Remembering Majaz

This year is the 50th death anniversary of Asrar ul Haq or Majaz. Today he may be better remembered as an uncle of Javed Akhtar, but he was one of the most powerful Urdu poet that the Progressive Writer’s Movement produced in the thirties and forties. His alma mater still sings the tarana penned by Majaz, and the rendition of ae gham e dil kya karoon can still be heard in the shimmering, silken voice of Talat Mahmood. Unfortunately, Jagjit Singh’s last memorable singing (for the serial Kahkashan) is not popular or easily available- it had included some excellent renditions of Majaz’s poetry.

Majaz’s life was short, he rose like a star but collapsed soon in his unrequited love for a married woman and alcohol.

Majaz’s poetry, in my humble opinion, was very rich in metaphor and his poetry was embellished with some of the finest metaphors in Urdu poetry after Mirza Ghalib. Sample the following from his most famous verse awaara:

ik mahal kii aa.D se nikalaa vo piilaa maah_taab
jaise mullaah kaa amaamaa jaise baniye kii kitaab
jaise muflis kii javaanii jaise bevaa kaa shabaab

Some of his qalam is avalable here.

One of my favourites is the ghazal with the following maqta:

is mahafil-e-kaif-o-mastii me.n is anjuman-e-irafaanii me.n
sab jaam-ba-kaf baiThe rahe ham pii bhii gaye chhhalakaa bhii gaye

His poem on a little girl visiting the temple with her mother is another favourite. Even as the five year old girl bows her head in prayer, her mind is occupied by the toys in the house. It is a beautiful poem striking in the portrayal of a child and her pre occupations amidst the life guided by older people. It is reminiscent of Tagore’s numerous poems on the theme in Gitanjali.

Majaz was one of the poets in the famous scene in Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa along with Majrooh and Jigar Moradbadi. In fact, he recites one of his ghazal (roodade-gham-e-ulfat), as does Jigar recite a couplet as well (kaam akhir jazba). Guru Dutt captured both art and life in that one memorable scene.

Some of his poetry, or at least his radeefs were used (plagiarized?) by other lyricists like Hasrat Jaipuri. This may remind you of a popular Rafi number Chalkey teri aankhon se sharaab aur ziyada.

He drank himself to death, and in that he was typical of a generation of Muslim Urdu poets who found themselves lost in the decades that brought about the partition. Most of them were typically leftists and found themselves kafirs in Pakistan and their language treated as that of the mlechhas in India.

Today, Majaz is remembered merely as an uncle of the lyricist (and an average poet) Javed Akhtar. Whether that is heartening or merciful is difficult to say. Some people are just born on the wrong side of history.

You may like to read this English translation of Madhav Moholkar’s memoir as well.

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7 thoughts on “Remembering Majaz

  1. Good work Bhupinder Bhai. Majaz was astonishingly refreshing poet and the most loved poet of his era.
    His anectdotes and sense of humour was tremendous. His unrequited lover affiar with Zahra and then his addiction to liquor all made him a unique poet. His collection ‘Ahang’ is remarkable. I love his Aawara and of course, the famous ghazal:
    Kuchh tujh ko hai khabar ai shorish-e-dauran hum kya kya bhool gaye/
    woh zulf-e-pareshan bhool gaye woh deeda-e-giryan bhool gaye
    sab ka madawa kar dala apna madawa kar na sake/Sab ke gireban see dale apna gireban bhool gaye

  2. Thanks for your comment. And thanks also for reminding of some more couplets by Majaz!
    You are absolutely right- he still remains a very refreshing poet.

  3. Thank you for your comment and this wonderful tribute.

    I have those ghazals by Jagjit and Vinod Sehgal with me, I will try to do something about them.

    Would you mind if I post at your translation of that article on Sahir?

    I would keep on adding new stuff on my website, hope you would find something interesting.


  4. Nice post, Bhupinder – thanks! Coincidence – I was going through some stuff a couple of weeks ago and was struck by the very lines you quoted:
    “jaise muflis kii javaanii jaise bevaa kaa shabaab”.

  5. Sheetal: Glad that you liked the post. In this particular line, both metaphors convey a sense of tragic desolation and waste, yet the line is so flamboyant.

    Years after I first read ‘awaara’, these lines continue to mesmerize.

    This youthful tragic- flamboyance is what I feel is a major distinction between Faiz, Majaz and Sahir. Though all three of them share a very common perspective and even similar literary expression, Faiz on the whole comes across as quietly and sublimely contemplative- specially the ghazals written from the Hyderabad and Montgomery jails in 1953-54- and Sahir as quiety melancholy, but Majaz is exuberant, not always but more than Faiz or Sahir- he is closer to Jigar in that respect.

    Sahir’s gloom is uncannily personal (relatively speaking), and beyond a point he resigns himself (see my earlier comment on
    Khoobsoorat Mod
    ), while in Majaz- particularly in this nazm, there is a strong expression of personal angst.

    Faiz would have reasoned and urged protest, Majaz, towards the end of the nazm, converts the angst into a highly personalised revolt.

    Sepoy: Its a pity Guru Dutt did not get Majrooh to recite nor did he get Sahir there in the movie!

    Majaz was Faiz’s contemporary, but because of the nature of his poetry and also because Majaz died soon after that scene in Pyaasa was shot, he will always be remembered as a young poet (like Shiv Kumar Batalvi in Panjabi).

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