The Urdu poet and film lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri, who has died aged 80, was part of the 1950s golden era that established song as a significant idiom of Indian cinema.
He wrote more than 2,000 songs for more than 300 features, and his simple evocations of love, suffering and sacrifice transcended class and the era.
He was born Asrar Hasan Khan in Sultanpur, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. He dabbled with becoming a hafiz (teacher) of the Koran, or a physician. But poetry was his key interest. He adopted his pen name, which meant “wounded soul of Sultanpur”. He also joined the Communist party of India.
It was a chance meeting with film-maker AR Kardar at an assembly of Urdu poets which began his movie career. His first lyrics were for Kardar’s Shahjahan (1946). By the 1950s he was working with film-makers like Zia Sarhadi, Bimal Roy and Vijay Anand. His work ranged from the romantic to the funny – and weird.
Sultanpuri was the only lyricist of his generation who remained in demand, and kept writing. Some critics charged that he composed songs which were below his best during the last decade, but his rejoinder was that a lyricist had to change with the times.
He wrote two major collections of Urdu poetry, and was the first film lyricist to be honoured, in 1993, with the Dada Saheb Phalke Award by the president of India.
He is survived by his wife, Firdaus Jahan Sultanpuri, three daughters and a son.
Courtesy: The Guardian, London www.guardian.co.uk