Majrooh Sultanpuri (1 October 1919 − 24 May 2000) was an Indian Urdu poet, known for his work as an Urdu poet, and as a lyricist and songwriter in the Hindi language Bollywood film industry. He was one of the dominating musical forces in Indian cinema in the 1950s and early 1960s and was an important figure in the Progressive Writers' Movement. He is considered one of the finest avant-garde Urdu poets of 20th century literature.
In his career spanning six decades, he worked with music directors, from Naushad, Madan Mohan, S.D.Burman, Roshan, Ravi, Shankar-Jaikishan, O.P.Nayyar, Usha Khanna, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Anu Malik, R.D.Burman, Rajesh Roshan, Anand-Milind and Jatin-Lalit, to Leslie Lezz Lewis and A.R.Rahman. He won the Filmfare Best Lyricist Award in 1965 for "Chahunga Main Tujhe" in film Dosti, and the highest award in Indian cinema, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for lifetime achievement in 1993. In the 1980s and 1990s, most of his work was with Anand-Milind, their most notable collaborations being Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Lal Dupatta Malmal Ka, Love, Kurbaan and Dahek.
He also wrote timeless classics with Jatin-Lalit for films like Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (including the song Pehla Nasha) and Yaara Dildara (including the song Bin Tere Sanam), which are still heard to this day on the airwaves.
Majrooh Sultanpuri was born as Asrar ul Hassan Khan in a Tarin Pashtun family, in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where his father was posted in the Police Department in either 1919 or 1920. His father, though, a police officer, was not too keen on his son receiving English education and Majrooh was therefore sent for traditional 'Madrasa education' which led to his obtaining the qualification first of Dars-e-Nizami - a seven-year course which concentrated on religious affairs along with proficiency in Arabic and Persian- and then the certificate of Alim. He thereafter joined Lucknow's Takmeel-ut-Tib College of Unani. He was a struggling Hakim when he happened to recite one of his ghazals at a mushaira in Sultanpur. The ghazal was a hit with the audience and Majrooh decided to drop his fledgling medical practice and began writing poetry seriously. Soon he was a 'regular' at mushairas and a "shagird" i.e. disciple of the then top name in Urdu Mushairas viz Jigar Moradabadi. While Majrooh is popular as a film lyricist and is widely known in that capacity, be it known that he also created one of the best-known verses of Urdu poetry, Main akela hee chala tha janibe manzil magar, log saath aate gaye aur carvan banta gaya! (I set off alone towards the destination but people joined in and soon it became a caravan!)
In 1945, Majrooh visited Bombay to attend a mushaira at the Saboo Siddique Institute. Here his ghazals and poetry were highly appreciated by the audience. One of the impressed listeners was film producer A.R. Kardar. He contacted Jigar Moradabadi who helped him to meet Majrooh. However, Majrooh refused to write for films because he didn't think very highly of them. But Jigar Muradabadi persuaded him, saying that films would pay well and would help Majrooh to support his family. Kardar then took him to music composer Naushad who put the young writer to test. He gave Majrooh a tune and asked him to write something in the same metre, and Majrooh wrote Jab Usne Gesu Bikhraye, Badal Aaye Jhoom Ke.... Naushad liked what he wrote and Majrooh was signed on as the lyricist of the film Shah Jehan (1946). The songs of the film became so immensely popular that K.L. Saigal wanted Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya to be played at his funeral. But before he could react to the large-scale appeal created by these lines, he fell ill. The harsh Bombay weather made him leave the city and return to his hometown in the North.
Shah Jehan was followed by S. Fazil's Mehndi, Mehboob's Andaaz (1949), and Shahid Latif's Aarzoo. Just as Majrooh was establishing himself as a lyricist and songwriter of repute, his leftist leanings got him into trouble. The government wasn't amused by his anti-establishment poems and he was jailed in 1949 along with other leftists like Balraj Sahni. Majrooh was asked to apologise, but he refused and was sentenced to two years in prison. While he was in prison, his eldest daughter was born. During this time his family experienced considerable financial difficulties. Raj Kapoor commissioned a song ("Dunia Banane Wale") from Majrooh for which he paid him Rs. 1000.
Majrooh's political beliefs were further manifested when his second daughter married the son of the Urdu writer and socialist Zoe Ansari. Toward the end both Majrooh and Zoe Ansari were disenchanted with the direction socialism had taken in the Soviet Union and China. Their desire to better the lives of the masses found an outlet in their writings.
Majrooh went on to write lyrics for popular films throughout the 1956s. Along with Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Majrooh was considered the most notable ghazal writer. Majrooh won his only Filmfare Best Lyricist Award for the song "Chahunga Mein Tujhe Saanj Savere" from Dosti. He was also awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1993. He was the first lyricist to win the prestigious award named after Dadasaheb Phalke.
Majrooh and Nasir Hussain first collaborated on the film Paying Guest, which Nasir wrote. After Nasir turned director and later producer they went on to collaborate in several films, all of which had huge hits and are some of Majrooh's best remembered works:Tumsa Nahin Dekha
Dil Deke Dekho
Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon
Baharon Ke Sapne
Pyar Ka Mausam
Caravan (includes the song Piya Tu Ab To Aaja)
Yaadon Ki Baraat
Hum Kisise Kum Naheen
Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai
Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak
Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander
Akele Hum Akele Tum
Majrooh also was instrumental in introducing R.D. Burman to Nasir for Teesri Manzil. The trio worked in 7 of the above-mentioned films. Burman went on to work in 2 more films subsequent to Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai.
Majrooh Sultanpuri had a severe attack of pneumonia and died in Bombay on 24 May 2000. He was aged 80 at the time of his death.