Remembering Poet & Lyricist ‘Jan Nisar Akhtar’

Jan Nisar Akhtar is an important name in the history of Golden era of Hindi film music. As usual, many of his songs were popular that time, but people neither had an easy access (except while watching the movie) to the name of the lyricist, nor were they interested. No doubt, the final presentation of the song, its tune, playback singer’s voice and expressions, etc enhance its impact, but the poor lyricist, the father of the song, remains overlooked. I think, very few people care for the lyricist.

Jan nisar akhtar
Today’s generation might know Jan Nisar Akhtar, as the father of famous writer, poet and lyricist, Javed Akhtar. But his contribution to old Hindi film songs has remained underrated. He didn’t care much for his career in films. He was a famous Shair and had a reputation in Urdu literature for his ghazals and nazms. Though he couldn’t get the same acclaim for film songs, he will always be remembered for his quality work there. It is said that O P Nayyar once said to him, “यार! तुम्हारे गीतों में शायरी बहुत होती हैं…..”. He replied, “शायरी के बग़ैर मैं कोई गीत नहीं लिख सकता दोस्त, मैं फिल्म छोड़ सकता हूँ, शायरी नहीं……”. This was his passion for shayari! Today while focusing mainly on his career in Hindi film industry, I’ll try to mention its other notable aspects too.
He was born on 8th February 1914, in Gwalior. He had a favourable environment at home for poetry, as his father, Muztar Khairabadi was a poet. After matriculation from Gwalior, he joined Aligarh Muslim University for higher studies and passed M.A. Unfortunately he could not complete his doctorate. He worked as a lecturer in Urdu in Gwalior, later joined Hamidia College, Bhopal. He soon became a part of ‘progressive writers movement’. He left the job to join Hindi films as a lyricist, and arrived at Mumbai (then Bombay). Here, he came in contact with other progressive writers, like Mulk Raj Anand, Rajinder Singh Bedi and Ismat Chughtai.
I could not get exact information about his first film song, but it could be around 1949-50. His first well known song was from Anarkali (1953), ‘Aa Jan E Wafa’. It was sung by Geeta Dutt & composed by Basant Prakash (Khemchand Prakash’s brother). But later, C Ramchandra took over and only that single song by Akhtar remained in the movie. It became popular with all other songs of Anarkali. Later he worked for films like Dhoop Chhaon and Danka (Both released in 1954, composer – Aziz Hindi for both) that had songs like,
Phir Milane Ke Zamane Aaye,
Yeh Sitare Yeh Chand (Both from Danka)
The songs were not much popular, though the songs from Danka were a bit famous.
I think, for some days, he was associated with Kardar Productions, as a salaried lyricist, where he wrote all the songs for the movie, Yasmin (1955). Though C Ramchandra always worked with Rajendra Krishna those days, this was an exception! The songs of Yasmin, opened the doors of success and fame to Akhtar. The film had seven solos by Lata Mangeshkar (including hits like, Mujh Pe Ilzam E Bewafai Hai, Bechain Karne Wale, Ab Woh Raaten Kahan) and one solo by Talat with one memorable duet (Tum Apni Yaad Bhi). ‘Yasmin’ was directed by A R Kardar, Akhtar again worked with him for ‘Baap Re Baap’, but this time, C Ramchandra composed a few songs and left the project. O P Nayyar completed the movie. Akhtar’s lyrics this time had a completely different flavour than Yasmin. The movie was a social comedy, and had comedy songs, romantic songs. Akhtar proved himself by writing the songs of different genre. ‘Piya Piya Piya Mora Jiya Pukare’ is the most popular song from the movie and is still very popular! O P Nayyar later had a successful association with Akhtar for a few years. But O P never relied on a single lyricist, so after a certain period, he stopped working with Akhtar. But their association offered us a bunch of beautiful and melodious songs-
Naya Andaz (1956) – Apna To Zamane Mein, Meri Neendon Mein Tum
C I D (1956) – Aankhon Hi Aankhon Mein Ishara
Chhoo Mantar (1956)Garib Jaan Ke Hum Ko, Main To Banke Nainowali
Dhake Ki Malmal (1956 ) – Jadugar Sanwariya, Ab To Tum Sang Naina
Shrimati 420 (1956)Main Dhoondati Hoon, Badi Rangeen Zindagi Hain
Qaidi (1957) – Kuchh To Aisi Baat, Yoon Muskurake Samne Aaya Na Kijiye
Ragini (1958)Man Mora Bawra, Is Duniya Se Nirala Hoon
Kalpana (1960) – Bekasi Had Se Jab

