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285. Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan


Born:- 27th Dec 1796(Agra)

Died:- 15th Feb 1869

Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan, pen-name Ghalib (Urdu/Persian) and Asad (former pen-name)(27 December 1796 ? 15 February 1869), was a renowned classical Urdu and Persian poet of the subcontinent. Most notably, he wrote several ghazals during his life, which have since been interpreted and sung in many different ways by different people. He is considered to be the most dominating poet of the Urdu language.


Mirza Ghalib was born in Agra to parents with Turkish aristocratic ancestry on 27th December 1796.
Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan — known to posterity as Ghalib, a `nom de plume’ he adopted in the tradition of all classical Urdu poets, was born in the city of Agra, of parents with Turkish aristocratic ancestry, probably on December 27th, 1797. As to the precise date, Imtiyaz Ali Arshi has conjectured, on the basis of Ghalib’s horoscope, that the poet might have been born a month later, in January 1798. The death of his father and uncle during his youth left Ghalib with no male-dominant figures. He then moved to Delhi.
Ghalib’s early education has always been a matter of confusion. There are no known records of his formal education, although it was known that his circle of friends in Delhi were some of the most intelligent minds of the time.
Around 1810, he was married into a family of nobles, at the age of thirteen. He had seven children, none of whom survived (this pain has found its echo in some of Ghalib’s ghazals). There are conflicting reports regarding his relationship with his wife. She was considered to be pious, conservative and God-fearing while Ghalib was carefree, unconventional without any scruples, and arguably not very religious, in the strict sense of the word.
Ghalib was very fond of drinking and gambling (in this respect, he himself admitted he was not quite a strict “Muslim”). Gambling used to be an offence in Delhi at that time and he was even apprehended once for having indulged in it in his own backyard. Ghalib also had an affair with a courtesan who quite admired his poetry. There still exists the First Information Report filed against Ghalib in Kotwali ( “Police Station” is a more convenient term in modern (English) language), Daryaganj, New Delhi that relates his rivalry with the then Kotwal when it came to the courtesan.
Ghalib never worked as such for a livelihood but lived on either state patronage, credit or generosity of his friends. His fame came to him posthumously. He had himself remarked during his lifetime that although his age ignored his greatness, it would be recognized by later generations. History has vindicated his claim. He also is arguably the most “written about” among Urdu poets. He died in Delhi on February 15th, 1869.

Contemporaries and disciples:

Ghalib’s closest rival was poet Zauq, tutor of Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the then emperor of India with his seat in Delhi. There are some amusing anecdotes of the competition between Ghalib and Zauq and exchange of jibes between them. However, there was mutual respect for each other’s talent. Both also admired and acknowledged the supremacy of Meer Taqi Meer, a towering figure of Urdu Poetry of 18th century. Another poet Momin, whose ghazals had a distinctly lyrical flavor, was also a famous contemporary of Ghalib.

Ghalib’s poetry:

Although Ghalib wrote in Persian as well, he is more famous for his ghazals written in Urdu. It is believed he wrote most of his very popular ghazals by the age of nineteen. His ghazals, unlike those of Meer Taqi Meer, contain highly Persianized Urdu, and are therefore not easily understood or appreciated by a vast majority of people without some extra effort. Before Ghalib, ghazal was primarily an expression of anguished love but he expressed philosophy, the travails of life and many such subjects, thus vastly expanding the scope of ghazal. This, together with his many masterpieces, will forever remain his paramount contribution to Urdu Poetry and Literature.
In keeping with the conventions of the classical ghazal, in most of Ghalib’s verses, the identity and the gender of the beloved is indeterminate. The beloved could be a beautiful woman, or a beautiful boy, or even God. As the renowned critic/poet/writer Shamsur Rahman Faruqui explains, since the convention of having the “idea” of a lover or beloved instead of an actual lover/beloved freed the poet-protagonist-lover from the demands of “realism”, love poetry in Urdu from the last quarter of the seventeenth century onwards consists mostly of “poems about love” and not “love poems” in the Western sense of the term. Ghalib’s poetry is a fine illustration of this. Ghalib also excels in deeply introspective and philosophical verses.
The first complete English translation of Ghalib’s love poems (ghazals) was written by Dr. Sarfaraz K. Niazi( and published by Rupa & Co in India and Ferozsons in Pakistan. The title of this book is Love Sonnets of Ghalib and it contains complete roman transliteration, explication and an extensive lexicon.

