By Puja Roy
The early 80s, Karachi, Pakistan.
Room number 113 of Karachi’s Bristol Hotel has been a witness to many moments of glory in the past.
Two people, who were stalwarts of ‘Lollywood’ (Pakistan film industry), in their own right, were seated in this room, facing each other, holding glasses of colored water that flowed graciously.
The long-playing record in the background played Farida Khanum’s “Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo”, the famous ghazal based on raag Iman-Kalyan. Touching upon the melodious notes of this masterpiece, a calming shroud of dusk descended in the Zainab Bazaar of Karachi.
“Subhaan Allah, aap ke kalam mein jaadu hai Hashmi Saheb, Pakistan aur Hindustan isi jaadu mein mashgool hai, Subhaan Allah!” (Subhan Allah, your pen holds magic Hashmi Saheb, the entire Pakistan and Hindustan is tranced in this magic, Subhaan Allah!), said Ahmed Rushdi, a hugely talented erstwhile playback singer and cult figure of Pakistan who has been ailing these days.
“No, Rushdie bhai, I don’t think I could make it, whatever Allah taala made me write, I could put down only so much on the paper.” Smiling softly, said this bespectacled, bearded man. He is Fayyaz Hashmi, a popular shayar and lyricist of Pakistan.
“What are you saying Hashmi bhai, you are the nagina of Pakistan, Allah is meherbaan that you could yield such a rich harvest in this blessed land.”
“Pakistan couldn’t understand me Rushdie Bhai, despite everything, I am still a mujahir here. But, just to clarify you here, not just Pakistan but even Hindustan has a huge contribution for this nazm, especially my bygone days of childhood, in my dear city Kalkatta.”
Hashmi said solemnly, taking a sip from his glass.
“What are you saying? Kalkatta? Ya Allah, ye to pata nahi tha!” Rushdie was bewildered.
“Kalkatta is a strange city Rushdie Bhai, the city that Ghalib himself fell in love with and found very difficult to leave, where geniuses like Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, D.L. Roy, Kanan Devi, K.L. Sehgal, Pankaj Mullick and Gaharjaan gave expression to their creative impulses, the soil of that land bears the testimony of the origin of this nazm. The city is infused in me, in my being, my ibadad.”
Seated on a chair opposite to Hashmi, Ahmed Rushdie was astounded and didn’t know what to say.
The winter evening was slowly becoming darker and the chill in the Karachi air stealthily entered room number 113.
The fog outside was thickening and simultaneously, in its dark blue essence, Hashmi could sense the untold tales of his childhood forming a clot within his mind, eager to be told, as if imprisoned moments were desperately wanting to be free.
Waqkt ki Qaid mein, Zindagi hai magar,
Chund Lumha yehi hai jo Azaad hai…
Circa 1920, Calcutta.
In the Hayyat Khan lane in the Sialdah area, (which is presently Manindra Mitra Road) Fayyaz Hashmi was born to shayar and dramatist Mohammed Hussain Hashmi, who wrote his shayaris by the pen name ‘Dilgir’ and alongside worked in the Madan Theatre. Understandably, Fayyaz was born with a creative gene.
From an early age of 9 years, he took to writing and wrote his first nazm, in his 7th grade. Janab Agha Hasar Kashmiri, an erudite in Urdu and English literature of those days, after reading that nazm had predicted his supreme success as a writer.
After finishing his college (most probably Bangabashi College, where he read Bengali, Urdu and English literature), he started working in the Gramophone Company of India at Jessore Road at the age of 20, as a ‘resident lyricist’, where he wrote some 300 odd shayaris/nazms. According to authentic sources, it was here that the first paragraph of “Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo” was written.
The rumour mills of Calcutta also had another interesting tale behind the song, the truth of which is impossible to extract today, as a lot of grass has grown over the grave.
Back in the day, when inquired, Hashmi’s college friends had mentioned that while studying at the Bangabashi College, he had fallen in love with a Bengali girl but couldn’t garner the courage to ultimately express his feelings to her. She was eventually married off elsewhere. According to renowned film journalist Khalid Hasan, “Jane Ki Zid Na Karo” was written in the rebound of that failed love. Although he couldn’t finish the full poem at that time (in Calcutta) but made his first love immortal through these powerful verses.
Apart from working in the Gramophone Company, he continued to write for films and in the year 1951 was transferred to the company’s Lahore office. He started work with renewed vigour in this new country.
He got his first break in 1956 in the film Kunwari Bewa and enthralled Pakistan with the power of his intellect and the magic of his kalam. One after the other hit films like Savera (1959), Saheli (1960), Aulad (1962), Paise (1964), Ashiyana (1965) and Diya aur Tufaan (1969) came his way. He wrote more than 2000 songs around this phase and was bestowed with the ‘Nigaar’ khitaab too.
Finally, it was the year 1973 that saw the release of Badal aur Bijli, which changed everything for him and gave him tremendous recognition.
Though the movie faired averagely, its songs stole the heart of the Pakistan audience and permanently made its place in their ‘Dil-O-Dimaag’, especially the song ‘Aaj Jane Ki Zid Na Karo’, which was sung was Habib Wali Mohammed.
Another talented lad, who had crossed the borders and shifted to Lahore from his native Agra (in India) was music director of this song, Sohail Rana, whose wonderful tunes mesmerized everyone from Peshawar to Islamabad. The song started making waves in Pakistan and over a period of time, this Iman-Kalyan raag based epoch-making song surpassed borders and overwhelmed its enchanted listeners in India.
In the 80s, this song was sung again by Pakistan’s own treasure, Farida Khanum, who created history by rendering it in her inimitable style and infused her versatility into the song, making it even more appealing and endearing.
“Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo” remains as one of the most viewed songs on YouTube with many young artists across the globe doing covers for the song. However, amidst all this, we have blissfully forgotten about the one person who was behind the immortal lines of this masterpiece – Fayyaz Hashmi
Does his birth place Calcutta remember him? Does Agra remember Sohail Rana?
Well, we all know the answer.
With this song, Farida Khanum has been immortalized, but somewhere in the pages of history are lost the chapters that were written by Fayyaz Hashmi and Sohail Rana.
On 29th November 2011, Hashmi breathed his last in Karachi leaving behind him an era of fame and consequent ignominy and anonymity. But what he also left behind is a song that would forever remain in the consciousness of one and all.
Kal ki kisko khabar jaane jaan,
Rok lo aaj ki raat ko…
Can we stop the onslaught of time or its merciless footprints smothering everything beneath?
Probably not. Nor can we keep the stars awake for long, for they would soon give way to the dawn, dispelling the darkness.
We stare at the clear dark sky and try to treasure the moments, as immortal as the stars themselves. So is the night, so is Fayez Hashmi, who has now become one of them, and about whom, no one bothers anymore.
The above is a translation of the original article in Bengali by journalist and writer Prasenjit Dasgupta.
Puja Roy has authored a book of short stories and is a published translator. She has studied Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University and has a Diploma in Film Studies. An avid reader, Puja loves to research on history, cinema, art and culture. Currently she is working on a research-based translation project around popular subcontinental music.
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