Old is Gold
(Feb 24,1928 - Jan 22 2017)




Dear Members..
 Naqsh Sahab, one of our most senior members and an acclaimed lyricist left us forever today morning (22nd Jan 2017).
On this sad occasion, we recollect his interview from SWA's archive. A few words of wisdom from a great legend.
May his soul rest in peace. 

From SWA Website's Archive..

Dhani Chunri Mori Haay Re --- Main Toh Har Mod Par Tujhko Doonga Sada --- Kayi Sadiyo Se Kayi Janmo Se --- Ulfat Mein Zamaane Ki Har Rasm Ko Thukrao --- Tumhe Dekhti Hoon Toh Lagta Hai Aise --- Yeh Mulaqat Ik Bahana Hai --- Chandni Raat Mein Ek Baar Tujhe Dekha Hai… Apart from being evergreen super duper hits from the Golden Age of Indian Music, all these songs have been penned by Naqsh Lyallpuri, the genius shayar and lyricist who at his prime, worked with stalwarts like Shailendra, Sahir Ludhiyanvi, Hasrat Jaipuri and Majrooh Sultanpuri.

Even today, it is a relish for one’s ears to hear the sugariness of Naqsh Saab’s clear Urdu, a man who has always been known among friends and the Film Industry as a cultured, soft spoken and articulate gentleman.

Naqsh saab was born in a district named Lyallpur (today known as Faisalabad) situated 87 miles from Lahore on February 24th, 1928 as Jaswant Rai. He later adopted his pen name (takhkhallus) Naqsh and added ‘Lyallpuri’ to it in adherence with the tradition of Urdu Shayari to be identified by the town one belonged to.

He says “I got popularity late in my career so people could never know my real name. I never wore my religious identity on my sleeves. I was often thought of as a Muslim and once, at a recording studio, even Asha Bhosle was surprised to know that I was not. But it’s not anyone’s fault if he or she can’t make out that I am a Punjabi. I had really worked hard to improve my Urdu diction after reading a story by Saadat Hasan Manto. It had a line – Jab Koi Punjabi Urdu Bolta Hai Toh Aisa Lagta Hai Jaise Jhooth Bol Raha Ho (When a Punjabi speaks Urdu, it seems as if he is lying).”

Naqsh Saab shares an interesting anecdote about his surname, which traces back to his birthplace. The city of Lyallpur (now in Pakistan) celebrated its hundredth year of being in 2005 and he was to be felicitated as someone who brought fame and name to it. Unfortunately, Naqsh Saab could not attend the ceremony. A few delegates came from across the border to hand him his trophy. They were pleasantly surprised to see that the nameplate at the door read “Lyallpuri’s” and later, found out that even Naqsh Saab’s kids and grandchildren have adopted Lyallpuri as their surname. One of the delegates said to Naqsh Saab “It’s hard to find such affection towards one’s own birthplace.”

Early Days
Lyallpuri’s father, a mechanical engineer posted at the Power House, was keen to see him take up science at college and become an engineer. But young Jaswant had started to show signs of becoming a writer. At school, he excelled in Urdu. So much so that when he was in 8th standard, his Urdu teacher had complimented him with words which changed the course of his life. The teacher said, “If you happen to study literature at college, you will be very successful in life.”

Jaswant started reading literature without the knowledge of his parents. He says “Generally what happens is that, you first develop sensibilities of reading and then start developing a desire to write.” He would visit literary gatherings (mehfils) where master shayars would listen to budding poets and hone their skills. He soon started getting appreciation and grew in confidence. He knew that he could write well enough. However, his decision to follow what his teacher had advised didn’t please his father who inquired why, of all the subjects, he was getting low grades in science. Jaswant replied honestly, “I don’t have an interest in science.” His father replied, “If you don’t have an interest in science, I don’t have an interest in getting you taught any further.”

In 1946, Naqsh Lyallpuri took up a job at a publishing house named Hero Publications. By the middle of 1947, he had moved to Lahore searching for work before the partition forced him and his family to migrate. They came to Lucknow where a friend of his father helped them in getting settled.

Things were not going very smoothly between him and his step-mother. Naqsh Lyallpuri could never accept his father’s second wife as his mother. His heart still aches when he talks about it. He says “My mother had died due to chickenpox when I was eight. I would hear people talk about her with great affection. Not being able to recall her face remains my deepest regret.” By the time Naqsh left Lucknow, his equation with his family had started to worsen. He landed up in Mumbai in order to become self-reliant. It was the year 1951 and Naqsh Lyallpuri was barely 23 years of age. He took up a night job with the Times of India filling in for any absent employee as a proof reader.

