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Shaayar-e-Aazam : S.H.Bihari

Posted on Trivia – The Spice of Life on 05/12/2021

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A tune without words is a mere melody. But a song, I believe, is a melody adorned with words. If the tune is the skeletal framework, the words are what clothe the framework to make it presentable and likeable. Those who engage with music at a profound level, try to fathom and appreciate the lyrics of a song as much as the tune, in order to fully imbibe its essence. It is a pity that though we listen to and cherish film songs everyday, many of us do not pay heed to the lyricist, who has an important role in making the song a reality. In fact, we do not even know what many of the lyricists of the golden era looked like. Getting a picture or two of some of them is also a challenge.

One such accomplished lyricist of the golden era is S.H.Bihari whose poetry, moulded into film songs, enthrals music lovers. However, except for the fact that we hear his name being announced on radio channels – especially Vividh Bharati – not too much has been written about him. The name that is heard along with his name is that of O.P.Nayyar – the ace music director. That is how most of us remember him. His best songs were perhaps written for O.P.Nayyar. However, he worked with several other frontrunners, though the number of songs he wrote for others were less. He penned more than 400 songs during his lifetime. He wrote lyrics for songs in about 90 films. However, in several of them, he was not the sole lyricist.

Shamshul Huda Bihari, better known as S. H. Bihari, was born in 1922 in Aara, Bihar. He completed his graduation (B.A.) from Presidency College, Calcutta. He had attained proficiency not only in Hindi and Urdu but also in Bengali. He was immensely talented; his hand wrote magical poetry and his feet sought the football with great élan. He played football for Mohun Bagan in Calcutta. Thus, there were two career options available – one predominantly using the mind and the other, the body. His inclination was more towards the former. He felt that was his calling. He had a flair for writing poetry – tukbandi as his wife calls it – since his school days. He shifted to Bombay in 1947 to give his dreams wings, even as he found a job in a concern. It was Anil Biswas who was the first to recognise his genius when he heard a nazm of Bihari on All India Radio. Thus, S.H.Bihari wrote 2 songs for Laadli (1949), a film whose music director was Anil Biswas. While the lion’s share of his work was for O.P.Nayyar, he worked quite prolifically with two other music directors – Hemant Kumar and Ravi.

S.H.Bihari was a die hard romantic. His songs are an ode to love. He was himself a rather possessive man – a fact his wife Safiya mentions in an interview – which seems to explain lyrics like Tumhara Chaahnewala Khuda Ki Duniya Mein Mere Siwa Bhi Koi Aur Ho Khuda Na Karen (Kahin Din Kahin Raat, 1968). Even though he was talented, he was never financially well off. He had a tough time making ends meet. He often travelled by bus and even wrote the lyrics of many a song behind bus tickets. It goes to show how spontaneously creative he was. He had the ability to come up with lyrics of songs in a very short period of time. However, one song which he struggled to write was Tumhaari Mulaaqat Se Mujhko Pata Yeh Chala from Mohabbat Zindagi Hain (1966). He actually started to doubt his own abilities as a lyricist since the music director (O.P.Nayyar), the director and the producer did not approve the umpteen versions of the song that he had written. This song did not do well, despite all the effort he put in. And he says that another song of the same movie which was written effortlessly – Raaton Ko Chori Chori – became very popular.

The (late) 1950s and 1960s were his best years. His association with O.P.Nayyar started with one song in Mitti Mein SonaYeh Duniya Rahen Na Rahen. And then there was no looking back. His songs in movies such as Ek Musafir Ek Hasina, Kashmir Ki Kali, Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi, Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi, Saawan Ki Ghata, Mohabbat Zindagi Hain, Dil Aur Mohabbat, Kismat, Humsaaya, Aisa Bhi Hota Hain and Ek Baar Muskura Do are timeless. However, by the late 1970s, work had started dwindling because O.P.Nayyar’s charm had started fading; further, personal tragedies struck him one after another. He lost two of his children in 1977 and 1983 – a loss that he was never able to come to terms with. His financial condition had always been frail. His health was failing and with no money for medical attention, he died of a heart attack on 25th February, 1987.

