Thanks to a gentleman who makes me wish I could write like him and whose real name I do not know, I am hooked to Billy Joel's The Entertainer these days. In the moments of self-doubt and low self-esteem -- they seem to be occurring more frequently these days -- this song acts like an invisible hand that runs through the hair and automatically straightens out the eyebrows raised with worry. It goes like this:
I am the entertainer,
And I know just where I stand:
And another long-haired band.
Today I am your champion.
I may have won your hearts.
But I know the game,
You will forget my name,
And I won't be here
In another year,
If I don't stay on the charts.
He knew the game obviously. After all, he managed to stay on long enough to be nominated for the Grammy 23 times and to win it six times.
The Entertainer was written sometime in the 1970's. Around the same time, an Indian lyricist also happened to express exactly the same sentiments in a song that went on to be a legend. The song is Main pal do pal ka shaayar hoon from Kabhie Kabhie, written (with a fountain pen, most probably) by Sahir Ludhianvi. To quote from it:
Kal aur ayenge naghmon ki khilti kaliyan chunnewale
mujhse behtar kehne waley, tumse behtar sunne waley
kal koi mujhko yaad karey, kyon koi mujhko yaad karey
masroof zamana mere liye kyon waqt apna barbadh kare
main pal do pal ka shaayar hoon.
My translation of Sahir's lines: Tomorrow, there will be new writers and new connoisseurs / there will be poets who will write better than me and listeners who will be more appreciating than you / why should anyone care to remember me tomorrow / why should the busy world spare it's precious time for me / I am a poet only for a moment or two.
Sahir, without doubt, is the only literary lyricist that Hindi cinema has ever had. He was a genius: his lyrics needle your mind even today. It was not for nothing that Amrita Pritam, once he left her home after paying her a visit, would light up the cigarettes stubbed by him in the ashtray and smoke the leftover tobacco, just to feel him in her lungs. For further evidence of his genius, you must listen to the songs of Pyaasa and Aa Gale Lag Ja at the same time.
The two films belong to two different generations, but Sahir effectively demonstrates that it does not matter which era you live in -- it feels all the same when you are in love or when you have been ditched. But Kabhie Kabhie, since it concerns the life of a poet, would go down in history as Sahir's landmark film. A long time ago, I wrote a lengthy post on the songs of Kabhie Kabhie, but back then, not many people read my blog. I hope you will be kind enough to read it now.
End of the day, be it Billy Joel or Sahir Ludhianvi, they mean the same thing: Keep it up, before they forget you. Unless your favourite holiday spot happens to be a town called Oblivion.