My first ‘conscious’ intimate interaction with the words of Sahir Ludhianvi occurred many moons ago, in the summer of 2015, over the play Ek Mulaqaat.
Two actors, Shekhar Suman and Deepti Naval.
The dense voice of Shekhar and the lyrical tone of Deepti.
A goose-bump-inducing narration of Sahir Ludhianvi’s Taj Mahal by Shekhar.
A tear-rendering narration of Amrita Pritam’s Tidke Ghar Da Pani by Deepti.
The play was staged in Dubai, and whilst having spent a large chunk of my growing up years in Chandigarh, I was familiar with Amrita Pritam’s work — across genres from books to theatre, panel discussions to talks — it was in June 2015 that Sahir’s life and work began to intrigue me. What was it about the talented, silent lover that his passions, struggles, loves, and resentments flowed unabashedly in the form of words and became a part of our lives? I began to read more about him, and many books became part of my bookshelves. I remained restless, knowing that I knew little of him, whilst it was his songs that I’d been humming all along. With this restlessness, anxiety, and ardour, I walked in to witness the magic in the form of a show, Bemisaal Sahir (October 13, 2023, Sheikh Rashid Auditorium, Dubai) — an invite-only show (the hand-delivered invites exuded the charm of the days gone by, especially in the era of WhatsApp invites) on the life and work of Sahir Ludhianvi in the world created by Prithvi Haldea and his troupe comprising Sangeeta Bedi, Supriya Joshi, Sarvesh Mishra, Anand Bahal, Obaid Azmi, Somdatta Basu, Jatin Ahuja and Tiara Bhatt.
For the two and a half hours I was there, we sang along as we discovered his life and perhaps found answers to why his pain and love felt so familiar and close to heart. Now, theatre, especially musical drama, can be performed in multiple ways. Of course, the script must be ‘rehearsed’ repeatedly to tell the story the best way it can be told ‘live.’ But most importantly, the script has to be ‘believed in’ to tell the story the best way it can be felt ‘live’. Prithvi and troupe did the latter, as they spoke transparently about being one amongst us, ordinary professionals, on a journey to keep Sahir’s words alive.
The stage then could have been a living room with friends fervidly sharing anecdotes about what they knew of Sahir, what his songs triggered in them, and then breaking into a song by him or narrating a couplet by him! They laughed, got nostalgic…and we joined them. Sahir’s work landscape is vast, and the troupe covered a huge part of it through a balanced mix of narrations, songs, and more. In the audience were devoted lovers of theatre and Sahir, who giggled as a romantic song was sung, allowing them to recall their young loves, who got teary-eyed as a song on the societal reality hit hard in current times, who were mesmerised with the realisation that almost every song they loved and knew the lyrics by heart to was a Sahir creation, and more!
One can’t review a work of art, and if one were to, one would fail to…but one can get poetic if one were to express love towards an artist
A troubled childhood,
An inexplicable relationship with his mother
A haven in Urdu Shayari,
Hailing from Ludhiana (Ludhianvi), Sahir ruled the world of music and poetry for 30 years, having won awards and accolades.
A broken heart, a broken spirit
A safe space, confiding in words,
A farewell that came in way too early
A heart attack at 39…
Sahir continues to live, and whilst the troupe may claim to be ordinary professionals, their narration of the life of a legend was truly extraordinary, honest, and pure. It takes courage to be on stage and to pursue any form of art. It takes courage to commit waking up hours to keeping alive the boldness and rawness of an artist. And most of all, it takes courage to accept that whilst one can put up as many shows, one is on an endless journey here.
If you wish to connect with Prithvi Haldea and the troupe, contact us.
Note from Prithvi Haldea: Sahir Ludhianvi is acclaimed as one of the greatest lyricists of India. He penned hundreds of immortal songs including ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to, tum mujhe bhuul bhii jaao, chalo ik baar phir se, tum agar mujh ko na chaaho, zindagii bhar nahiin bhuulegii, vo subah kabhii to aayegii, man re tuu kaahe naa dhiir dhare, jaane vo kaise log the, kabhii kabhii mere dil mein, naa to kaarvaan kii talaash hai, abhii na jaao chhodkar, ae merii zohrajabiin, allaah tero naam, jo vaadaa kiyaa vo nibhaanaa padegaa, tum apanaa ranj-o-gham, and main zindagii kaa saath. The musical drama is based on Sahir’s life and lyrics. It also has several of his songs and ghazals. The event was held in association with The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (Dubai Chapter NPIO).