His best song for O.P.Nayyar – which was also the last song Asha Bhosle sang for O.P.Nayyar before an acrimonious end to their association, in a way sums up the struggles of S.H.Bihari’s life – the aap here being life itself!! O.P.Nayyar continued to work with S.H.Bihari but the former was slowly but surely losing his magic.

Chain se hamako kabhi aapane jine na diya
zahar bhi chaaha agar, peena to peene na diya

All his life he craved for recognition, financial stability and a happy family life. He got some recognition but with two of his children predeceasing him and his paltry means, life never gave him his due. But for O.P.Nayyar, S.H.Bihari was Shaayar-e-Aazam or ‘emperor among poets‘. One cannot agree more with this epithet.

Having summed up his life and career, I must state here that my post is an attempt to enlist some of his songs that he wrote for music directors other than O.P.Nayyar in his initial years i.e. till about 1960. I have tried to include songs of 10 different music directors he worked with; I must add here that he penned songs for many a music director in his initial years. I may not be able to cover all of them. In some cases he did just one movie with them but I felt the same must be documented. The songs are listed chronologically.

1) Ek Chhoti Si Chingari (Laadli, 1949) Music Director : Anil Biswas; Playback Singer : Meena Kapoor. This was the first film that S.H.Bihari wrote songs for. This film was a musical comedy. There were five Lyricists, including S.H.Bihari. This song is a light hearted one which advocates staying away from commitment in love. He does not seem to have ever worked with Anil Biswas after this.

Shama bankar mujhe
mehfil mein yoon 
jalna nahin aata
kisi ki yaad mein 
rona nahin aata
mohabbat jisko kehte hain
wo hain ek aam beemaari

Main ek chhoti si chingaari
machalti hoon hawaaon mein
hamaari har ada nyaari
main ek chhoti si chingaari

[This movie has another song written by him – garibon ka hissa, garibon ko de do which is completely different from the one at hand. This speaks about the rights of the poor.]

2) Hay Yeh Tune Kya Kiya (Duniya, 1949) Music Director : C.Ramchandra; Playback Singers : Md.Rafi & Suraiya. The producers of the movie – Fazli Brothers – heard S.H.Bihari’s Ghazal Qadam Qadam Pe Haseen Nazaare Hain, Magar Yeh Sabke Sab Tumhaare Hain – in a Mushaira. They were so impressed that he was roped in to write the lyrics of some of the songs of their movie – Duniya. This popular song sung by Rafi and Suraiya is an enjoyable light hearted romantic melody. This is perhaps the only movie where S.H.Bihari worked with C.Ramchandra.

  Humne to dil luta diya, 
humne toh sar jhuka diya
ab to jo ho hua kare

Humne to ghar jala diya
dard jo mitha mitha tha 
aur use badha diya
haye ye tune kya kiya

3) Gayen Woh Mere Dil Ko Veeran Karke (Nirdosh, 1950) Music Director : Shyam Sunder; Playback Singer: Shamshad Begum. The music direction was of Shyam Sunder. Interestingly, Madan Mohan was Shyam Sunder’s assistant in this film. S.H.Bihari wrote one song in this movie. The rest were penned by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and Asad Bhopali. He did not work with Shyam Sunder after this.

Na aaye the to zara itminaan tha dil ko
wo aa ke chal diye phir bekraar karke mujhe

gaye wo mere dil ko viran kar ke
judai mein rone ka saamaan karke

4) Morey Tumse Ulajh Gaye Naina (Bedardi, 1951) Music Director : Roshan; Playback Singer : Geeta Dutt. This is a lovely romantic song, sung by Geeta Dutt. One can note the use of the desaj words along with some chaste Hindi. This shows the command that S.H.Bihari had over Hindi language and its dialects. Only the audio of this song is available, which also is of poor quality. He doesn’t appear to have worked with Roshan after this movie.

