Sahir Ludhianvi
2013 stamp featuring Sahir Ludhianvi by India Post
2013 stamp featuring Sahir Ludhianvi by India Post
BornAbdul Hayee
(1921-03-08)8 March 1921
Ludhiana, Punjab, British India
Died25 October 1980(1980-10-25) (aged 59)
Mumbai, India
OccupationPoet, lyricist and writer
EducationS.C.D Government College, ludhiana
Period20th century
SubjectMovie Lyrics
Literary movementProgressive Writers' Association
Notable awardsPadma Shri Award in 1971
Filmfare Awards in 1964 and in 1977
PartnerSudha Malhotra
Amrita Pritam

Abdul Hayee (8 March 1921 – 25 October 1980), popularly known by his pen name (takhallus) Sahir Ludhianvi, was an Indian poet who wrote primarily in Urdu in addition to Hindi.[1] He is regarded as one of the greatest film lyricist and poets of 20th century India.[2]

His work influenced Indian cinema, in particular Hindi language films.[3] Sahir won a Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist for Taj Mahal (1963). He won a second Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist for his work in Kabhie Kabhie (1976). He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1971.[4][5] On 8 March 2013, the ninety-second anniversary of Sahir's birth, a commemorative stamp was issued in his honor.[6]


Early life and education

Sahir was born on 8 March 1921, in a red sandstone haveli in Karimpura, Ludhiana, Punjab, British India, into a Punjabi Muslim family.[7] This is the reason why he added the suffix Ludhianvi after his name. His mother, Sardar Begum, left her husband thus forfeiting any claim to financial assets from the marriage. In 1934, Sahir's father remarried and sued (acrimoniously and unsuccessfully) for custody of his son. In a recent biography titled Sahir: A Literary Portrait (Oxford University Press) written by US-based author Surinder Deol, the author agrees with the very brief conclusion of Pakistani poet Ahmad Rahi, a friend of Sahir over the years, about Sahir's life story in a nutshell, "In his entire life, Sahir loved once, and he nurtured one hate. He loved his mother, and he hated his father."[5][8] Sardar Begum required protection from Sahir's father and suffered financial deprivation.[9] Sahir's place of birth is marked with a small plaque on the building's arched entrance.

Sahir was educated at the Khalsa High School in Ludhiana. He then enrolled at the Government College, Ludhiana.[10] The auditorium there is named after him.[11] As a college student, Sahir was popular for his ghazals and nazms (poetry in Urdu) and empassioned speeches.[12]


In 1943, Sahir settled in Lahore. There, he completed Talkhiyaan (Bitterness) (1945), his first published work in Urdu. He was member of All India Students Federation. Sahir edited Urdu magazines such as Adab-e-Lateef, Shahkaar, Prithlari, and Savera[12][13] and became a member of the Progressive Writers' Association. However, when he made controversial statements promoting Communism, a warrant for his arrest was issued by the Government of Pakistan. In 1949, after partition, Sahir fled from Lahore to Delhi. After eight weeks, Sahir moved to Bombay.[12] He later lived in Andheri, a suburb of Mumbai. There, his neighbours included Gulzar, a poet and lyricist and Krishan Chander, an Urdu litterateur. In the 1970s, Sahir built a bungalow which he called Parchaiyaan (Shadows), after one of his works, and lived there until his death.


On 25 October 1980, at the age of fifty-nine, Sahir died of a sudden cardiac death.[13] He died in the presence of his friend, Dr Kapoor. He was buried at the Juhu Muslim cemetery. In 2010, his tomb was demolished to make room for new interments.[14]


Sahir's work as a lyricist in the film industry gave him financial stability beyond his earnings as a poet. He made his debut with four songs performed in the film Azadi Ki Raah Par (1949). One of the songs was Badal Rahi Hai Zindagi. Both the film and its songs went unnoticed. However, after Naujawan (1951 film), with music by S.D. Burman, Sahir gained recognition. Sahir's major success was Baazi (1951). Again, the composer was Burman. Sahir was then considered part of Guru Dutt's team. The last film Sahir made with Burman was Pyaasa (1957). In Pyaasa, Guru Dutt played a poet named Vijay. After Pyaasa (1957), Sahir and Burman went separate ways due to artistic and contractual differences.[15]

Sahir did work with other composers including Ravi, Roshan, Khayyam and Datta Naik. Datta Naik also credited as N. Datta, a Goan, admired Sahir's poetry and their collaboration produced the score for Milaap (1955), Chandrakanta (1956), Saadhna (1958), Dhool Ka Phool (1959), Dharamputra (1961), Naya Raasta (1970). Sahir also worked with music director Laxmikant–Pyarelal in the films like "Man Ki Aankhe", "Izzat", Dastaan and Yash Chopra's "Daag" all have fabulous songs. From about 1950 until his death, Sahir collaborated with Baldev Raj Chopra (1914 - 2008), a film producer and director. Sahir's last work for Chopra was for Insaaf Ka Tarazu. Yash Chopra, both while directing for B.R.films, and later as an independent director and producer, also engaged Sahir as the lyricist for his films, till Sahir's death.

