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SHAIR-E-KASHMIR MEHJOOR: A Masterpiece in Classical Cinema

MEHJOOR, the first and up until now the last full length colour Kashmiri feature film was a milestone in filmmaking. The film, released by then Chief Minister, G.M Sadiq in September 1970 simultaneously in two languages, Urdu and Kashmiri at Regal Cinema, Srinagar, became an instant hit among movie buffs and regarded as a classic masterpiece in Indian cinema today.

Mehjoor, the movie was conceptualised by two close friends and associates in the socio-cultural progressive movement, former Chief Minister, G.M Sadiq and legendary filmmaker, Balraj Sahni, who had this dream of immortalizing the life of SHAIR E KASHMIR Mehjoor by imprinting it on celluloid.

The dream they had cherished since their college days came true when Sadiq sahab became the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and ideological buddy, the famous movie star, Balraj Sahni launched the mission of making the film based upon the life of the legendary Kashmiri poet.

Financed by the J&K government, the film, SHAIR- E-KASHMIR MEHJOOR, entered into pre-production during 1965-66 with Balraj and Sadiq entrusting the production and direction of the project upon their mutual friend and renowned Bengali film director, Prabhat Mukherjee.

Pran Kishore was the co-producer, writer and director while Shahid Badgami, being a close associate of Sahni and Sadiq in the progressive movement was entrusted with the overall general assistance and direction of the film.

The ever resourceful, Shahid Badgami, roped in the locals from his hometown in Central Kashmir’s district Badgam, whose unrivalled contributions helped in the completion of the movie without any hiccups.

The Kashmiri version of MAHJOOR was released after its grand premier show in 1970 while the Urdu version was to be re-edited after observing the reception of viewers. In this regard, Balraj Sahni had written numerous letters to several intellectuals.

Following the sudden demise of Sadiq sahab in 1971 followed by the decease of Balraj Sahni, shortly after, the Urdu version of MAHJOOR remained in cold storage for decades, when finally, in 2005, the State Information Department owing to the bold initiatives of the then Director Information, Farooq Renzu, managed a special show of the much awaited and long forgotten Urdu version of the classic.

Harmukh News contacted the living legend, Pran Kishore, who was the co-producer, writer and director regarding the fate of Film MAHJOOR, a classic that has immense value as a cultural heritage for Kashmir.

Pran ji disclosed that the Kashmiri print of the movie was with a film distributor, Dinkar Desai of New Delhi, who released it in theatres and on Doordarshan, while the Urdu version lies with the Information department of J&K Govt.

Pran ji also revealed the sad fact that the negatives of the classic are still with the Film Centre, Mumbai and nobody had bothered to collect the Kashmiri copy from the distributor nor the original negatives of the both versions of the film.

“These (negatives and print) are a piece of our cultural heritage and immensely valuable pieces of history and technically the property of J&K Information Department and the State Government. Yet nobody has bothered to collect them, they are just rotting there in Mumbai and other places” Pran Kishore said.

Realising just how important these pieces of our cultural history are, the J&K Information deppt. Backed by the state government should take immediate steps to reclaim and salvage these valuable treasures of Kashmir’s culture.

Pran Kishore told Harmukh News that he’s willing any and all kinds of help to the State authorities to salvage the aforementioned negatives prints of MAHJOOR, which are literally the property of the J&K government.

SHAIR E KASHMIR MAHJOOR- The Movie | A Brief Intro

Made under the banner of ‘BARG E CHINAR Productions’, this classic movie was filmed over a period of three years from 1966-69 in the picturesque locales of the paradise, we call the valley of Kashmir.

The movie is based upon the life of legendary Kashmiri poet, Ghulam Ahmad ‘Mahjoor’ who was a very close friend of the Balraj Sahni and it was Sahni who had translated Mahjoor’s Kashmiri poetry into other Indian languages while working as a lecturer and personal assistant to the great Rabindra Nath Tagore in Shantiniketan, Calcutta (now Kolkata).

