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Jan Nisar Akhtar – The Genteel Giant Of Lyrical World

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अशआ’र मिरे यूँ तो ज़माने के लिए हैं
कुछ शेर फ़क़त उन को सुनाने के लिए हैं

Jan Nisaar Akhtar, the descendant of the lineage of his father Muztar Khairabadi (Iftikhar Hussain-Real Name) and a proud father of Javed Akhtar, had a career in poetry that spanned for over four decades. Born 18th February 1914, in a family of scholars and poets, inherited a favorable environment for poetry. He was married to Safiya Siraj-ul Haq, a scholar herself and sister of a well known poet Majaz Luckknawwi.
He came to Mumbai in 1949 and became a member of Progressive Writers Movement. A total of 10 of his collections of his work has been published. he has written about 151 songs in hindi films and worked with reputed music directors like C. Ramchandra, O.P. Nayyar and Madan Mohan. He has written many ghazals, Thumris and folk songs. His avoided use of Arabic or Persian words as influence in his poetry. His thought was to make the urdu language more popular with the masses

Starting with his first film Yasmin (1955) with the music director C. Ramchandra. Picturised on actor Suresh. A song with a lot of Arabic influence as the story demands. Unusual thing about the song is the actor as well as supporting actor are seen dancing while playing the fiddle, which is not associated with dance. Starring Suresh, who is mesmerized with the beauty and dancing skills of Vyjayantimala. The song is while he is waiting for her as she had promised to come.
A song with simple lyrics and sung by Talat Mehmood composed by C.Ramchandra, is a hit and being sung even today

CID (1956)
A movie with all songs that were great and superhit. This song is the only one that is wrriten by Jan nisar Akhtar whereas all other songs are written by Majrooh Sultanpuri. Another speciality of this song is that it is picturized on the lead pair unlike the other songs. Another facet of his writing which is playful and teasing. In Javed Akhtar’s words, “father was too versatile to establish a poetic identity”. The music is composed by O.P Nayyar. It is said that O P Nayyar once said to him, “यार! तुम्हारे गीतों में शायरी बहुत होती हैं…..”. He replied, “शायरी के बग़ैर मैं कोई गीत नहीं लिख सकता दोस्त, मैं फिल्म छोड़ सकता हूँ, शायरी नहीं……”.

Shankar Hussain (1976)
Released in 1976, and almost a forgotten movie. A very melodious song sung by Lata Mangeshkar, composed by Khayyam has very llovely lyrics.The song is picturized on Madhu Chanda and Kanwaljeet.
gungunaati rahi meri tanhaayiyaan
door bajti rahin kitni shehnaayiyaan
zindagi zindagi ko bulaati rahi
aap yun Faaslon se guzarte rahe

Anarkali (1953)
Again a unique song from a musical blockbuster. C. Ramchandra was approached for this movie with a condition that all songs picturized on Bina Rai will be sung by Geeta Roy (Dutt). He declined. Basant Prakash, was then signed as the music director for the film. He recorded just one song and because of his illness, the producer approached C. Ramchandra again. C Ramchandra recorded all songs with Lata Mangeshkar and songs were written by multiple lyricist. This song is created by an entirely different musical team than the other songs of this movie. it is sung by Geeta Dutt, written by Jaan Nisaar Akhtar and music is composed by Basant Prakash.This song was still retained in the movie.

Razia Sultan (1983)
A historical movie but did not make it to the box office. But the music of this movie did better. Lata Mangeshkar in this song reminded of her songs from the older films. Quoting from a blog The emotion on ‘Dil-e-Naadaan’ shows how empty the heart is of any positive feels or filled to the brim with sadness…this contrast yet equivalence of the two emotions is depicted so ably that you shudder!!!”
kya qayaamat hai….kya musibat hai….zindagi jaise…hairan hairan hai
Then the long pause….ye zameen chup hai… ….aasman chup hai pause…fir ye dhadkan si… and so on. The speciality of this composition is the use of pauses. The lyrics depicts extreme pain and the longing for love.

Mr India (1961)
I choose this song not because all the songs but one in this film is written by Jan Nisar Akhtar but for a coincidence. 26 years later, a film with the same name was made in 1987. His son Javed Akhtar wrote songs for this film. As Javed Akhtar says, he learn to write Lucid poetry from his father, they bonded over poetry. Although father-Son relationship was not very cordial.
The lyrics speak about reality of the world. Although written in 1961 it is relevant even today. Music by G.S Kohli.

there are many super hit songs written by Jan Nisar Akhtar that were composed by leading music directors. It would be difficult to include all. Just to name a few.
Piya piya piya – film Baap re Baap – O.P.Nayyar
Noori Noori – Film- Noori – Khayyam
Ye dil aur unki-Film Prem Parbat – Jaidev
Main tumhe se ye poochti hon- Black Cat – N Dutta
Mujhpe ilzam e bewafai- Yasmin – C Ramchandra

Anything on Jan Nisar Akhtar will not be complete without mention of Safia Akhtar, his wife, his support. Her letters to him were an inspiration. Safia herself in one of her letters writes: ” Come and I’ll give you such a kiss on your forehead which will have a mother’s “Shafqat” (loving care by an older person) a sister’s pride, a wife’s sacrifice and a friend’s warmth all in one.“
In one of the letters, writing about Javed Akhtar she writes, “Mujhe faatehana masarrat hoti hai iske zehanat aur dimaagh ko dekhkar. Maine tumhaare behtereen unsur neechodkar apna liya hai. Lekin tumne bhi kuch nahin khoya,” (I feel a joy of accomplishment when I see his intelligence and his mind. I have made the best of you mine, yet you have not lost anything.)
During her illness he was in Bombay where he had gone to try his luck with writing film lyrics. He was a poet of high calibre but did not have much success in writing film songs. He did not visit his ailing wife in Lucknow because of financial problems but he did not say so. When he received the telegram that his wife’s condition was critical, an actress lent him the money for the ticket to Lucknow. He arrived after Safia’s death, went to the Grave yard, stayed by his wife’s grave the whole day and wrote “Khak-e-Dil”. I would urge that you read it as it shows the pain and grief that he felt standing at the grave.

Ending with one of my favourite non film ghazal that I started with. Sung by Anup Jalaota, again a name associated more with bhajans. Every single sher in this ghazal is beautiful.

I acknowledge referring to lot of articles and blogs on the internet while researching for this and these articles have helped me to understand a lot about Jan Nisar Akhtar. Tribute to this genteel giant of the lyrical world.

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