Naqsh Lyallpuri made many friends living in Mumbai out of whom, 5 to 6 were filthy rich. He agreed to write a stage play which they wanted to produce in order to kill time. Actor Ram Mohan, who was an assistant to Jagdish Sethi was finalized to play the lead. He read the script and heard the four songs which Naqsh Lyallpuri had penned. He was surprised know that someone who could write so well wasn’t into films.

Naqsh Saab told him that he had heard stories of artistes experiencing mistreatment in the Industry and this wasn’t acceptable to him. Ram Mohan asked if he would write for films if an offer came his way and Naqsh Lyallpuri agreed. Ram Mohan took him to meet Jagdish Sethi at Basanti Hall in Dadar. Sethi, who had released a film named Raat Ki Rani (1949) and was making his next told him: “You are welcome to join the open competition. Seven shayars are already working for the songs and I will pick whoever’s piece I like. No matter the poet is an established one or someone new, the price for the song will be the same.” Jagdish Sethi then asked Naqsh Lyallpuri to recite two of his choicest shers in front of everyone. Naqsh Saab’s two couplets which won everyone’s praise were:

“Tere Khayaal Ka Sheesha Na Toot Jaaye Kahin,
Isi Khayaal Mein Har Shab Guzaar Di Maine”

“Aatishe Gham Se Dil Pighalta Hai, Aankh Kuchch Yun Hi Bhar Nahin Aati
Saikadon Mod Aa Chukein Hain Magar, Zindagi Raah Par Nahin Aati”

Naqsh Lyallpuri was instantaneously welcomed by the clan. He filled notebooks after notebooks before coming up with two songs which were voted the best of the lot and made it to the film. Finally, Naqsh Saab’s first film Jaggu got released in 1953 and thus, began his film career.

Naqsh did not find it easy to make a mark inspite of his talent. What he lacked in the Film Industry were marketing skills. He learnt that it was important to know people and strike relationships. He remembers; “Even when I started getting work the payment would depend on the producer’s mercy. Lyricists would have to visit their homes again and again to collect their cheques.”

Once, a producer asked Lyallpuri to write a song assimilating the whole story of the film in itself. It was a challenging task. Naqsh worked hard, assuming that he would be paid double the amount of writing one song. He went to collect the payment and was surprised to see that the producer had put down less than what he had expected. Lyallpuri requested him to get paid more. The producer didn’t like it and took back what he had offered.

Family Life
Naqsh Lyallpuri is married to Kamlesh Lyallpuri and has three sons, Bappan Lyallpuri, Rajendra Lyallpuri and Suneet Lyallpuri.

There is an interesting story to how Naqsh Lyallpuri got married. One of his friends in Lucknow persistently requested him to visit his house. Naqsh wasn’t too comfortable with the idea. But he didn’t know his friend’s exact motives. It happened so that the friend, still feeling hesitant to speak about it, got somebody to write a letter to Naqsh offering his sisters hand in marriage. Naqsh felt that the letter was a deceit to induce differences between him and his friend and didn’t take any notice of the letter. A month later, his friend wrote to him in his own handwriting. Naqsh told him “I have tried to live my life on my own terms. I have never consulted my parents for anything. But marriage is something I would like their consent for. Don’t think I am trying to put you off; I am fine with the idea. I just want my parents to take a decision in this regard. Take this proposal to my father and I can assure you that he will be very pleased.”

The friend took that letter to his father who was pleasantly surprised. He told a friend: “You always said my son is out of my authority. Look, here is something to prove you wrong! THIS is my son!”

Subsequently, Naqsh Lyallpuri got married to his friend’s sister and even till date, he expresses his gratitude towards his wife who has stood by him through all ups and downs.

He shares “I was not getting work. In sheer frustration, I put to fire all my writings. My wife said to me the next day when my anger had cooled off -- You ruined your treasure with your own hands. Why? See, no one dies of a little poverty. When I am ready to be with you even in poverty why do you worry? I and my child may or may not live, but you should not stop writing.”

He goes on sharing another bit of his life story, “At one point of time I had become alcoholic and would drink heavily with some friends in the evenings. But I would return home every night, no matter how late it was, and would never eat my dinner outside. I always came home in a rickshaw. One day, because I was broke, I returned home by bus, completely sloshed, and slept off without having any dinner. The next day she said – “So you advertised to some 40-45 people in that bus that you come back home totally drunk. You can do what you feel like, but do remember that the way people look at you, they look at me and your kids the same way.” That day put an end to my drinking says Naqsh.