Vyaakul vyaakul hain jhankaaren
kisne been bajaayi hain
ham ko phir hamre man basiya
yaad tihaari aayi hain
kyunki morey tumse
tore mujhse
ho ho tore mujhse
ulajh gaye naina
ho ho balam
ye baat kisi se na kehna

[This movie had another romantic solo – aankhon se puchh lo ki jinhe intzaar hain – written by S.H.Bihari and sung by Geeta Dutt.]

5) Beech Bajariya Mori Chunariya (Khubsurat, 1952) Music Director : Madan Mohan; Playback Singer : Asha Bhosle. This is perhaps the only movie where S.H.Bihari teamed up with Madan Mohan. Since Suraiya was the heroine, all the songs were sung by her, barring one which was by Asha Bhosle. Thus, this song whose video is not available was surely picturized on a supporting actress. Going by the lyrics, it appears to be a street dance. The lyrics are quite interesting :-

Beech bajariyaa mori chunariyaa
sar se sarki jaaye

Idhar sambhaaloon girey udhar se
baabu ji goondon ke darr se
jiyaa moraa ghabraaye

Ghoonghat mein nainon ka jodaa
gora gora mukhda mora
koi dekh na paaye...

6) Shaam Suhani Nadi Ke Kinaare (Nishan Danka, 1952) Music Director : Basant Prakash; Playback Singers : Talat Mahmood & Geeta Dutt. Basant Prakash (the brother of music director Khemchand Prakash) did not compose for many films. This song however, proves his mettle. S.H.Bihari was one of the lyricists along with Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and Hasrat Jaipuri. The intermittently altering pace of the song almost makes it seem like a roller coaster ride. The lyrics are written very imaginatively, with the waves being compared to the king’s army!

Shaam suhaani nadi ke kinaare
machalne lage aaj armaan hamaare

Rupahli sunahri yeh dariyaa ki maujen
aayen chadhhti huyi jaise raaja ki faujen
bhaage chhup jaayen hum dar ke maare
nadee ke kinaare

7) Dil Mera Aaj Gaane Laga (Rangeela, 1953) Music Director : Jamal Sen; Playback Singers : Md.Rafi & Asha Bhosle. This movie was directed and produced by Bhagwan. Initially, it was Rajinder Krishan who was to be the lyricist; however, Rajinder Krishan was not too keen on taking up the assignment and he recommended S.H.Bihari’s name. While the movie slumped, a few songs became popular. This song is one of them. Jamal Sen too though talented, did not taste success in the film industry.

Dil aaj mera gaane laga 
geet pyaar ke
lo dhire dhire aa hi gaye
 din bahaar ke

8) Teri yaad ka deepak jaltaa hain (Gawaiya, 1954) Music Director : Ram Ganguly; Playback Singer: Talat Mahmood. Here again, S.H.Bihari shared space with two other lyricists – Shewan Rizvi and Chandrashekhar Pandey. There is an interesting story behind this film. This film was released by Musical Pictures Ltd. – a production company floated by 2 equal partners, A.R.Kardar and Naushad. Though Naushad was himself a partner and the most sought after music director of his times, the film had Ram Ganguly as the music director. Ram Ganguly too despite being very accomplished did not taste the fruit of success for long.

I would rate this as one of the best songs written by S.H.Bihari. However, it is strange that it remembered more for Talat’s voice. Not many appreciate Ram Ganguly’s music or S.H.Bihari’s magic with words. He wrote extra antaras for the song as there were three versions – two sung by Talat and the third by Surendra. Surendra sings in the vintage fashion but with more despondency in his voice. Talat’s voice is silky smooth just as ever. I am listing all the antaras as I find them very impressive.

