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.