Occasionally, Naqsh Lyallpuri was offered a lot of stunt films, which were a rage at that time. He didn’t accept any of those offers as he didn’t want to be labeled. But it was also a time when he was not getting work in mainstream cinema. One day Naqsh Saab found his little kid crying. He asked his wife the reason and she told that the kid was crying for milk but there wasn’t any in the house.

The wife went on to question the reason behind their poverty. She said “There are two kinds of people: First, the ones who know how to do a certain thing but don’t find opportunities. Second are the ones who find opportunities but are not capable to make use of them. I can understand both these situations but you are someone who is being offered work which you can easily do, but you don’t.” It was a wake up call for Naqsh.

Naqsh decided that he would make compromises to support his family. Sapan- Jagmohan, a new musician duo at that time, had signed their first Punjabi film and they came to Naqsh Saab with the signing amount. They said “The producer has offered us three lyricist of his own choice but we want you.”

Though Naqsh Lyallpuri’s mother tongue was Punjabi and he had also done an Honors course in the language, he was doubtful if he would be able to write Punjabi lyrics. He refused straightaway but Sapan-Jagmohan insisted he accept the signing amount and went away. That night, Naqsh Lyallpuri went to his bed thinking of song Mukhdas. He recalls “Till the first 12 Mukhdas, I felt I was using more of Urdu. I found the 13th one good enough from both the aspects, Punjabi and Urdu.”

Lyallpuri went to the music sitting the next day and the moment he recited that Mukhda, everyone jumped in joy. That film, which was titled Jijaji, went on to become a big musical hit in Punjab.

Naqsh Saab shares more experiences related with that film, “Sapan and Jagmohan were popular as chorus singers before turning music directors with Jijaji. In this film Rafi Saab and Asha Bai sang for them charging only hundred rupees. I believe had people like Asha Bhosle and Mohammad Rafi were not so cooperative, no small music director could have risen to success.”

The qawwali which Naqsh Lyallpuri wrote for Jijaji went to become a super-hit and played for 18 continuous weeks on Radio Ceylon. Lyallpuri went on to write 35 Punjabi films much to the dislike of his own friends. “You will now be labeled as a Punjabi lyricist. No one would offer you to write in Urdu,” they would tell him. And this is what actually happened. Hindi filmmakers stopped giving him work. Somehow, he managed to get a couple of films which starred Sanjeev Kumar but they couldn’t get a timely release and went unnoticed.

Later, Sapan Jagmohan also took assignments in bulk and offered Naqsh Saab an amount lesser than what they were already giving him. The poet called it quits and moved away from Punjabi films. In a rather astonishing turn of events, he found it harder to find work with the advent of color technology. He says with a rueful smile “If a cameraman finds it hard to adjust with a change like that of colorization of films, it’s understandable. But if the same happens to a lyricist it’s rather a strange fate.”

But just round the corner, was waiting another interesting phase of his career. Music director Jaidev called Naqsh Saab to write lyrics for a TV Serial named Shrikant. He was hesitant to write for TV but on Jaidev’s persuasion, agreed. He found the job rather fruitful. He says, “TV serials gave me financial security. It was also interesting to write down the whole gist of the story in 5-6 couplets. But I got so engrossed in writing for TV that I ended up neglecting my film career.” Naqsh Saab ended up writing songs for about 50 TV Serials, including Jagjit Sigh’s ‘Rishton Mein Daraar Aayi, Bete Na Rahe Bete, Bhaai Na Rahe Bhaai’ and ‘Honth Jalte Hain Muskurane Se, Phir Bhi Shikwa Nahin Zamane Se (Shikwa)’.

Unfortunately, the genius poet could not see substantial financial rewards. Somehow, he could not penetrate the cream de la crème of the Industry. He shares the reason “There were 6-7 master shayars like Sahir Ludhiyanvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Shailendra etc. who were running at the top of the Film Industry at that time. Every song that I penned would face direct competition from their work.”

Naqsh Lyallpuri worked with over hundred and forty music directors including Sapan Jagmohan, Madan Mohan, Khaiyyam, Jaidev and Naushad who were also his friends. He has also penned a beautiful song for Akbar Khan’s film Tajmahal: An Eternal Love Story (2005). He shares the experience “I was reluctant to do the film as I didn’t think the director would make a good job of it. I accepted the film because my children wanted me to do it. For the title song, I was asked to use the words Mumtaz and Taj Mahal in the very first Misra along with their past. It was quite challenging to come up that Mukhda which was:

Mumtaz Tujhe Dekha, Jab Taj Mahal Dekha, Phir Aaj Ki Aankhon Se, Guzra Hua kal Dekha.”