Teri yaad ka deepak jaltaa hain
din raat mere veeraane mein
wo paagalpan jo pehle thha
ab bhi hain tere deewaane mein
taqdeer ko aisi aag lagi
jal jal ke kalejaa khaaq hua
hain shouq magar kucch aur abhi
jalne ka tere parwaane mein
kissa hain meri barbaadi ka
aur shouq se duniya sunti hain
kyaa raaz hain koi kyaa jaane
is dard bhare afsaane mein
din raat mera gham badhtaa gayaa
par teri muhabbat kam na hui
jo lutf tadapne mein paaya
wo baat kahaan mar jaane mein
ek aag sulagti rehti hain
har waqt mera dil jaltaa hain
hai shauq magar kuchh aur abhi
jalne ka tere parwaane mein
teri yaad ka deepak jaltaa hain

[This movie has another gem of S.H.Bihari’s in Mubarak Begum’s voice – apni barbaadi mujhe manzoor hain .]

9) Na Yeh Chaand Hoga (Shart, 1954) Music Director : Hemant Kumar; Playback Singer: Hemant Kumar/Geeta Dutt. Shart, a Filmistan production, was the second Hindi movie that Hemant Kumar gave music direction for. This was also the first movie which saw Hemant Kumar teaming up with S.H.Bihari, whom S.Mukherjee of Filmistan, being impressed by his way with words, inducted. After Shart Hemant Kumar and S.H.Bihari worked together in about 12 movies – like Daaku Ki Ladki, 1954Chaand Se Poocho), Bandish,1955, (Raat Hai Suhaani O Nindiyaa Raani), Inspector, 1956, (Dil Chhed Koi Aisa Nagma), Arab Ka Saudaagar, 1956, (Ye Mehfil Sitaaron Ki ), Ek Jhalak, 1957, (Ye Hansta Hua Kaarvaan), Hill Station, 1957, (Nai Manzil Nai Raahen ).

S.H.Bihari wrote a majority of the songs for Shart, with the rest being written by Rajendra Krishan.The opening words of the song not just immortalize love but S.H.Bihari too. This song has two versions – one by Geeta Dutt and the other by Hemant Kumar.

Na ye chaand hogaa 
na taare rahenge
magar hum hameshaa
 tumhaare rahenge

10) Bedard Zamana Tera Dushman (Mehndi, 1958) Music Director : Ravi ; Playback Singers: Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. Ravi, the great music director, started off his career as Hemant Kumar’s protégé. Since Hemant Kumar was working closely with S.H.Bihari in the 1950s, Ravi also incorporated him into his team, in quite a few films, after he became an independent music director. This song from the movie Mehndi is a philosophical take on life.

Bedard zamaana 
tera dushaman hain to kya hain
duniya mein nahin jiska koyi
 uska khuda hain

After tracing S.H.Bihari’s career from 1949 to 1958 i.e. just before he joined O.P.Nayyar, I found him to be an exemplary poet with complete command over the language and a rare ability to capture the different shades of love. I found that while he was immensely talented, he did not get enough opportunities to work under the big banners. Further, even in the few movies that he wrote songs for, more often than not, he was one of the lyricists on board, not the only one. He was not able to stitch alliances with the leading music directors of the time. For example – he worked with C.Ramchandra, Roshan, Anil Biswas and Madan Mohan, but only once. Unlike his contemporaries Rajendra Krishan, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi or Hasrat Jaipuri, who worked with all top music directors, he was unable to work with most. It was from 1960 to the early 1970s that he really got his due but here too largely with O.P.Nayyar. As a result, when O.P.Nayyar’s career started moving southwards, S.H.Bihari too started facing the nadir, though he continued to write. To end the post in S.H.Bihari’s words :-

Taqdeer ko aisi aag lagi 
jal jal ke kalejaa khaaq hua
 hain shouq magar kucch aur abhi 
jalne ka tere parwaane mein

Disclaimer claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from Daily Motion, YouTube and other platforms only to make the post audio visual. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

5 thoughts on “Shaayar-e-Aazam : S.H.Bihari

    1. Thanks for reading, Anupji! Several of S.H.Bihari’s songs written in the early 1950s are not known to many. I too got to hear the early ones for the first time. The trajectory of his career was also something I leant about in greater detail while writing this post.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, AKji! When I started researching, even I was a little surprised. I was under the impression that he had begun his career as a lyricist with O.P.Nayyar. I heard quite a few interviews to piece his early years in the film industry.


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