In 1958, Sahir wrote the lyrics for Ramesh Saigal's film Phir Subah Hogi, which was based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment. The male lead was played by Raj Kapoor. It was presumed that Shankar–Jaikishan would be the composer but Sahir demanded a composer with a more intimate knowledge of the novel. Khayyam composed the film score. The song Woh Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi with its minimal background music remains popular. Khayyam collaborated with Sahir in many films including Kabhie Kabhie and Trishul.

Sahir was a controversial figure in that he was artistically temperamental. He insisted that the film score should be composed for his lyrics and not the other way around. He also insisted on being paid one rupee more than Lata Mangeshkar and this created a rift between them.[13] Sahir promoted his girlfriend, Sudha Malhotra's singing career.[13] He also insisted that All India Radio credit film song lyricists.

His song "Ye Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaye" from Pyaasa was re-used in the 2022 film Chup: Revenge of the Artist.



Sahir wrote,

Main pal do pal ka shayar hoon, pal do pal meri kahani hai
pal do pal meri hasti hai, pal do pal meri jawani hai
Mujse pahle kitne shayar aaye, aur kitne aakar chale gaye,
Kuch aahein bharkar laut gaye, kuch nagmein gakar chale gaye,
Woh bhi ek pal ka kissa the, main bhi ek pal ka kissa hoon
Kal tumse juda ho jaaonga, jo aaj tumhara hissa hoon

Sahir might be called the "bard for the underdog". Close to his heart were the farmer crushed by debt, the soldier gone to fight someone else's war, the woman forced to sell her body, the youth frustrated by unemployment and the family living on the street for instance. Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India said he was moved by Sahir's lyrics in Pyaasa.[citation needed] Vijay, as he is passing through a red light area sings,

Ye kuche, ye nilaam ghar dilakashi ke, Ye lutate hue kaaravaa zindagi ke, Kahaan hai, kahaan hai muhafiz khudi ke, Jinhe naaz hai hind par vo kahaan hai

Sahir's poetry was influenced by noted Pakistani poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Like Faiz, Sahir gave Urdu poetry an intellectual element that caught the imagination of the youth of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and reflected the feelings of the people of that period. He roused people from an independence-induced smugness. He would pick on the self-appointed custodian of religion, the self-serving politician, the exploitative capitalist, and the war-mongering super-powers. Sahir wrote with verve about the arrest of progressive writers in Pakistan; the launch of the satellite Sputnik and the discovery of Ghalib by a government lusting after minority votes. He wrote Kahat-e-Bangal (The Famine of Bengal) at 25 years of age. Subah-e-Navroz (Dawn of a New Day), mocks the way people celebrate while the poor exist in squalor. Of the Taj mahal, he wrote,

Mere mehboob kain aur mila kar mujhse,
Bazm-e-shahi mein garibon ka guzar kya manein.
Sabat jin rahon par hai satbat-e-shahike nishaan
Uspe ulfat bhari rahon ka guzar kya mane

Sahir Ludhianvi asks his lover to meet him anywhere else but at the Taj Mahal: although the tomb has been a symbol of luxurious monarchy for years, there is no need for beautiful (but not famous) hearts to travel to meet there.[7]

Sahir Ludhianvi recited this poetry couplet at his college event, when he was barely 19 years old, and created an uproar in the literary circles:

Ek Shahensha Ne Daulat Ka Sahara Lekar, Hum Gharibon Ki Mohabbat Ka Udaya Hai Mazaq


Of his legacy, Sahir writes,

Kal aur aayenge nagmon ki khilti kaliyan chunne wale,
Mujhse behtar kahne wale,
Tumse behtar sunne wale;

Kal koi unko yaad kare,
Kyun mujhko yaad kare
Mashroof zamana mere liye kyun
Waqt apna barbaad kare?

Tomorrow there will be more who will narrate the love poems. May be someone narrating better than me.
May be someone listening better than you. Why should anyone remember me? Why should anyone remember me?
Why should the busy age waste its time for me?


Bollywood songs


The 1957 Hindi movie, Pyaasa now considered a cinema classic, is inspired by Sahir's unrequited affection for the Hindi novelist and poet, Amrita Pritam[20] and features several famous songs with lyrics written by him.

Sahir's life has been chronicled by Sabir Dutt[21] and by Chander Verma and Dr. Salman Abid in "Main Sahir Hoon"[9]

In 2010, Danish Iqbal wrote a stage play entitled, Sahir, about the poet's life. It was successfully directed by Pramila Le Hunt in its Delhi premier. It used song to narrate Sahir's life.

Sahir Ludhianvi: the People's Poet by Akshay Manwani[22] The book is the product of interviews and writings about Sahir given by his friends such as Yash Chopra, Dev Anand, Javed Akhtar, Khayyam, Sudha Malhotra, Ravi Chopra and Ravi Sharma. The book also analyses Sahir's poetry and lyrics in the context of his personal life. Sahir's contribution to the Progressive Writers’ Movement is also discussed.[23]

Javed Akhtar, in an interview with Rekhta, has talked about how it is a matter of concern that Sahir's Poetry is still as relevant as it was when he wrote it. He, including many other have always considered Sahir more of a poet than a lyricist, though he played both the roles beautifully.