Late B R Ishara was a close associate and friend of Naqsh Lyallpuri. Naqsh started writing lyrics for Ishara’s film Chetna and from then on, remained his favorite lyricist. Ishara never hired any other lyricist for any of his films. He had so much trust on his friend and poet that he never bothered about approving what Naqsh penned and his songs were sent to the recording studios straightaway.

Lyallpuri shares many anecdotes about Ishara with nostalgia. Once, when the writer-director was out station, shooting his film Milap (1972), he telephoned Naqsh Saab and said “I wish to picturise a song on Shatrughan (Sinha) in both, Rafi’s and Mukesh’s voices. The problem is that we have the actor only for the next four days. It would be great if you can write the lyrics and get the song recorded in a day’s time and then send it to me by tomorrow night!” Luckily, Lyallpuri could book the recording studio for the next day’s evening session along with the singers. The song, which was written, composed, recorded and sent to Ishara within 24 hours; went on to become a hit was. It was:

Kayi Sadiyon Se, Kayi Janmon Se
Tere Pyaar Ko Tarse Mera Man
Aaja, Aaja Ke Adhoora hai Apna Milan

On being asked about his favorite songs, Lyallpuri says, “A lyricist is not an independent artiste. I may write a very beautiful song but if it’s not set to a great tune and sung nicely, it would be a waste. All my popular songs are my favorites.”

Naqsh Saab also throws light on his own writing style sharing invaluable insights about lyric writing. He tells you how he has always been influenced, impressed and inspired by his contemporaries and old stalwarts of Urdu poetry. He says “If I was to hear a poet like Daag (Dehalvi) saying something like -- Baat Tak Karni Tumhe Aati Na Thi, Yeh Hamare Samne Ki Baat Hai, I would feel inspired. There is a sher of mine on similar lines which I have written about myself -- Shayar Toh Nahin Hoon Lekin, Shayar Ki Nazar Paayi Hai, Woh Baat Kahe Deta Hoon, Jo Baat Nazar Aayi Hai.”

He further adds “Similarly, when I was new in the Industry a song written by Nazim Panipati was getting very popular. The Mukhda was: Kaise Keh Doon Bajariya Kay Beech Woh Jo Kaano Mein Kehne Wali Baat Hai. I loved its style and when I got to meet Nazim Saab I had told him that I had decided for someday to use the same style in one of my own songs. Later, I wrote: Bajariya Ke Beech Kya Najariya Milaau, Mile Jo Too Akela Main Gale Lag Jaau. So this is how I would adapt a particular style of some other poet and give it my own color. This was not like lifting a song, which people have started to do these days, but liking someone’s style and putting it into your own words.”

Penning couplets like ‘Kisne Kaha Aapse Pyaar Humein Deejiye, Bas Jab Bhi Mulaqat Ho Hasske Mila Keejiye’ Lyallpuri would lace most of his songs with the everyday language. Unveiling another technique that he would often use, he tells “Sometimes while writing Mukhdas I would write the first line of the couplet (Misra) sounding very easy. One could think that anyone could have come up with a line like that. But the trick was to write the second Misra in such a fashion that the listener would get amazed and reject the idea that he could have ever written the same thing. The style is evident in this Mukhda of mine: Rasme Ulfat Ko Nibhaaye Toh Nibhaaye Kaise, Har Taref Aag Hai Daman Ko Bachaye Kaise.”

A master juggler at playing with words, he would often play with the length of the couplet, twist and tweak his lines to maximum effect. For example in a Mukhda like ‘Ulfat Mein Zamaane Ki Har Rasm Ko Thukrao, Phir Saath Mere Aao, Phir Saath Mere Aao’ the second line has a repetition which works towards creating the desired effect.

With such clinical efficiency and meticulous attitude towards his writing, Naqsh Lyallpuri rose to become an important name in the world of lyrics. People would recognize his song the moment they hear it and say ‘It sounds like a Naqsh Lyallpuri song!’

Once he went to meet his musician friend Jaidev and found him sitting with his harmonium. Jaidev suggested: “Let’s make some music together!” The poet settled to penning down a few verses and the musician sat down setting them to tune. After a little while, when Jaidev was singing this newly composed song, singer Runa Laila who had come to his flat heard it and was so fascinated by those musical notes that she immediately expressed a desire to sing it. She said “I am in Bombay for the next four days. I would be grateful to you if you can record it in my voice. I will sing it unconditionally.”

Jaidev only had one film at that time, Gharonda (1977) and he asked its director Bhimsain if the song could fit the storyline. Though Gulzar had already been signed as the lyricist for that film, Bhimsain gave his nod. Next day, Runa Laila sang the piece which was to become an all time super hit. That song was -- ‘Tumhe Ho Na Ho, Mujhko Toh Itna Yakeen Hai, Mujhe Pyaar Tumse Nahin Hai Nahin Hai.’