In 60s, he wrote for C Arjun, who wasn’t regarded as a popular composer. So though the songs were good, did not reach to all and remained neglected, so was the composer. Their notable films include, Main Aur Mera Bhai (1961) and Sushila (1966). The well known duet by Rafi & Talat from Sushila, ‘Gham Ki Andheri Raat Mein’ is still popular and is considered as one of Rafi’s best duets with Male co-singers.
Afterwards, very less number of his songs were released and as the time went on, there was a further fall in number.

Some of his other notable songs –
For N Datta –
Black Cat (1959)- Main Tumhi Se Yeh Puchhati Hoon, Sitare Raah Takte Hain
Do Bhai (1961) – Ae Dil Yeh Bata
Dilli Ka Dada (1962) – Dhoondhe Nazar Nazar

For Sajjad Husain –
Rustam Sohraab (1963) – Ae Dilruba, Mazandara Mazandara

For Usha Khanna –
Awara Badal (1964) – Meri Ja Na Zulfen Kholo

For C Arjun –
Ek Saal Pehle (1965) – Nazar Utha Ke Yeh Sama
Mangu Dada (1970) – Jitani Haseen Ho Tum, Peene Wale Meri Aankhon Se

For Jaidev –
Prem Parbat (1973) – Yeh Dil Aur Unki, Raat Piya Ke Sang Jaagi Re

For Iqbal Qureshi –
Dastan E Laila Majnu (1974) – Pukarti Hain Mohabbat

For Khayyam –
Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke (1960) – Badi Mushkil Hai, Raaz Seene Mein Mohhobat Ka
Sandhya (1975) – Ang Ang Rang Chhalkaye
Shankar Hussain (1977) – Aap Yoon Faaslon Se
Noorie (1979) – Aa Ja Re Mere Dilbar Aa Ja
Razia Sultan (1983) – Ae Dil E Nadan, Aayi Zanjeer Ki Jhankar

In total he wrote just 151 songs for Hindi films, but his contribution is significant, if we consider the quality and versatility of his songs.
He wrote and produced the movie ‘Bahu Begum’ in 1967, but the lyrics were written by Sahir.
Some of his non film songs ‘Ashaar Mere Yoon To’ , ‘Zara Si Baat Pe’ (Both the songs sung by Mukesh and composed by Khayyam) were also popular.
His notable books include, Khamosh Awaz, ‘Khak E Dil’, Pichhale Peher, Ghar Aangan. Khak E Dil received ‘Sahitya Academy Award’ in 1976.
He was still working on Razia Sultan, when he died on 19th August 1976 in Bombay (now Mumbai)

His son Javed Akhtar has shared some of the memories of his father. He said his father was too versatile to establish a poetic identity.
He never believed in marketing his compositions and worked only with the people he was comfortable with.
He and young Javed bonded over poetry. But they didn’t live together, when Javed came to mumbai. But he recognized the poet in Javed and encouraged him. They used to discuss his poetry. His father was the one, who started using simple Urdu without much Arabic and Persian words. He wanted to make Urdu accessible to common man. He not only wrote ghazals, songs, but also thumris and Nazms.
Javed Saab is thankful to his father and his grandfather for the legacy of poetry.

Today, as a tribute to Jan Nisar Akhtar, on his 42nd death anniversary, let me present my favorite songs, penned by him. The songs are in No particular order.

