It’s hard to get over –Gulon me Rang Bhare Badenau Bahaar chale- a hauntingly beautiful track sung in the silken voice of Arijit Singh for Vishal Bharadwaj’s Haider. Not many of us know that the lyricist who penned this famous Ghazal is a literary icon of the Indian subcontinent. Very few poets have been able to blend romance and revolution in Urdu poetry as beautifully as Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Credited for writing some of the most beautiful couplets in Urdu, Faiz’s poems have always struck a chord with the younger generation.
As we remember the great poet on his 33rd death anniversary, we take a glimpse into his legendary life.
From his early days, Faiz was drawn towards Marxist ideology. The struggle against political and social exploitation gave his poetry a sense of direction. Though he was brought up as a Muslim, his beliefs were agnostic. He belonged to the set of poets who did not recognise the Hindu–Muslim divide. Faiz felt the urge to come up with ideas capable of not only combating imperialism but also countering the communal divide. His poetry encourages the oppressed to break-free.
Though there is no official record of Faiz expressing an opinion on whether India’s partition was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, he was devastated by the bloodshed that followed the event. His poem Subh-e Azaadi (The Dawn of Freedom, August 1947) records the disappointment that he personally felt with the way things ultimately turned out for the Indian subcontinent.
ye daaġh daaġh ujālā ye shab-gazīda sahar
vo intizār thā jis kā ye vo sahar to nahīñ
(This light, smeared and spotted, this night-bitten dawn
This isn’t surely the dawn we waited for so eagerly)
najāt-e-dīda-o-dil kī ghaḌī nahīñ aa.ī
chale-chalo ki vo manzil abhī nahīñ aa.ī
(The weight of the night hasn’t lifted yet
The moment for the emancipation of the eyes
and the heart hasn’t come yet
Let’s go on, we haven’t reached the destination yet)
Friction with the establishment:
Post independence, Faiz got involved in the trade union movement. In 1951, he became the vice-president of the Trade Union Congress – the labour wing of the Communist Party. Faiz was sentenced to four years in jail for his alleged role in the Soviet-backed coup attempt against Pakistan PM Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951. He was again imprisoned during the period of Ayyub Khan’s martial law in 1958, however, he was released within six months as his poetry had earned him admirers from the military establishment as well.
During the oppressive regime of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, Faiz’s poetry was banned from the public along with a host of other artistic freedoms. In open defiance, Ghazal queen Iqbal Bano sung these revolutionary verses from his nazm – Sab taaj uchhale jayenge, sab takht giraaye jayenge, hum dekhenge – catapulting it into an anthem against the tyrannous rule.
Jab zulm-o-sitam ke koh-e-garan
Rooi ki tarah ur jaenge
Hum mehkoomon ke paaon tale
Ye dharti dhar dhar dharkegi
Aur ahl-e-hakam ke sar oopar
Jab bijli kar kar karkegi
(When the enormous mountains of tyranny
blow away like cotton.
Under our feet- the feet of the oppressed-
when the earth will pulsate deafeningly
and on the heads of our rulers
when lightning will strike.)
A revered name in Ghazal:
Faiz remains a towering figure in Ghazal writing. From Mallika-e Tarannum Noorjahan to Ghazal maestro Mehendi Hassan, many iconic artists have lent their voices to his ghazals and nazms in their inimitable styles. Indian stalwarts like Jagjeet Singh and Begum Akhtar have also crooned some of his famous poems.
Faiz’s work has largely remained unused in Bollywood. One of his famous poems, Apki Yaad aati rahi raat Bhar was used by Muzaffar Ali for his film Gaman in 1978. In 2014, director-composer Vishal Bharadwaj used two of his famous poems in his film Haider. Gulon Me rang Bhare, a Ghazal immortalised by Mehendi Hassan, was sung by Arijit Singh while another song, Aaj ke naam aur, extracted from his poetry ‘Intisaab‘ (dedication) was also hummed by Rekha Bharadwaj.