Raja Mehdi Ali Khan belonged to Janjua family of Darpur in Jhelum District of undivided Punjab. His father , Raja Ghalib Mehdi Khan was a chief minister of Bhawalpur state of undivided India . Raja had good education and he graduated from Aitcheson college Lahore .Poetry passed on to him from umbilical cord as his mother Hebay Saheba,  was an established poet of her time.


Prior to the  partition of the country ,Raja and Sadat Hassan Manto worked together at All India Radio  New Delhi . They were close friends for many reasons ; Both were Punjabis , Both liked Humour ,Both shared love for Literature  both were voracious readers and finally both loved the BOTTLE .

Manto had been looking for some opportunity to bring Raja to Mumbai’s film world where he felt friendless. In Mumbai ,though Manto enjoyed the company of some close friends like Shyam ( Well known hero Sunder shyam Chadda ) , Pran , Ashok Kumar and many more , he still felt companionless as most of them had nothing to do with literature or poetry. So when FILMISTAN STUDIO’S partner S Mukherjee was in lookout for a song writer , Manto recommended Raja .

In Came Raja and wrote songs for FILMISTAN’s “DO BHAI “ ( 1946 Super hit movie .Music S D Burman starring Ulhaas , Noorjahaan and Rajan Haksar ) and two songs “Mera sunder Sapna beet Gaya ”and “Yaad karoge – Ik Din Hum Ko Yaad karoge “ both sung by Geeta Dutt ( Roy ) turned instant hits . Raja was established .

In Mumbai ,Raja , Actor Shyam and Manto shared accommodation during those troubled days of 1947. About that period Manto writes :

“ A Few months before partition , Shyam moved to my place . Those were karki times in Bombaiya language . We were extremely hard up but there was no let up in our drinking which continued unabated .Raja Mehdi Ali Khan was also around . Raja could not sleep on spring mattress beds . Then shyam would fix a huge measure of Brandy in keeping with Raja’s ample proportions and suggest ‘ Drink this and you will sleep like a log ’.

One day shyam had burnt his mattress from a cigarette bit that he had thrown on his bed . The flat was full of smoke and a deep stink too spread all over. When I entered their room, I found Shyam sleeping on the floor and Raja snoring on the other bed in the room. I woke up Raja , which was not an easy job as he had no intention of getting up. When he got up , he said ‘ This shyam is like Hanuman Maharaj. I knew what had happened during night when I saw Shyam getting up from his bed with his tail on fire. I had even tried to wake you up Manto. You did not get up but you opened your eyes when I said that a full crate of scotch whiskey had arrived. But you went to your sleep again. And then Shyam had doused the flame . How did it start again.’

And then one day , Manto decided to move to Lahore ( Pakistan )  leaving Shyam and Raja lonely. They missed him a lot.  At that critical juncture , Raja   decided to stay   put in Mumbai and focused on his work. Many composers took notice of his sweet and sensitive  songs that became quite popular during those days. He got offers from some well known Music directors with whom he associated which include  Madan Mohan , O P Nayyar , Iqbal Qureshi , Bulo C Rani , Khemchand Prakash, S N Tripathi , Shyam Sunder, Gulam Hyder, Nisar Bazmi , Robin Benerjee ,N Dutta , Dhani Ram Prem,Anil Biswas , Roshan Lal ,S D Burman, Ravi, Roshan, Chitrgupta , C. Ramchandra , Allah Rakha Qureshi , Bipin Babul, Hemant Kumar , Sardar Malik , Usha Khanna , Vanraj Bhatia and Laxmikant Pyarelal .


Working with Madan Mohan was a great experience and achievement for both . When Madan Moan heard his first song , he told him

“ Tu Har velay Meray Naal Hi Rah Yaara . Or  Friend , Be always close by   ” .

