Tributes to Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, the famous Urdu poet, writer, and Hindi film lyricist, on his 91st birth anniversary today.

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Tributes to Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, the famous Urdu poet, writer, and Hindi film lyricist, on his 91st birth anniversary today.

Raja Mehdi Ali Khan was a famed writer and lyricist who rose to stardom within the Hindi film industry in the late 1940s till the 1960s. Khan was greatly influenced by contemporary Urdu poets and writers, the first of which was his mother, Hebay Saheba. He went on to establish himself as a protean lyricist who could pen ballads of romance alongside spirited verses of patriotic fervor with equal ease.

Born in Karmabad (present-day Pakistan), Khan began his early tutoring under his mother Hebay Saheba. Khan then worked under renowned poet Dr. Allama Iqbal. These early influences greatly inspired his poetry. By the 1940s, Khan began working at All India Radio in Delhi. Khan’s association with veteran Urdu writer, Sadat Hassan Manto brought him to Mumbai where he started working as a dialogue writer in Hindi film industry. Khan got his first break as a lyricist with Filmistan’s film Do Bhai (1946). The songs of the film were very successful and he went on to pen song lyrics for countless films within a short period of time. These included Shaheed (1948), Actress(1948), Vidya (1948), and Ziddi (1948).

Khan’s association with music composer, Madan Mohan created some immortal songs in films such as Ada (1961), Mera Saaya (1966), Woh Kaun Thi (1964), Neela Akash (1965), Anpadh (1962) and Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah (1967) amongst many others.

Raja Mehdi had also been associated with music composers like Khemchand Prakash, Bulo C Rani (Baghdad), S N Tripathi (Hatimtai, Paristaan), Shyam Sunder, Gulam Hyder, S D Burman, Ravi, and Roshan. He has given some wonderful songs with C. Ramchandra (Mere piya gaye Rangoon), O.P. Nayyar (Main Pyar Ka Raahi Hoon) and Laxmikant Pyarelal (for Anita and Jaal).

Raja Mehdi also worked with some lesser-known composers like Basant Prakash (Nishan Danka), Iqbal Qureshi, Babul, S. Mohinder (Bekhabar, Paapi), Chic Chocolate (Rangoli), Rono Deb Mukerjhi (Tu Hi Meri Zindagi), Jimmy (Shrimatiji), N Dutta (Bhai Bahen), Nissar Bazmi (Khoj), Dhoomi Khan (Naqabposh), S Haridarshan (Shahi Bazaar), Robin Bannerjee (Masoom), etc.

Raja Mehdi Ali Khan was a close friend of great Urdu writer Saadat Hassan Manto. He wrote a character sketch of him namely “Main, Manto, Kaali Shalwar Aur Dhuwan”. He also wrote a poem in his memory “Jannat Se Manto Ka Ek Khat”.

After a successful career that lasted more than a decade, Khan subsequently withdrew from the Hindi film industry. However, he continued to publish his poetry and short stories such as ‘Biswin Sadi’, ‘Shama Bano’ and ‘Khilona’ till his death in 1996.

He breathed his last on July 29, 1966, leaving behind a treasure of songs that are still cherished by all lovers of poetry in film songs.

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Celebrating Cinema

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