Majrooh Sultanpuri was part of the formidable quartet that ruled Hindi Cinema in the 1950s and early 60s, the others being Sahir Ludhiyanvi
, Shakeel Badayuni
but Majrooh Saab outlasted them all working right up to his death, his career spanning over five decades and over 350 films, many of them extremely successful at the box office.
Asrar Hussain Khan, aka Majrooh Sultanpuri, was born in Sultanpur, UP in 1919. Since his father was a sub inspector, he couldn't afford the more expensive English education for his son. Majrooh instead completed his seven year course of Dars-e-Nizamiani in Arabis and Persian and went on to take the degree of Alim. He then joined Lucknow's Takmeel-u-tib college of the Unani system of medicine. He was an established Haakim when he happened to recite of his ghazals in a mushaira held in Sultanpur. The ghazal was a big hit with the audience and Majrooh found his calling. He chucked his prosperous medical practice and took to writing poetry seriously. Soon he became a fixture at the mushairas and became great friends with the renowned Urdu poet Jigar Muradabadi.
In 1945, Majrooh visited Bombay to attend a mushaira. Here his ghazals and poetry was greatly appreciated by the audience. One of the impressed listeners was producer A. R. Kardar. He contacted Jigar Moradabadi who put him onto Majrooh. But, Majrooh refused to write for the movies. He didn't think mush of them. But Jigar Moradabadi persuaded him, saying that movies would pay well and that would help support the family. Kardar took him to music director Naushad
, who put the young writer to test. He gave him a tune and asked him to write something in metre, and, Majrooh wrote "Jab Usne Gesu Bikhraye, Baadal Aaye Jhoom Ke..". Naushad
saab liked what he wrote and Majrooh was signed on as the lyricist of Shahjahan. The songs 'Kar Lijiye Chal Ke Meri Jannat Ke Nazare..' and 'Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya..' became immensely popular. K. L. Saigal
liked 'Jab Dil Hi..' so much that he wanted it to be played at his funeral.
Shahjahan was followed by S. Fazil's Mehndi, Mehboob's Andaaz and Shahid Latif's Aarzoo. Just as Majrooh began establishing himself as a lyricist of repurte, his leftist leanings got him into trouble. The government wasn't amused by his anti-establishment poems and he was put behind barn in 1949 along with other leftists like Balraj Sahni. Majrooh was asked to apologise to save his skin, but he refused and was sent to jail for two years. While he ws in jail, his eldest daughter was born. Those were the financially tough days for his family and there was no one to help. It was Raj Kapoor who came forward to help but he knew that Majooh wouldn't accept money like that. So he asked Majoor to write a song. Majrooh wrote 'Ek Din Bik Jayega Maati Ke Mol..' and Raj Kapoor gave him Rs.1000 for that.
Majooh Sultanpuri then went on to write lyrics for such movies as CID, Paying Guest, Tumsa Nahi Dekha, Sujata, Kala Pani, Bambai Ka Babu, Manzil, Aarti, Aar Paar, Mr. & Mrs. 55, Dilli Ka Thug, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Hum sab Chor Hain, Dil Deke Dekho, etc. Along with Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Majrooh was considered the most notable writer of ghazals. It was Majrooh's versatility that industry folk swear by. If he could write 'Jalte Hain Jiske Liye..' (Sujata) and ' Hum Bekhudi Me Tumko Pukare Chale Gaye..' (Kala Pani), he also penned 'Paanch Rupaiya Bara Aana..' (Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi) and 'C A T cat..' (Dilli Ka Thug). Majrooh enthralled listeners with his songs in Abhimaan, Kudrat, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Akele Hum Akele Tum, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa etc.
Majrooh Sultanpuri won his only Filmfare Award for Dosti. And that rankled the maestro a lot. He felt cheated. He couldn't digest the fact that lesser writers walked away with so many awards. He has written nearly 4000 songs, and his success rate in terms of popularity of songs was 95 per cent. So he couldn't understand was the criteria was for selecting the winners. He was disgusted when he lost for 'Pehla Nasha...' (Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar) and later for 'Aaj Main Oopar..' (Khamoshi).
Majrooh has a severe attack of pneumonia and was admitted to a hospital on May 16, 2000, where, he closed his eyes for - ever on May 24. It was a day of shock for all the music lovers and for the entire film industry. He has left us with his ever lasting poetries and melodious songs.