Started in 1950 , this friendship continued till Raja’s death in 1966. This duo gave some memorable songs to us . Apart from Madan Mohan ,   Lata Mangeshkar  also became  an   admirer of  the magical poetry of Raja. Raja would be personally present on Lata ji’s recordings of his songs making her understand the nuances and finer sentiments behind each line that he wrote.  And that she did wonderfully. These songs are still amongst the best compositions in film music .The popularity of Raja’s songs sung by Lata ji broke all previous records .  No music lover in this subcontinent has forgotten the evergreen  songs of  WOH  KAUN THI especially  songs like ..

(1)  Naina Barse Rim Jhim Rim Jhim

(2)  Jo Hum Ne Dastaan Apni Sunaayi Aap Kyon Roye

(3)  Lag Jaa gale ki Phir

On Raksha Bandhan day ,Lata ji would tie a Rakhi to Raja and fondly call him “ Raja Bhaiya “. In an interview Lata ji once  said .

“ Raja’s songs have purity of thought and they reflect  the  core of Human feelings  “

I need to make mention of one particular recording  of Raja’s song “ NAINON MEIN BADRAA CHHAAYE “..The story goes as under..

In 1966, when Raj Khosla started his New Project “ MERA SAAYA “ , he signed the Karachi born sindhi actress SADHANA ( Born 2nd sep, 1941 ) . Unusal for sadhana ‘s image he wanted a classical song to be picturised on her. He put forth this idea to Music Maestro Madan Mohan and requested him to go ahead with a classical composition . Madan ji called Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and Lata ji to his house, Raja was unwell that day. He did not have a pen or his diary with him. But then Raja was Raja .Closing his eyes for 10 minutes Raja said ,

“ Madan Bhai … Naino mein Badraa chhaye

Bijli si Chamkey haaye …….Chalegaa “

“ Array Bhai … Kyaa baat keh di … Aagay chalo…..”

Once the song was completed by Raja , Madan Mohan sang it playing the harmonium himself. Lata ji sought Raja’s assistance in understanding the emotional and sentimental content of the lines .  Though unwell  , Raja sat for the  full day till the song was completed to perfection. That is how the master piece was created .

Raja Mehdi Ali Khan’s  other master pieces for this movie  like JUMKA GIRAA RE and TU JAHAAN JAHAAN CHALEGAA  touched new heights of popularity.

In an interview , Noted urdu poet Akhtar Ul Imaan, who wrote dialogues for MERA SAAYA said ,

“ Yeh Raja Kheil Kheil mein hi kyaa Gazab likh deta Thhaa . Hamein jagah chhaahiye , Tanhaai chaahiye aur Soch ke liye waqt chaahiye. Raja ka zehan insaani Tajrubaat ka vassi samandhar Thhaa “


Raja left behind a great treasure of poetry that he published in his books “ Andaaz e Bayaan Aur”  and Mizraab “. I have also come across a book titled RAJA MEHDI ALI KHAN  KI ADABI KHIDMAT  By ABDUL QADEER MUQADDAR .

Apart from writing film lyricist , Raja also wrote for some popular Urdu Magazines like BEESWIN SADI   and SHAMA  . In Lahore and Delhi , he was associated with prestigious urdu literary Journals like Aalamgir , Phool and Khayyam . In some poems , Raja combines Humour and satire in his distinct style to expose the hypocrisies of the society that he lived in. His poems like  “Khud kushi” , “Ek Chehlum Par” , “ Chor ki Dua “or “Aji Pehle Aap “ fall in this category .

Raja was deeply hurt by the brutal  killings during partition of the country . In an article , he wrote, “ it looked as if  man had changed  to a wild   animal forgetting compassion , sympathy and brotherhood . Hindus and Muslims soaked their   hands  deep into the  blood of so many innocents.”

Actor comedian Mehmood once worked as his personal Chauffer .

Raja lived like a RAJA in real sense ; Good food , Mannerism , Soft spoken and generous to his friends . So Long so much .

Autar Mota is a blogger  , Translator and writes in English , Urdu , Kashmiri and Hindi. His write-ups have appeared in many national magazines and journals.


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