On another occasion, Jaidev asked Naqsh Saab to build a Mukhda around the word ‘Sabab.’ Naqsh said “Are you sure? Sabab is a word music directors call non- musical and are afraid of!” However, he wrote the sher -- Yaad Pehale kabhi Hoga Magar Ab Yaad Nahin, Haan Mujhe Apnee Tabahi Ka Sabab Yaad Nahin.

For the film Henna (1991), music director Ravindra Jain wanted a song to have a few Punjabi words in it. But neither he nor lyricist Hasrat Jaipuri knew Punjabi. Luckily, Naqsh Saab was present in the music sitting and heard the tune which had already been finalized. He liked it and offered to write the lyrics. Ravindra Jain readily agreed. The next day Naqsh Saab gave the lyrics which Raj Kapoor liked so much that he decided to record it immediately. Kapoor later praised Naqsh Saab saying, “Probably this is the first ever song in my life which I have approved without changing a single word!” The song was Chitthiye:

Palle Vich Aggde Angare Nahin Lukde, Ishq De Mushq Chhupaya Nahin Chhupde, Phir Bhi Yeh Raaz Jaan Jati Hai Duniya, Honthon Pei Lagale Chahe Tale Koi Chupde Naqsh Lyallpuri has some grievances to share. He says, “I don’t like the way songs are written today. I left many films because I was asked to make them sound vulgar. A song is good when it has good language, follows the rule of shayari and you can listen to it with your the female members of your family. Today, there is no good writing. Melody is fading away and singers have started to follow western music which doesn’t resonate with our roots.”

Naqsh Lyallpuri fondly remembers the days of his prime when the Film Industry operated in a different fashion. He shares: “In those days Film Studios were quite prominent and everyone, including actors, musicians, lyricist and singers would sit together in the evenings. People like Qamar Saab, and even I, would organize Bazm (gatherings) where shayars would listen to each other. We had no ego clashes. Once Sahir Ludhiyanvi was admitted to the hospital and couldn’t finish a film. I filled in and he had no objections. Today, so much has changed in the Industry. I believe machines can’t replace the nuances of a live musical instrument. You can’t play with the tempo and pace of the song with digital recording. That is the reason old songs have honesty and melody in them. I remember an incident when I saw a young girl breaking a couple of brand new audio cassettes in my neighborhood. I informed her parents who said that it was OK because they had played those cassettes 4-5 times. I was amazed and said – But I have been hearing the songs of Guide playing from your house since past 4 years. What about those cassettes? – They replied: That is different. Those audio cassettes are precious to us!”

On being asked about his favorite lyricist from the current lot, Naqsh Saab says “Gulzar and Javed Akhtar do not belong to today’s time. Among the new generations of lyricists I think Prasoon Joshi comes up with good thoughts though he is weak at the technicalities like meter and rhyme. Saeed Quadri has also done some nice work.”

He welcomes the new breed of lyricists but wishes them to be more profound and giving. He says “Today people don’t have a good understanding of the language, and the lyricist who doesn’t know the language, in my opinion, is not a shayar.”

Naqsh Lyallpuri has published two books. The first one, Teri Gali Ki Taref is a collection of his non-filmy shayari while the other, Angan Angan Barse Geet features his best songs from film, TV and albums. He is right now compiling his third book.

The Film Writers Association was fortunate to have Naqsh Saab as one of its strongest office bearers. For eight years he was a Treasurer at the association till he finished his final term in 2008. He was instrumental in moving the office from Dadar to Andheri which he felt would also be a good investment.

Naqsh Lyallpuri has no grudges when he looks back at his life journey. He says: “I had asked for two blessings from the almighty. One, don’t make me beg in front of anyone. Two - don’t hold back any of my valid demands. I have been lucky enough that till today, I have not gone to anyone’s house to ask for work and none of my needs has gone unfulfilled. Let me put it like this:

Bin Maange Hi Qubool Ho Jis Dil Ki Har Aarzoo, Maange Woh Khushnaseeb Tere Astana Se Kya”

Joyful, as he is, at this age, Naqsh Saab says, “I could not fulfill all my ambitions. I wanted to do much more. I could not reach out to people. But I have got enough love and affection from the ones I know. People praise me even behind my back. I don’t care what happens after my death.”

In his own words Naqsh Lyallpuri sums up his own persona:
“Main Woh Diya Hoon, Jise Aandhiyon Ne Paala Hai Bujha Na Paogi, Ae, Waqt Ki Hawaon Mujhe.”

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