I have always loved Suraiya. She was a vivacious actress, singer, and actually showed what real love and loyalty is all about. When unfortunate circumstances and a stubborn senior in the family nixed her marriage with her only true love, she gave in to the granny, but in an unforgettable and outstanding display of her feelings, didn’t marry throughout her life, although she must surely have been offered a choice of a score of prospective suitors.
Out of her many truly outstanding movies, I loved her enactment of Moti Begum aka Chaudhavin, a courtesan who is fond of poetry, writes her own poetry to complement her love of the penmanship of the notional hero of the movie, Asadullah Khan aka Ghalib (his nom de plume), actually portrayed by Bharat Bhushan (a casting choice by the legendary Sohrab Modi). The movie is a fictional representation of the life of an once wealthy poet and nobleman Mirza Ghalib. This story portrays his trials, tribulations, triumphs, and ultimate descent to poverty, and then to prison; and his tragic and ill-fated love with a beautiful courtesan named Chaudhavin. As is only to be expected, the lady outshines Bharat Bhushan in every possible way at every opportunity. Her heavy lidded very expressive eyes laid millions of Indian males low and any lingering doubts about her charm were annihilated by her singing.
The movie has a fantastic musical score by Ghulam Mohammad, who deserves more credit than many in giving us the singing colossus called Lata. Both he and Anil Biswas fought earnestly and hard with Film producers who disapproved of Lata’s sharp voice.
The film Mirza Ghalib produced and directed by the Maestro and Veteran Sohrab Modi won the President’s Gold Medal for the All India Best Feature Film and the President’s Silver Medal for Best Feature Film in Hindi in the National Film Awards of the year (1954). Suraiya’s singing (of Mirza Ghalib’s ghazals) and her acting was specially applauded by the Prime Minister of the day, who evidently had an eye for fine details and also oozed charm, and remarked to her, “You have brought back Ghalib to life”, in a special screening of the film held for the who’s who of the day at Rashtrapati Bhavan. https://youtu.be/0tLmg24rt5U
The movie’s story was based on Mirza Asadullah Khan in the last days of the last notional Moghul, Bahadur Shah “Zafar” who is more interested in poetry and wine than the nuts and bolts of statecraft. The story by Saadat Hasan Manto was adapted into a script by Rajinder Singh Bedi. The songs naturally were based on ghazals written by Ghalib himself and sung by Talat Mahmood, and Suraiya herself with a single solo for Rafisaab. The movie is all about Suraiya, her acting and singing. And she doesn’t disappoint at all. Despite her role, she owns the movie. This wonderful duet is my most favourite one from the movie. It remained my most favourite ghazal by Ghalib till Jagjit Singh recreated his poetry with his sublime compositions for the TV serial directed by Gulzar. You might appreciate this version more with the lyrics appearing along with the wonderful, truly soulful singing. https://youtu.be/0tLmg24rt5U
Jagjit Singh’s treatment was in a more sombre manner and he sings with a tad more gravitas. His rendition is far more introspective than the film version. https://youtu.be/bfqt4EAwT-s
In fact given the reach of the (then nascent) medium of the small screen, and Nasiruddin Shah being unarguably an actor who was better than Bharat Bhushan, the TV serial made greater contribution to the general public getting to know Ghalib.
दिल-ए-नादाँ तुझे हुआ क्या है
आख़िर इस दर्द की दवा क्या है
हम हैं मुश्ताक़ और वो बेज़ार
या इलाही ये माजरा क्या है
मैं भी मुँह में ज़बान रखता हूँ
काश पूछो कि मुद्दा क्या है
जब कि तुझ बिन नहीं कोई मौजूद
फिर ये हंगामा ऐ ख़ुदा क्या है
ये परी-चेहरा लोग कैसे हैं
ग़म्ज़ा ओ इश्वा ओ अदा क्या है
शिकन-ए-ज़ुल्फ़-ए-अंबरीं क्यूँ है
निगह-ए-चश्म-ए-सुरमा सा क्या है
सब्ज़ा ओ गुल कहाँ से आए हैं
अब्र क्या चीज़ है हवा क्या है
हम को उन से वफ़ा की है उम्मीद
जो नहीं जानते वफ़ा क्या है
हाँ भला कर तेरा भला होगा
और दरवेश की सदा क्या है
जान तुम पर निसार करता हूँ
मैं नहीं जानता दुआ क्या है
मैं ने माना कि कुछ नहीं 'ग़ालिब'
मुफ़्त हाथ आए तो बुरा क्या है
- मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब
A wonderful eternal literary creation indeed that’s been in our minds for nearly 170 plus years. Thanks to the romanticized form by the movie and TV serial isn’t it amazing more people today know Ghalib than Zouq who was considered the greater poet in Bahadurshah Zafar’s court.
Have a wonderful Thursday, folks, stay healthy and happy. Stay away from the Chinese malevolence..