His Letters:

Not only Urdu poetry but the prose is also indebted to Mirza Ghalib. His letters gave foundation to easy and popular Urdu. Before Ghalib, letter writing in Urdu was highly ornamental. He made his letters “talk” by using words and sentences as if he were conversing with the reader. According to him “sau kos say ba-zabaan-e-qalam baatein kiya karo aur hijr mein visaal kay ma-zay liya karo” [ from hundred of miles talk with the tongue of the pen and enjoy the joy of meeting even when you are separated] His letters were very informal, some times he would just write the name of the person and start the letter. He himself was very humorous and also made his letter very interesting. He said “main koshish karta hoon keh koi aisi baat likhoon jo pa-rhay khoosh ho jaaye” [ I want to write the lines that whoever reads those should enjoy it] When the third wife of one of his friends died, he wrote… “Allah allah aik woh log hain jo teen teen dafah iss qaid say chhoot chu-kain hain aur aik hum hain keh aik ag-lay pachas baras say jo phansi ka phanda ga-lay mein parha hai to nah phanda hi tut-ta hai nah dum hi nikalta hai” [Allah Allah, there are some among us who have been freed from this prison three times and I have for the past 50 years this rope around my neck; neither this rope breaks nor it takes my life] Some scholars says that Ghalib would have the same place in Urdu literature if only on the basis of his letters.They have been beautifully translated into English by Ralph Russell, The Oxford Ghalib.

His Takhallus:

His original Takhallus (pen-name) was Asad but then he came across this ‘sher’ (couplet) which used the same takhallus:
Asad us jafaa par butoN say wafaa ki. Meray sher shabaash rahmat kHuda ki.
(Asad worshipped idols after being betrayed. O My Lion, mercy of God Be On You)
He apparently said, “Whoever authored this sher should get lots of rahmat (“mercy”) of God but if it is mine then lots of laanat (“shame”) on me!”, and he changed his takhallus to ‘Ghalib’, which literally means a conqueror.

Film,TV serial and Plays based on Ghalib:

Indian Cinema has paid a tribute to the legendary poet through a film (in sepia/black and white) named Mirza Ghalib (made in 1954) in which Bharat Bhushan plays Ghalib and Suraiya plays his courtesan lover, Chaudvin. The musical score of the film was composed by Ghulam Mohammed and his compositions of Ghalib’s famous ghazals are likely to remain everlasting favorites.
Pakistan Cinema has also paid tribute to the legendary poet through another film also named Mirza Ghalib. The film was directed by M.M. Billoo Mehra and produced as well by M.M. Billoo Mehra for S.K. Pictures. The music was composed by Tassaduq Hussain. The film starred Pakistan film superstar Sudhir playing Ghalib and Madam Noor Jehan playing his courtesan lover, Chaudvin. The film was released on November 24, 1961 and reached average status at the box-office, however, the music remains memorable in Pakistan to this day.
Gulzar produced a TV serial titled Mirza Ghalib. It was telecast on Doordarshan (the Indian National Channel) and was quite well-accepted and liked by viewers. Naseeruddin Shah played Ghalib in the serial. The ghazals were sung by Jagjit Singh and Chitra singh.
Pakistan government in 1969 commissioned Khaliq Ibrahim (died 2006) to make a documentary on Mirza Ghalib. The movie was completed in 1971-2, and is regarded as a masterpiece. It is said, that the movie–a docu-drama–was historically more correct than what the official Pakistan government point of view was. Thus, it was never released. Till this date, barring a few private viewing, the movie is lying with the Department of Films and Publication, Government of Pakistan. The movie was made on 16 mm format. Ghalib’s role was played by actor Subhani Bayunus, who later played this role in many TV productions.
Various Theatre groups have staged various plays related to the life of Mirza Ghalib,have shown different life styles and the way he used to live his life.One of the leading theatre group in New Delhi Pierrot?s Troupe staged a play named “GHALIB IN NEW DELHI” where it was shown if Ghalib returns back to his beloved Dilli.and what all changes will he see here.It is a comedy directed by Dr.M.Sayed Alam.
Synopsis  surveyor of original plays, particularly in the genre of comedy, in India, Pierrot?s Troupe brings, this time around, Ghalib In New Delhi — the most popular and critically acclaimed comedy play in recent times.This rip-roaring comedy has the great erstwhile Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib revisiting his beloved ?Dehli?, now ironically ?Delhi?, in 2007 to witness his posthumous fame, something that was quite elusive in his lifetime.The entire plot revolves around Ghalib striving against an omnipotent identity crisis, beginning with the occupants of his ?Haveli? mistaking him as Ghalib?s ?Jinn?. This forces him to stay with a ?Bihari? boy, Jai Hind, a Delhi University student, in a servant quarter. His confidence is further shattered when Jai Hind and his landlady Mrs. Chaddha recognize his worth only through the voice of Jagjit Singh, and the screen portrayal of Naseeruddin Shah. Persuaded by the duo and in desperate need of recognition, Ghalib decides to ?sell? himself. The consequent press conference turns out to be a damp squib with the journalists being more interested in post-conference snacks and juicy headlines. Ghalib then opts for an advertising agency to perpetuate his presence in the minds of the people. What is the fate of Ghalib? Does his rebirth spell further disaster? Is Delhi a mere travesty of his hopes and aspirations? The answer lies in watching Ghalib in New Delhi, a laugh riot posing some serious questions about the stagnating moral codes.

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