Who can forget those soft words, those pleasing and lilting tunes and those memorable numbers like Yeh saman, mauj ka karvan and Teri yaad as gaee, ghum khushee mein dhal gaey, ik chiragh kya jala, sau charagh jai gaey, from the film Chand Aur Chandni. These and many other such haunting numbers were written by this brilliant and sensitive poet and lyricist, Suroor Barabankvi, whose contribution to literature is as prominent as his lifelong commitment to the film industry. Hailing from a small town of UP, called Barabanki, Suroor rose to the heights of popularity during the 1960s. His real name was Saeedur Rehman and he was born in 1919. His infatuation with East Pakistan began when he was first called to participate in the Independence Day Mushaira, at Dhaka, in 1951. He loved the response of the public there, and returned for another such congregation of poets in 1952. This time, he decided to settle there, getting a job in the Anjuman Taraqqi-e-Urdu office.
In 1962, when Captain Ehtesham made the first Urdu film, Chanda, Suroor Sahab wrote its story and script, apart from its songs. The Koel of Bengal, Firdausi Begum sang quite a few hits in Chanda. Suroor also wrote many of the decade conquering numbers, for Talash and Chand Aur Chandni, the mention of which even today, makes one so emotional about those days. In Talash, under the guidance of that master crafter, Robin Ghosh, he wrote such hits as Kuch apni kahiyye, kuch meri suniye (Bashir Ahmed, Firdausi) and that famous number by Bashir Ahmed, which was on everybody’s lips, Main rickshawala bechara. In Chand Aur Chandni, literally every song was the talk of the town, including Yeh saman (Mala), Teri yaad as gaee (Masood Rana), Lai ghata motiyon ka khazana (Mala chorus), Jan e tamanna khat hai tumhara (Ahmed Rushdi), Mera khayal ho tum (Masood Rana) and Tujhe pyar kee qasam hai (Mala and Masood Rana). Later, in Kajal, his lyrics and the resultant song, Yeh aarzoo jawan jawan, yeh chandni dhuan dhuan, sung so beautifully by Firdausi Begum, were a rage all over Pakistan. In Nawab Sirajuddaula, the finest historic movie ever to be made in this country, his ghazal, Hai yeh aalam tujhe bhulaney mein, ashk aatey hain muskuraney mein, by Firdausi Begum, was highly liked. Similarly, in Rehman’s own film, Milan, he wrote Tum salamat raho, muskurao hanso, main tumharey liyay geet gata rahoon. Another song of the same film was Tum jo milay pyar mila, which was one of the only two duets ever sung by Noor Jahan and Bashir Ahmed.
After the tragic Fall of Dhaka, Suroor shifted to Pakistan, but the light of those days seemed to have deserted him. He was depressed and sad, and although he wrote much poetry against the system and the governments, as a true progressive poet that he was, people who knew him felt he wasn’t the same Suroor he was in times before these. Still, his lyrics for films continued to touch the people with their sensitive fiber, as can be ascertained from numbers like Runa Laila’s Hamein kho kar bohot pachtaoge jab hum naheen honge in film Ehsas. In Aaina, all his numbers were glorious hits, but Mehdi Hasan’s Kabhi main sochta hoon kuch na kuch kahoon was the rebirth of Mehdi Hasan. Who can forget the undying hit by Akhlaq Ahmed, Saman who khwab sa saman, milay the dil se dil Jahan, in Nazrul Islam’s film, Naheen Abhi Naheen. It was composed brilliantly by Robin Ghosh, and those who know Suroor, will understand what these poetic lines meant. He was fondly recalling the days he had spent in that atmosphere of love and harmony in Dhaka.
Suroor Sahab made three films. His first such effort was Aakhri Station, which he made on Hajra Masroor’s short story, Pagli. Shabnam played a dumb and deranged girl in it, who loiters on the railway station. It was an artistically dealt movie. He also made Krishan Chandar’s short story, Anjan, into a haunting film, called Tum Mere Ho. Its songs like Mala’s superb number, Wahi gham hai wahi tanhai were quite famous. In this wing, he made Aashna, on poetess Waheeda Naseem’s short story, Begangi, but it didn’t do well. He wanted to make his fourth film on the Dhaka tragedy and the POWs, the script of which was almost written down, and was titled Camp No. 333. He had gone to Dhaka to finalize arrangements for its shooting, where he had a heart attack and died on 13th April, 1980.