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10 songs that speak volumes of Nida Fazli's diverse ability – Death anniversary special


On the lyricist's second death anniversary, we look at 10 songs that capture the humanism, philosophy, and aesthetics of his work.

Shriram Iyengar

The story goes that Nida Fazli was drawn to writing poetry on hearing a Surdas bhajan. This 'Ganga-Jamuni' culture remained an intrinsic part of the poet and his works throughout his life. A reader of English literature and a writer of Urdu poetry, Fazli brought to Hindi film lyrics a genteel sophistication.

Born Muqtida Hasan, Nida Fazli arrived in Bombay in 1964 trying to break into a Hindi film industry dominated by Sahir Ludhianvi and Kaifi Azmi, among others. Where he differed was in his very simple, colloquial style of writing. With the imagery of a poet and the passion of a revolutionary, Fazli gave composers a new vocabulary through his lyrics.

On his 2nd death anniversary (he died on 8 February 2016), we take a look at 10 songs that capture his diverse ability to adorn music with his lyrics.

1. 'Kabhi Kisi Ko Muqammal Jahan Nahi Milta' — Ahista Ahista (1981)

A beautiful, haunting song composed to perfection by the great Khayyam, this remains an example of the poet's life philosophy. The zen-like verses flow seamlessly to describe the illusory nature of life and human desires. Singer Bhupinder Singh recollected later that when he sat down, with Asha Bhosle, to read the song for the first time, they were filled with emotion. "The poet seemed to have poured far too much heart and reality into it," the singer said. "It wasn’t just another ghazal. It didn’t put dreams in rhyme. This was the reality of existence and its crisis in verse, without the beautiful wrapping paper."

2. 'Tera Hijr Mera Naseeb Hai' — Razia Sultan (1983)

Before Padmaavat (2017) went on to become the centre of controversy for its queen, there was Razia Sultan (1983). This song is a slow, melodious composition, again by Khayyam, on the pain of unrequited love. The song is featured on Dharmendra, who played the Abyssinian slave commander Jamaluddin Yakut. Unlike now, filmmaker Kamal Amrohi did not face threats of beheading, however. The song was also sung by Kabban Mirza, renowned for the distinct timbre of his voice. But it is Nida Fazli's melancholic verse that truly gives the song its flourish.

3. 'Mere Tere Naam Naye Hain' — Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin (1996)

Sudhir Mishra directed this cult noir film, Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin. Among the few songs that this dark film, set during a night in Mumbai, had was a sad 'Mere Tere Naam'. Nida Fazli's lyrics were supported by the South Indian duo of MM Kreem and SP Balasubrahmanyam. The song stands out for Fazli's ability to bring a unique urban imagery to the expression of sorrow. It was an example of his ability to adapt the modern vernacular to the ancient style of Urdu nazms (lyrical verse).

4. 'Ghar Se Masjid Hai Bahut Door' — Tamanna (1997)

As someone who grew up admiring Meera and Surdas, and was educated in TS Eliot and Ghalib, Nida Fazli possessed a cosmopolitan soul that ennobled his craft. His experience of Partition and, later, the 1992-93 Hindu-Muslim riots in Bombay, fuelled this evocative poem about the true religion of humanity. Used by Mahesh Bhatt in a forgotten yet admired film Tamanna (1997), the song was set to music by Anu Malik and sung by Sonu Nigam. The film won Paresh Rawal critical acclaim for his portrayal of the sensitive eunuch who raises a child, and also won the National award for Best Film on Social Issues in 1998.

5. 'Hoshwalon Ko Khabar Kya' — Sarfarosh (1999)

Not often is the best song, a sensitive ghazal at that, in a film sung by a terrorist. Yet, in John Mathew Matthan's Sarfarosh (1999), it was Naseeruddin Shah's villain who provides a timely reminder of the evocative memory of unspoken love. Sung by Jagjit Singh of the magical voice, and composed by Jatin-Lalit, the song is an experience in itself. Nida Fazli's ability to recreate the experience, magic, and imagery of love at first sight is unmatched. With Singh's ability to feel the verses, it is easy to understand why the poet and singer formed such an inseparable duo over the years.

6. 'Meri Aankhon Ne Chuna Hai Tujhko' — Tarkieb (2000)

It has been a while since Tabu played the romantic lead. Yet, this song is a throwback to the time when the actress was at the peak of her powers as a leading lady. Composed by Aadesh Shrivastava and sung by Jagjit Singh, the song is a throwback to the time when lyrics were often the most definitive element of the song. While the film was consigned to fading memories, the song continues to be a popular choice for the romantics.

7. 'Ye Hawaayein' — Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai (2001)

Among Abhishek Bachchan's forgotten early films was this sappy romantic flick by Goldie Behl. However, the music was received a lot better. This song is the pick of the lot, again, for Nida Fazli's imagery. By this time, Fazli was in his 60s, but his ability to tap into the youthfulness and joie-de-vivre of the emotion remained evergreen.

8. 'Aa Bhi Jaa' — Sur: The Melody Of Life (2002)

Lucky Ali never had a great acting career. Yet, in the early 2000s, his musical presence could not be doubted. In Tanuja Chandra's film, he played a music teacher who begins to envy his own discovery. With wonderful music composed by MM Keeravani, the songs from the film made it to the top of the charts. Again, Nida Fazli adapted his poetry to suit a more colloquial and changing audience with enchanting ease.

9. 'Ye Dhoop Ek Safar' — Dhoop (2003)

By the 2000s, Nida Fazli had begun to slink away from his career as a film lyricist to focus more on his literary work. However, every now and then, he would pop up with some gems. In this underrated Ashwini Chaudhary film about the parents of a Kargil war hero fighting for their rights, the lyricist creates imagery through the use of sunlight as a metaphor for life and happiness. The film earned critical appreciation for Revathy and Om Puri's portrayal of determined, honest civilians fighting a corrupt bureaucracy.

10. 'Jab Nahi Aaye The Tum' — Dev (2004)

Directed by Shyam Benegal, Dev (2004) took an unbiased look at the religious divide spreading across the country. It was understandable why the veteran filmmaker chose Nida Fazli, the most senior of Urdu poets, and one with a deeply humanistic philosophy. It was one of his last works, but remains just as memorable.