucha S. "Sorcery (Sahri): poetry. " Vudya Kitaban Forlag, Sollentuna, Sweden. ISBN 91-86620-05-3. Accessed at World cat.org 19 November 2015.
- Dutt S. "Fan-o-shaksiyat (Sahir No.)"
- "Sahir Ludhianvi: the People's Poet Harper Collins 2013.
- "Sahir Ludhiavni: the people's poet." Flipkart.com
- "The Nominees" Indiatimes Accessed 6 December 2011.
- Awards. imdb.com.
- Sahir Ludhianvi at the Internet Movie Database
- Sahir Ludhianvi Genius Global Council, Hydrabad
- Sahir ki qalam se – Site dedicated to Sahir Ludhianvi
- Sahir Ludhianvi at Urdu Poetry
- Sahir kahan ho tum?
- Sahir Ludhianvi at Kavita Kosh