Tu aaj bhi hai mere liye jannat-e-khayaal, hain tujh mein dafn meri javaani ke chaar saal …inn raaston mein dafn hain meri khushi ke phool, teri navaazishon ko bhulaayaa na jaayega, maazi ka naqsh dil se mitaayaa na jaayega… This is well-known poet and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi’s poem Nazr-E-College of 1943 — an ode to his alma mater, SCD Government College of Ludhiana. He read out this poem at the college in 1970, for its golden jubilee celebrations, after becoming a successful lyricist. He recalled his expulsion too: Is sar-zameen pe aaj ham ik baar hi sahi, duniya hamaare naam se be-zaar hi sahi. Lekin hum inn fizaayon ke paaley huyein to hain, gar yahan nahi to yahan se nikaale huye to hain.
All set to celebrate 100 years of its existence next year, the SCD Government College of Ludhiana, which had once ‘expelled’ its ‘shaayar’ student almost seven decades back, is now ready to open its gates for the filming of the biopic based on the life of its alumni Sahir Ludhianvi (Abdul Hayee Sahir who later adopted Sahir Ludhianvi as his pen name). Sahir, is known for the lyrics for the 1976-film Kabhi Kabhie, where he made the songs — Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khyaal aata hai and Main pal do pal ka shaayar hun — immortal.
The story goes that Sahir was expelled from college for having an affair with a girl, Ishar Kaur, and sitting in the college lawns with her, much to the disagreement of the principal ACC Hervey, a British man. But veteran Urdu poet and writer Kewal Dheer disagrees and says that he was not expelled but “asked to leave”, following which Sahir left Ludhiana and moved to Lahore. Another story suggests that he was asked to leave the college during his second year of graduation because his poems against British rule irked the authorities.
But the past is at rest now, as the College says that it will be a matter of pride if director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who is producing the film, chooses to film the Abhishek Bachchan-starrer biopic on campus and locations where Sahir spent his college days. The film will focus on Sahir’s mysterious relationship with eminent Punjabi writer Amrita Pritam, who expressed her love towards the poet in her writings — Sunehray (Messages), Dil Diyaan Galiyaan (Lanes of my heart), and Aakhari Khat (The Last Letter), and her autobiography Raseedi Ticket.
“It is untrue that Sahir and Amrita Pritam loved each other. Sahir never expressed his wish to get settled with her or marry her. She was beautiful and it was more of passion between two like-minded people and not love. Even when Sahir was alive, she was living with Imroz,” says Dheer, who is writing the book Sahir Ludhianvi-Sahiri Aur Shaayri.
“Today, it is because of Sahir that our college is known worldwide. Soon we will be completing 100 years and Sahir will be the highlight of our celebrations. We would extend our support and get required permissions if Bhansali chooses to film the biopic in our college,” says Dharam Singh Sandhu, principal of the college. Sahir’s father’s ancestral home was in Sekhewal of Ludhiana, but he lived mostly in Karimpuri Bazaar with his mother, as his parents had separated. Amarjeet Singh Hayer, retired professor and author of various writings on Sahir, says that if the biopic is shot in Ludhiana, the deceased poet will finally get due recognition from his city. “The World War II was on and funds were being collected from students. Sahir, a student union leader, was against the practice, and wrote about it in his poems. The British principal expressed guilt after Sahir left. The tragedy is that the younger generation in Ludhiana does not know much about Sahir’s roots and the biopic will give them a chance to know his life and his work better,” says Hayer.
Known for his romantic and revolutionary writings, Sahir’s lyrics Ye koochey, ye nilaanghar dilkashi ke, ye lut tey huye karwaan zindagi ke; zara mulk ke rehbaraon ko bulao, jinhe naaz hai Hind par unko laao; jinhe naaz hai Hind par wo kahaan hai, from the1957 film Pyaasa had irked the Congress government led by PM Jawaharlal Nehru and it was unofficially taken off the radio.
Established in 1920, the college has already started preparations for the year-long celebrations in 2019-20. Incidentally, Sahir, who was born in 1921, will also complete 100 years in 2021. The college is planning a kavi darbar, mushaira and youth festival dedicated to Sahir on the centenary celebrations, even as the college auditorium (Sahir Auditorium) and a botanical garden (Gulistan-E-Sahir) has been dedicated to the poet.