On Faiz's Centennial in Boston
By Siraj Khan
Ten years ago, a dear family friend and a diehard fan and Faiz admirer, Zaheer Kidvai produced a DVD on Faiz called Aaj ke Naam, which truly is a collector’s item. It is this wonderful media work, which inspired me to try and cover an aspect of Faiz, which is relatively less discussed and even less written.
Despite Faiz’s full-time commitment to progressive writing, socialistic ideals and classical poetry, as well as his journalistic career, he still somehow found time to flirt with films in some way, because of his strong belief in the power of the cinema, which he felt could be used to send a strong message across to a wider audience. He played an integral role in two films during the early decades of Pakistan’s film industry.
One of them was in A.J. Kardar’s direction, called Jago Hua Sawera, made in EP/Bangladesh, and released in May 1959 and the second was Sukh ka Sapna, directed by that brilliant cameraman and director, Masood Parvez, which was released in January, 1962. In Sukh ka Sapna, Noor Jahan’s numbers, Shaam hui ghar aaja and Hum tere paas aaey sarey sitambhula ke were penned by Faiz. There were other numbers too, but they did not become as popular. The movie ran for just six days.
Later, due to his ideological stance, Faiz was unable to connect himself too closely with the film industry, as he was time and again banned in the media, and found it hard to maintain the continuity with his film lyrics. However, film-makers continued to take his soul-stirring nazms and ghazals for their films. His poetic lines have inspired the leading phrases of numerous memorable songs like Aaj kee raat saz-e-dil pur dard na cherr, which was sung by Noor Jahan for the Indian film, Jugnu. After partition, the famous Indian film, Mehel contained Faiz’s Donon jahan teri mohabbat main haar ke.
In Pakistan, when Khalil Qaiser and Riaz Shahid created that hit film, Shaheed, released in 1962, composer Rasheed Attre made some exceptional tunes for the famous nazms and ghazals of Faiz and Munir Niazi. A slightly changed version of Faiz’s masterpiece, Nisar main teri galiyon pe was sung by Munir Hussain.
Munir Niazi’s Uss bewafa ka shehr hai, picturized on Masarrat Nazir was also a big hit. In Riaz Shahid’s Farangi, Mehdi Hasan’s famous rendition of Gulon main rang bharey was picturised on Alauddin, while another poem, written on an American couple who were executed in 1953 namely Hum jo tareek rahon main marey gae sung by Mala, was also included and filmed on a blind Pathan girl, played by Shamim Ara.
Ae roshniyon ke shehr and Ab yahan koyi nahi koyi nahi ayega are other songs which come to my mind, where his poetic lines became the leading phrase of popular songs.
Apart from these, who can ever forget Noor Jahan’s classic rendition of Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na maang, which was included in Najam Naqvi’s Qaidi, released in June 1962. It was, again, fabulously composed by Rasheed Attre and picturized on Shamim Ara. Much later, Faiz’s poetry found its way into a film, which highlighted the conditions that led to the creation of Bangladesh. It was A.J. Kardar’s Qasam Uss Waqt Ki, the title song of which was penned by Josh Malihabadi and sung by Habib Wali Mohammad. Faiz’s free verse, Manzilain manzilain was composed beautifully by Sohail Rana and sung equally well by Mehdi Hasan. Also Faiz’s ghazal, Sab qatl hoke tere muqabil se aaey hain was sung by Farida Khanum for this film. But perhaps the most endearing number of the film was by Mujeeb Alam, who sang Iss dhoop kinarey shaam dhaley beautifully, which they still play on the radio sometimes.
I cannot possibly end without mention about Faiz’s friendship with film icon Khwaja Khursheed Anwar. Faiz was a year older and their friendship developed during college days, remaining close friends throughout their lives. In fact, in those days Khwaja Sb used to write Urdu poetry so well that Faiz actually used to ask him to write love letters and ghazals on his behalf, when he was in love with a girl in Lyallpur. Khwaja Sb produced some unforgettable films like Intezar, Koel, Jhoomar, Zehr-e-Ishq, Haveli, Chingari, Ghunghat, Heer-Ranjha, etc. They truly used to enjoy each other’s company, but it was perhaps the sound of silence of each other’s presence, the cigarette smoke-filled room, over-flowing ashtrays and dozens of cups of tea, that provided the mahaul for their collective creativity. Mere pia ko dhoond ke lao sakhi, which Faiz penned for KKA’s film Ghunghat, is considered to be a shining star of their creative partnership.
In his last days, Khwaja Sb was very ill and had lost all hope of living. When Faiz went to see him in the hospital, he tried to console the patient by saying that as he was a year senior, Faiz will go first and will wait to receive him. However, Khwaja Sb left for the Creator on 10/30/84. Faiz joined his dear friend exactly 20 days later on 11/20/84.
If Faiz was alive at 100, he would ask Muslims for that fountain of wisdom, from where they seem to have learnt that the sword may have now become mightier than the pen.