Shocked! Yes, it is true when Sahir Ludhianvi was at the zenith of his career in the ’50s and 60’s he demanded a rupee more than the Melody Queen Lata Mangeshkar! Reason? Well, once he was taunted by one of his hard-core critics that Sahir’s songs were popular not for his lyrics but due to the melodious voice of Lata Mangeshkar!! Sahir had high self- esteem. To prove the critic wrong Sahir stopped working with Lata Mangeshkar for 2 years and within this phase Sahir gave umpteen hit songs sung by Asha Bhosle, Sudha Malhotra, and Geeta Dutt!
Interestingly, after 2 years of a breakup with Lata Mangeshkar, when Sahir did start working with Lata Mangeshkar he worked on the condition of charging a rupee more than what was being paid to Lata Mangeshkar. Sahir knew the worth of his pen. He had proved his genius by writing songs that were never attempted in Hindi Cinema hence he worked on his conditions and producers bowed to his demands.
Sahir was the first lyric writer to win the esteem of getting his name in bold letters on the film posters! He was the first film lyricist to demand remuneration at par with the hero of the film! He was the first film lyricist who worked on his own terms. He did not write on the traditional pattern of a fixed tune. He forced his music directors to set his lyrics on tune! Sahir was the first film lyricist who deservedly got the honor of his name on the records of gramophone companies and that’s not all he also started the trend of gramophone companies paying a royalty to film lyricist!!! Similarly, it was Sahir who asked the All India Radio to announce the name of film lyricist along with the names of the singer and the composer when the song was played on the radio.
Sahir always did quality work. All his songs had sensibility be it a romantic song like Jo wada kiya wo nibhana padega….(Taj Mahal) or a ghazal like Rang aur noor ki saugaat kise pesh karoon… (Ghazal) or a sad song like Babul ki duayen leti ja…. (Neel Kamal). He even wrote comedy songs like Sar Jo Tera Chakraye… (Pyaasa) or khali dabba bada bada tan khali bottle…. That had philosophical elements in them!
Though Sahir wrote such excellent songs but he was never given an award for his exception lyrics. Even his best lyrics Aurat Ne Janam Diya from Sadhna was only nominated but the award was given to lyricist Shailendra for a less meaningful song Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hain……from Yahudi.
In his 4 decades career, Sahir was given just 2 Filmfare awards for Best lyricist for the songs Jo Wada Kiya Woh Nibhana Padega… (Taj Mahal (1963) and second award for his song Kabhie Kabhie Mere Dil Mein Khayal Aata Hai in the film Kabhie Kabhie (1976) but Sahir never bothered for awards as his Best Award came from the Love of the People!!