Rabrindra was inspired by Mahjoor’s poetry and the two great poets of that era came closer and became devoted and lifelong friends due to Bajraj’s efforts of translating the Kashmiri poet’s work.

Due to the tireless efforts of Shahid Badgami and Pran Kishore and with the help of the then Chief Minister, late G.M Sadiq, his son Rafiq Sadiq, Begum Zainab and Sajida Zameer along with numerous social workers and locals from the Badgam area, the film was completed on a small budget.

Veteran actor Parikshit Sahni as the legendary Kashmiri poet Mehjoor
Veteran actor Parikshit Sahni as the legendary Kashmiri poet Mehjoor

 

 

Out of pure respect and love for Balraj Sahni and their local stalwart Shahid Badgami, the residents of Badgam worked in the movie without any monetary considerations as hundreds of men and women from villages worked as extras in various without any remuneration.

The story, screenplay and dialogues for the movie were written jointly by Balraj Sahni, his son Parikshit, Prabhat Mukherjee and Pran Kishore.

Late Mohanlal Aima had composed the music for the Kashmiri version of the film while the Urdu version was composed by Prem Dhawan.

Renowned Urdu poet, Kaifi Azmi translated Mahjoor’s poetry in soul-soothing Urdu lyrics which were sung by legendary playback artists like Talat Mahmood, Mana Dey, Usha Mangeshkar and Krishna Kalay making MAHJOOR a musical hit as the songs gained widespread popularity.

Shahid Badgami in the movie Mehjoor

The songs for the Kashmiri version were sung by popular Kashmiri singers, Ghulam Hasan Sofi, G.M Rah, Asha Koul, Raj Begum, Naseem Akhtar and Mohan Lal Aima.

Parikshit Sahni played the lead role of Mahjoor while Geetanjali Desai was cast as the leading lady of the movie. Balraj himself played the character of Mahjoor’s grandfather ‘Peer Sahab’ and Shahid Badgami played the character of a journalist who is a friend of Mahjoor’s in the movie.

A plethora of other versatile actor from Jammu and Kashmir and from outside player important characters in the film.

Mahjoor also had the distinction of being the first ORWO colour film in India for which the colour raw material was provided by the then German Democratic Republic, free of charge.

After the majestic preview show, Balraj Sahni, expressing his emotions about the movie’s success, wrote a letter to Shahid Badgami. Excerpts from the translation of the letter (originally in Urdu) are given below:

Dear Shahid,

I received your letter, the day I reached home after seeing the screening of the Kashmiri version of film Mehjoor.

The film is more successful than I had expected and it seems that it is not the story of Mahjoor but the true story of Kashmiri people. The colour picturization has added to the beauty of the valley.

This evening I am going to see the Hindi (Urdu) version of film Mahjoor. You have really the most cherished dream of my life. Without you the film Mahjoor would never have been completed.

 

With lots of love

Balraj

 

The film was picturised by cameraman Ajay Mitra of Kolkata a world-renowned cinematographer of his age known for his amazing camerawork.

Balraj Sahni dreamt of popularizing Mehjoor as a world-renowned poet by dubbing the film in English, German and Russian languages and release it across the world but due to his unfortunate demise, his dream couldn’t materialize and as such even the Hindi (Urdu) version of the movie isn’t currently available.

 

Music from the Urdu Version of MEHJOOR movie:

Superhit song from the movie Shair-e-Kashmir Mehjoor, the first and up until now the last full length colour Kashmiri feature film made.

Mehjoor’s lyrics translated by Kaifi Azmi and composed by Prem Dhawan, this is a superhit duet from the film, AAJA MERE PHOOLON KE SHEHZAADE sung by Usha Mangeshkar and Krishna Kalay.

Mehjoor’s lyrics translated by Kaifi Azmi and composed by Prem Dhawan, this is a superhit duet from the film, AAJA MERE PHOOLON KE SHEHZADAY sung by Usha Mangeshkar and Krishna Kalay.

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