A feature film based on his life is rumored to be produced by Red Chillies and starring Shah Rukh Khan.[24]

There is a biography written by Samad K. P. A. in Malayalam, Sahir: Aksharangalude Abhijhaarakan.

Awards and nominations

Year Film Song Result
Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist[4]
1959 Sadhna Aurat Ne Janam Diya Nominated[25]
1960 Dhool Ka Phool Tu Hindu Banega Nominated
1964 Tajmahal[4] Jo Waada Kiya Won
Gumrah Chalo Ek Bar Phir Se Nominated
1968 Hamraaz Neele Gagan Ke Tale Nominated
1969 Aankhen Milti Hai Zindagi Mein Nominated
1977 Kabhi Kabhie[4] Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein Won
Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shayar Nominated
1980 Dada Dil Ke Tukde Tukde Kar Ke Nominated

See also


  1. ^ Ashish Rajadhyaksha; Paul Willemen (1994). Encyclopaedia of Indian cinema. Routledge. Archived from the original on 26 December 2021. Retrieved 26 December 2021. Transferred the progressive Urdu literature exemplified by poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz to the Hindi film lyric...
  2. ^ "Sahir Ludhianvi - Profile & Biography". Rekhta. Archived from the original on 5 February 2023. Retrieved 5 February 2023.
  3. ^ Coppola C. "Politics, Social Criticism and Indian Film Songs: The Case of Sahir Ludhianvi." Journal of Popular Culture 1977 10(4) p896-902. "Perhaps the best known and certainly the most legendary songwriter in Indian films today is Sahir Ludhianvi." Accessed 8 July 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d Sahir Ludhianvi's Padma Shri and Filmfare Awards on GoogleBooks website Archived 10 May 2023 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 28 January 2022
  5. ^ a b Nawaid Anjum (25 October 2019). "Sahir's poetry is a beacon of hope". The Indian Express (newspaper). Archived from the original on 10 December 2021. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  6. ^ "President releases a Commemorative Postage Stamp on Sahir Ludhianvi." Archived 29 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine Public Information Bureau, Government of India, Published 8 March 2013, Accessed 14 November 2019
  7. ^ a b c "Sahir: The poet lives on" Archived 29 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine Tribune India (newspaper), Published 24 October 2004, Accessed 14 November 2019
  8. ^ Pandit P. Sahir Ludhianvi: Life Sketch and Poetry Rajpal and sons, 1995, p12.
  9. ^ a b Verma C. and Abid S. "Main Sahir Hoon" Archived 1 September 2023 at the Wayback Machine Star Publications. 2014. ISBN 817650629X (in Hindi).
  10. ^ "Sahir memorial." Archived 12 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine Tribune 1 June 2005.
  11. ^ "Sahir Ludhianvi in Unki Nazar Unka Shahar." Archived 13 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine Rajya Sabha TV, 27 January 2012 at YouTube.
  12. ^ a b c "Biography – Sahir Ludhyanvi." Archived 2 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine Urdu website, Accessed 14 November 2019
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Sahir Ludhianvi - Profile". website. 22 July 2010. Archived from the original on 14 November 2019. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  14. ^ Jaisinghani B. "Rafi, Madhubala don't rest in peace here." Archived 13 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine The Times of India 11 February 2010. Accessed 14 November 2019
  15. ^ Saran S. "Ten Years with Guru Dutt – Abrar Alvi’s Journey." p111-112.
  16. ^ Mahmood K. Kalām-i Sāḥir Ludhiyānvī. Archived 10 May 2023 at the Wayback Machine Star Publications, 2000. ISBN 9788176500302 Accessed at Google Books 19 november 2015.
  17. ^ Abbas K. "Shadows Speak: (Parchhalyan)." Archived 10 May 2023 at the Wayback Machine P. P. H. Bookstall, Bombay 1958. Accessed at Google Books 19 November 2015.
  18. ^ Hassan R. "The Bitter Harvest: Selections from Sahir Ludhiavni's Verse." Archived 10 May 2023 at the Wayback Machine Aziz Publishers, 1977, Lahore. Accessed at Google Books 19 November 2015.
  19. ^ Sucha S. "Sorcery (Sahri): poetry. " Vudya Kitaban Forlag, Sollentuna, Sweden. ISBN 91-86620-05-3. Accessed at World 19 November 2015.
  20. ^ Dutt, Nirupama (24 October 2020). "Roundabout: Pyaasa revisited on Sahir Ludhianvi's death anniversary in his centenary year". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 7 January 2022. Retrieved 27 November 2021.
  21. ^ Dutt S. "Fan-o-shaksiyat (Sahir No.)"
  22. ^ Sahir Ludhianvi: the People's Poet Harper Collins 2013.
  23. ^ "Sahir Ludhiavni: the people's poet." Archived 6 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Vickey Lalwani (13 February 2021). "Exclusive! Sahir Ludhianvi biopic: Shah Rukh Khan to play the legendary poet-lyricist?". Times of India. Archived from the original on 5 August 2022. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  25. ^ "The Nominations - 1958, Filmfare Awards". website. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2022.