The world of Urdu poetry last Monday, on the eve of Christmas Day, observed the birth anniversary of one of the greatest romantic poets of our times: Qateel Shifai.
He is the bard who established a certain standard of the art of ghazals in films not only at home in Pakistan but also across the border in India and became the heart-throb of millions by using simple words and Hindi in his compositions. He is credited to have brought Urdu poetry closer to the masses.
Aurangzeb Khan was born on December 24, 1919. He adopted Qateel Shifai as his name in 1938, where Qateel was his Takhalus or pen name and Shifai to honour his mentor Ustad Hakim Mohamed Shifa.
The poet was forced to quit his formal education due to the early demise of his father. The young man tried his hand at a small sporting goods business but soon moved to Rawalpindi to work for a transport company. Later, he took a job as an assistant editor of a literary magazine Adab e lateef. While there, an opportunity showed up for him to write songs for a film and this, with the success of the film Teri Yaad, there was no looking back for the young romantic poet. Qateel won many awards as a lyricist and, at the same time, got his creative poems published. The collection MUTRIBA earned him the highest literary award in Pakistan at that time.
Qateel’s romantic and meaningful poetry has been voiced for eternity by leading vocalists of our times, both in India and Pakistan, and enjoyed monumental success. The poet has worked on many occasions with iconic vocalists like Jagjit Singh, Ghulam Ali and Mehdi Hassan, and has left a legacy of over 20 collections of verse and over 2,500 songs for both Pakistani and Indian films.
He is also credited with producing the first ever movie in his mother tongue in 1970. Shifai’s poetry is included in the Masters’ level syllabus of major Pakistani and Indian universities.
Above all else, the poet has been facilitated with recognition and state awards on both sides of Indo Pak border.
The lyrical maestro of words, Qateel took the flight to his heavenly abode on 11th January 2001 in Lahore, where a street on which he lived is named after him. A sector in Haripur city is also named in his honour as Mohalla Qateel Shifai.
Kenyan fans of Urdu poetry have always adored Qateel’s works and frequently request to hear his songs and ghazals that adorn the playlists of our prime Asian radio facility East FM.
I wish all Shifai fans, lovers of Urdu poetry and readers of this column a fabulous and happy New Year 2019.