Sahir Ludhianvi (8.3.921-25.10.1980), in spite of being born into an affluent family had to brave financial vicissitudes and cope with the trauma of separated parents who were fighting for his custodianship. His father was a wealthy landowner in Ludhiana. His parents separated when he was barely 13 years old and ever since he lived under insecure family conditions with his mother because his father had remarried. Ludhianvi’s education took place in the Khalsa School of Ludhiana from where he graduated to the Lahore Government College. There the genius of the man started manifesting itself in ghazals and nazms. However, it is said that at this time Amrita Pritam fell in love with Ludhianvi’s poesy and she attracted not just the wrath of her conservative Sikh family but also saw Ludhianvi’s expulsion from college. Under these trying circumstances the young Ludhianvi’s talents began to blossom.
Soon Ludhianvi started pouring out his plaintive verses is first Urdu work Talkhiyaan or Bitterness which was published in 1945 after two years of search for a relenting publisher. This success led him on to his other works like Adab-e-Lateef, Shahkaar, Prithlari, and Savera. However Savera made him a man on the run because he had hurt the sentiments of the Pakistan government. His was 1949, a year of tremendous success for Ludhianvi because he wrote lyrics for the first time for a Hindi film – Azaadi Ke Raah Par. First song was “Badal rahi hai zindagi …” The film was not a runaway hit but it did bring him to the limelight from where his career took off. 1951 saw two major hits – Naujawaan and Baazi and both had Sahir Ludhianvi as the lyricist. There was now no looking back for the poet. His talent married the genius of Sachin Dev Burman and both took Hindi films to the pinnacle of musical glory. After a short while the relationship between the two fell through and Ludhianvi got the opportunity to work with other glittering music directors of the time – Roshan, Ravi, Khayyam, N.Dutta,O.P.Nayyar. Subsequently Sahir Ludhianvi was asked to compose for actors like Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Amitabh Bachchan and other big names. He put words on the lips of almost every singer of the age. He was the first lyricist who demanded a royalty from music companies. In antagonism to Sachin Dev Burman, Ludhianvi proposed the creation of lyrics before the music. While Ludhianvi proved his mettle flawlessly, it is an undeniable fact that the age was witnessing the renaissance of the Hindi film industry which contributed to the lyricist’s success. Thus songs like “Woh Subah Kabhi Toh Aayegi…”, “Allah Tero Naam, Ishwar Tero Naam…” (Hum Dono 1961), “Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jaaye…” (Gumrah), “ Man re tu kaahe na dheer dhare…” (Chitralekha 1964), “Main pal do pal ka shaayar hoon”(Kabhie Khabiee 1976) and several others were born. Ludhianvi published several volumes of Urdu poetry also like Talkhiyan (Bitterness), Parchaiyaan (Shadows) all of which bring out his fiercely individualistic patriotic streak and his cynicism with life.
Sahir Ludhianvi won the best lyricist’s award several times, the first one being for the film Taj Mahal in 1963. Any praise made of Sahir Ludhianvi can never really sum up the great man’s genius. Mahendra Kapoor said in an interview over Vividh Bharati that a poet like Ludhianvi will never be born again. It is said that in response to Amrita Pritam’s father’s comment on Ludhianvi that the former could not marry the latter because of his inability to even buy a house, Ludhianvi built a house taller than the Pritam’s in front of theirs.