Credit de do yaar: The genuine angst of lyricists

"Lyricists are talented, but jinxed people."

-Mrinal Sen

Titled ‘Credit De Do Yaar’, 15 lyricists from the Hindi film industry have penned a song to demand that they be given proper credit for their work by music labels.The three-minute video, now dubbed the ‘writer’s anthem’, featuring writers including Neelesh Mishra, Kausar Munir, Varun Grover and Swanand Kirkire, has also got support from composer AR Rahman.

Until Sahir Ludhianvi raised his voice in the 1950s and urged All India Radio to mention the names of lyricists and composers, only singers got the credit. By the way, Sahir would charge one rupee more than Lata Mangeshkar and did so till he shuffled off his mortal coil in 1980.

Despite radio stations naming them, the tag of filmsongs could never be peeled off lyricists. Let alone getting due credit, being considered worthy enough to be bracketed with 'genuine' poets was another due they never received. So much so that many fabulous lyricists and their creations couldn't venture beyond filmi precincts.

A few years ago, a Calcutta-based Urdu newspaper, Akhbaar-e-Mashriq, reported that Mohammad Rafi's nazm, 'Kahin ek masoom nazuk-si ladki' could be scrapped from the University of Patna's Urdu syllabus. And it did come to pass. It's worthwhile to note that in India, the genre of film songs doesn't fall in the category of standard literature. Film songs, I ain't talking about the execrable music after 1980, have never been considered on a par with the 'very best' in literature and fine arts. 'Kahin ek masoom nazuk-si...' was penned by Kamal Amrohi in 1970 and the nazm, called the 'quintessence of nazm,' appeared in the Urdu magazines 'Shama' and 'Beesween Sadi' in 1971 and 1972 respectively. Five leading universities in India viz, Calcutta, Aligarh, Allahabad, Patna and Sagar (MP) Universities incorporated this nazm on their syllabuses. But the moment it was played in 'Shankar-Hussain' (1977, Music: Muhammad Zahoor Khayyam Hashmi), all the universities, barring Patna varsity, cast it off as a pariah. Finally, Patna University also did away with it. Why? It also raises the question of the criteria to judge, opine and conclude which piece of literature is to be studied at an academic level. Why can't a meaningful film song be bracketed with regular poems?

Guru Dutt chose four pieces from Sahir's collection of ghazals and nazms 'Parchhaiyaan', for his movie 'Pyaasa'. 'Ye mahlon ye takhton, ye taajon ki duniya' and 'Jinhein naaz hai Hind par woh kahaan hain' (Title: Chakla, brothel and originally, 'Sana khwan-e- tasdeeq-e-mashriq kahaan hain') are immortal creations, which still find place on the syllabuses of Multan, Quetta, Gujranwala, Lahore and Sindh Universities (Hyderabad, Pakistan), whereas Punjab University, Amritsar (at that time), dispensed with Sahir's above-mentioned Urdu nazms.

Anand Bakshi's (yes, you read it right, Anand Bakshi!) immortal numbers, 'Gham-e-hasti se bas begana hota, khudaya kaash main deewana hota' (Film: Wallah Kya Baat Hai, Composer: Roshan Lal Nagrath, 1962) and 'Woh tere pyaar ka gham, ek bahana tha sanam' (Film: My Love, Composer: Daan Singh, 1970) got snowed under the avalanche of his popular but a tad frivolous numbers, Kapil Kumar's 'Hansne ki chaah ne itna mujhe rulaya hai ' (Film: Aavishkar, Composer: Kanu Roy, 1974) or Yogesh Gaur's 'Zindagi kaisi hai paheli..' (Film: Anand, Music: Salil Chaudhury, 1970) remained confined to films and could never rise to become poetic masterpieces. Alas, people didn't even hear the names of the poet-lyricists Yogesh Gaur and Kapil Kumar!

Now the moot point is: Why this rigid and rather pejorative attitude towards songs and poet-lyricists? Why can't their songs be included on the curriculum just because they're film songs? Why have Shakeel Badayuni, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Qateel Shifai (Pakistan) and Raja Mehndi Ali Khan never been elevated to the level of Bashir Badr, Afsar Merathi and even Zafar Gorakhpuri? Why couldn't they get rid of the rather belittling tag of lyricists and songsters, despite writing some very relevant socio-political songs for films like 'Aurat ne janam diya mardon ko....." (Sahir), 'Tu Hindu banega na Musalmaan banega' (Sahir, Dhool ka Phool, 1959), 'Hum hain mataa-e-koocha-e-baazaar ki tarah' (Majrooh, Dastak, 1970)? Why wasn't Amrita Kaur Virdi of Delhi University allowed to pursue her PhD thesis on 'Tu Hindu banega na Musalman banega' in 1964? The reason was : It was a film song.

Established Hindi poet Ramavatar Tyagi's only film creation, that deathless song, 'Zindagi aur bata tera irada kya hai' (Zindagi Aur Toofan, 1976) has never been mentioned in the anthology of Hindi poets and poems (1907-1987). Just because something becomes popular among the masses, doesn't mean it's plebeian and belongs to the proletariat. Its class remains intact and unsullied. Popular music/songs can also be placed on the highest pedestal. When cinema is the finest audio-visual medium, why can't its other aspects be equally important?

Robert Zimmerman, better known to the world as Bob Dylan, and Paul Anka's popular songs and lyrics are now studied at American and European universities by the students of liberal arts. Bob Dylan even won the Nobel for literature in 2016 despite purists frowning upon his selection. His 'Blowing in the Wind' (1963) is one of the masterpieces of popular music and world literature. But in India, very fine songsters like Pulak Bandyopadhyay, Gauriprasanna Majumdar (Bangla), Rajendra Krishna Duggal and Gopaldas Saxena 'Neeraj' always rued not getting proper appreciation from the 'connoisseurs' of poetry. This, one finds outright unfair. The lyricists must also be applauded by the high-brows of literature and taught at colleges and varsities.

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