1. Bechain Nazar Betaab Jigar – Yasmin (1955) Talat / Music – C Ramchandra
Ahmed (Suresh) and Yasmin (Vaijayanti Mala) meet and get attracted to each other. He is completely mesmerised by her beauty and dance. They start dating and he is eagerly awaiting her as promised. He is on seventh heaven and feels the world is full of blossoming flowers and romance.
“ हैं दिल का चमन खेलने के लिए
आएगा कोई मिलने के लिए
फूलों से कहो, तारों से कहो
चुप के स सजा दे वीराना। ”
The song has unmistakable Arabian flavour, as story demands. I think, the Mandolin creates that atmosphere perfectly.

2. Aankhon Hi Aankhon Mein – C I D (1956) Geeta Dutt & Rafi / Music – O P Nayyar
When you think of CID you remember this song. This was his only song for the movie. Shakila’s playful teasing, and Dev Anand’s naughty behaviour highlight the crispiness of the song. The journey of the song (or rather of Shakila) from ‘किस दिलरुबा का नजारा हो गया’ to ‘अच्छा, तो ये दिल हमारा हो गया’ in the last stanza is full of romance, mischief, and yet there is an innocence and eagerness to find, am I not ‘the’ girl, and finally ‘yes! I’m the one!’
May be the tune is more overpowering than the lyrics, but again the words are important too.

3. Meri Neendon Mein Tum – Naya Andaz (1956) Shamshad Begum & Kishore Kumar / Music – O P Nayyar
Perhaps the most famous song from the movie. I think, it’s too popular to omit on Jaan Nisar Akhtar’s song list. I’m not a great fan of this song, I must confess! But on second thought, it’s not at all bad either! The first part of the song is a stage performance by KK and Meena Kumari.
The lyrics of the song are good, Shamshad’s soft voice instead of sharp high pitched one, is the attraction for me. The combination of singers is rare (or maybe I should say, non popular) too. I can’t off hand remember their duet from any other film.

4. Main Tumhi Se Yeh Poochhti Hoon – Black Cat (1959) Lata Mangeshkar & Rafi / Music – N Datta
This is perhaps the best known song from the movie, which otherwise had nothing memorable about it. Akhtar has woven this romantic song around the concept of a bewildered girl, who keeps on asking her beloved, ‘why in the world she loves him and why is she sure about his commitment’. He occupies all her thoughts and she never forgets him even if she tries to neglect him.
The song is knitted in a simple but sweet melody, which offers equal chance to the lyrics.

5. Bekasi Had Se Jab – Kalpana (1960) Asha Bhosle / Music – O P Nayyar
This ghazal or Mujra asks, what would one do, if one’s destitute and extremely helpless. The lyrics suit her circumstances in the film, I guess! I’ve no idea how Padmini lands up in a kotha.
I’m very fond of this song. It’s just sung with Sarangi, Tabla & Ghungroo. This subtle use of instruments helps us concentrate more on the lyrics.
Again Akhtar’s only song in the movie.

6. Main Abhi Gair Hoon – Main Aur Mera Bhai (1961) Asha Bhosle & Mukesh / Music – C Arjun
This film was a story of twin brothers, as usual one is a gentleman and the other ultimately turns smuggler. The story has usual twists and turns, to end on a happy note. Ameeta, Ajit and Mehmood were the cast. This is a soft, romantic song. He feels her in his heartbeats, sees her in dreams, and so he wonders why should their love be kept a secret? She is shy and tries to keep away from him. Akhtar’s gentle words and phrases make the song feel like a silk.
It reminded me of ‘Phir Na Kije Meri Gustakh’ from Phir Subah Hogi. The tune is a bit similar too.

7. Bemurravat Bewafa – Sushila (1963) Mubaraq Begum / Music – C Arjun
Unlike the confused girl in Black Cat, the girl here has realized the importance and exact place of love in her life. She poetically describes her emotions in this beautiful ghazal. It’s a pretend anger that she calls him unkind, and disloyal.
Mubaraq Begum’s unconventional stern voice highlights the lyrics of the song. Jan Nisar Akhtar had an association with C Arjun for a few films of 60s. Though the songs were not all popular, now we can see that those were good, well composed and of course well written.

