Akhlaq Mohammed Khan

16 Jun 1936
13 Feb 2012
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Akhlaq Mohammad Khan ‘Shahryar’ (16 June 1936 – 13 February 2012), was an Indian academician, and a doyen of Urdu poetry in India. As a Hindi film lyricist, he is best known for his lyrics in Gaman (1978) and Umrao Jaan (1981) directed by Muzaffar Ali. He retired as the head of Urdu Department at the Aligarh Muslim University, and thereafter he remained sought after name in mushairas or poetic gatherings, and also co-edited the literary magazine Sher-o-Hikmat.

He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in Urdu for Khwab Ka Dar Band Hai (1987), and in 2008 he won the Jnanpith Award, the highest literary award and only the fourth Urdu poet to win the award. He has been widely acknowledged as the finest exponent of modern Urdu poetry.

Shahryar was born at Aonla, Bareilly to a Muslim Rajput family.His father Abu Mohammad Khan was posted as a Police Officer, though the family hailed from village Chaudera in Bulandshahr District, Uttar Pradesh.In his childhood days, Shahryar wanted to be an athlete but his father wanted him to join the police force. It is then that he ran away from home and was guided by Khaleel-Ur-Rehman Azmi, the eminent Urdu critic and poet. To earn a living, he started teaching Urdu fiction at Aligarh Muslim University where he later studied and got his PhD.He received his early education at Bulandshahr and later studied at Aligarh Muslim University.

Shahryar started his career as a literary assistant at Anjuman Tarraqqi-e-Urdu. After that he joined Aligarh Muslim University as a lecturer in Urdu. He was appointed professor in 1986 and in 1996, he retired as chairman of the Urdu Department. He co-edited the literary magazine Sher-o-Hikmat (Poetry and Philosophy)

His first poetry collection Ism-e-azam was published in 1965, the second collection, Satvan dar (Satva yet in English), appeared in 1969 and the third collection titled Hijr ke mausam was released in 1978. His most celebrated work, Khwab Ke dar band hain, arrived in 1987, which also won him the Sahitya Akademi Award in Urdu for that year. In addition, he published five collections of his poetry in Urdu script. In 2008, he became the fourth Urdu writer to win the Jnanpith Award, after Firaq, Ali Sardar Jafri, and Qurratulain Hyder

Shahryar wrote lyrics for select films, from Aligarh where he was approached by filmmakers. Muzaffar Ali and Shahryar were friends from their student days, and Shahryar had shared some of the ghazals with him. Later when Ali made his directorial debut with Gaman in 1978, he used two of his ghazals Seene Mein Jalan Ankhon Mein Toofan Sa Kyun Hai and Ajeeb Saneha Mujhpar Guzar Gaya Yaaron in the film, and they are still considered classic. All his Ghazals from Umrao Jaan, ‘Dil Cheez Kya Hai Aap Meri Jaan Lijiye’, ‘Ye Ka Jagah Hai Doston’, ‘In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke’ etc. are among the finest lyrical works in Bollywood. He also wrote for Yash Chopra’s Faasle (1985), thereafter Chopra offered him three more films to write for, but he refused as he didn’t want to become a “song shop”. Though he wrote for Muzaffar Ali’s Anjuman (1986). He also left behind unfinished contributions to Ali’s Zooni and Daaman. His last film lyrics was “Ye Mera Divanapan Hai” in Mira Nair’s The Namesake (2006).

Shahryar died on 13 February 2012 in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, after a prolonged illness due to lung cancer.

Shahryar is survived by three children, Humayun Shahryar, Saima Shahryar and Faridoon Shahryar.

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