8. Yeh Dil Aur Unki Nigahon Ke – Prem Parbat (1973) Lata Mangeshkar / Music – Jaidev
A famous song from an obscure film. It has been mentioned on YouTube that prints of the movie are not available. But this song is a treasure from the movie, very well written lyrics. Beauty of the nature is described in such a wonderful way. Song’s full of energy and happiness.

9. Aap Yoon Faaslon Se – Shankar Hussain (198 ) Lata Mangeshkar / Music – Khayyam
It may not be a well known song. But here definitely the words play an important role, and the melody just supports it and converts it into a song, rather than prose. Lata’s subdued voice, flows like silk throughout and soothes ears and soul. The ghazal needs to be experienced, rather than me explaining it. And I’ve failed to find correct words to express it.
Khayyam has used subtle orchestration, indeed necessary for such compositions.

10. Khwab Bankar Koi Aayega – Razia Sultan (1983) Lata Mangeshkar / Music – Khayyam
Raziya Sultan (Hema Malini) and her lady in waiting (Parveen Babi) are enjoying a boat ride inside her palace. The queen remembers her prince (Dharmendra) as the lady in waiting sings to coax her to sleep. It’s a slow flowing melody, actually a prose sung on a tune and rhythm. It has subtle use of rhythm instruments, just a soft rhythm!
I heard (and watched) it for the first time, while going through his songs of 70-80s.

Have I missed your favorite song by Jan Nisar Akhtar?

Disclaimer –
Mehfil Mein Meri, claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. Images on this blog are posted to make the text interesting. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from YouTube, only for the listening convenience of music lovers. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

12 Replies to “Remembering Poet & Lyricist ‘Jan Nisar Akhtar’”

  1. Most of the people know about Javed Akhtar & Farhan Akhtar today, but not many are aware of Jan Nisar Akhtar. Maybe marketing was a neglected part in those days! You have brought attention to his due credit in this well compiled post.

    Bollywood of that era is almost like a sea & you are bringing the pearls of that period through your posts. We can already see the evolution of an expert of that era in you. Bravo, keep it up.

    Excellent songs, and well written post too.

    ‘Ye dil aur unki nigahonke’ is a sweet song. Maybe you can write one day about excellent songs from commercially flop films.


    1. Thanks a lot sir for your generously praising comment.
      You made my day.
      Many such pearls from the sea are still hidden, I’ll try to highlight their careers as well in my future posts.

      you can write one day about excellent songs from commercially flop films
      that’s a good idea, but such songs are too many! I have further sort them out by some category before presenting them.
      I’ll try to do it someday.


  2. I first heard of Jan Nisar Akhtar when I was about 11 years old. We were on a road trip through Ladakh, and we had carried about three cassettes of ghazals (Jagjit and Chitra, and Anup Jalota) to play along the way in our jonga. We hadn’t realized how long those journeys would be, and we listened to those cassettes again and again for hours on end! I still remember Anup Jalota introducing a ghazal, saying, “Jan Nisar Akhtar Sahib ki ghazal….”

    It was only many, many years later that I learnt of the relationship between Javed Akhtar and Jan Nisar Akhtar – I must be one of the few people below 50 today who knew of the father before the son! 🙂

    This was a good post, Anupji, and some lovely songs.


    1. Thank you Madhuji!
      Ans yes, you are correct I think, when you say ‘ I must be one of the few people below 50 today who knew of the father before the son’
      I also wasn’t aware of his name for a long time. I have been trying to go deep into this deep sea of HFM only recently, May be just ten years back.
      So by then, Javed Akhtar was obviously a well known name.
      I was expecting your post on him too today. As you said once that you are interested! But when I saw a different post yesterday night on your blog, I knew you haven’t written a post on him.


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