It is rather common knowledge that Faiz Ahmed Faiz was frequently jailed for his revolutionary poems in pakistan. I always felt proud that barring emergency period, nothing of that sort had happened in independent India. However, few days back, I encountered something contrary to my belief and quite sad.
In the post-independence days, Majrooh Sultanpuri used to be a fiery poet before he started writing for films. He was an active member of Progressive Writers' Association (PWA). In a labor rally circa 1949, Majrooh read his poem ‘अमन का झंडा’, which had the following lines:
अमन का झंडा इस धरती पे
किसने कहा लहराने ना पाए,
ये भी है कोई हिटलर का चेला
मार ले साथी, जाने ना पाए,
कामनवेल्थ का दास है नेहरू
अब कि तबाही लाने ना पाए!
Such 'anti-Nehru' poem attracted the attention of state. The home minister of erstwhile Bombay state, Morarji Desai called upon Majrooh and asked him to apologize or face arrest. Instead, Majrooh went in hiding and eluded police warrant. However, he came out of hiding to attend a meeting of PWA to protest the incarceration of Sajjad Zaheer and Faiz in pakistan's 'Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case'. Majrooh was arrested after that meeting in 1951 and spent a little more than a year in Bombay's Arthur Road Jail.
Years later, Majrooh got angry again, although rather hypocritically.
In May 1998, Talat Mehmood passed away and a tribute was held in the Dinanath Mangeshkar Auditorium of Mumbai. Majrooh got on stage to pay tribute and started lambasting film lyrics of the day, specially targeting a recent song 'Aati Kya Khandala' from the movie 'Ghulam', sung by the actor Amir Khan. This became a huge talk-point soon as it came in the presence of who's who of the Hindi film music. Amir Khan and Vikram Bhatt (director of 'Ghulam') shot back soon by observing that Majrooh has no moral right to comment on their song as he himself had written 'C-A-T cat, cat maane billi'.
Majrooh Sultanpuri became the first lyricist to be awarded 'Dada Saheb Phalke' Award. However, he won only one Filmfare Award in 1965 (for 'Chahoonga Main Tujhe' from Dosti). He was often bitter about it, alleging that awards are not given on merit but proximity.
He felt that Shailendra didn't deserve to beat him in Filmfare. Shailendra won the Filmfare award for best lyricist in 1960 for 'Sab Kuchh Seekha Humne' from Anari, beating Majrooh Sultanpuri's 'Jalte Hain Jiske Liye' from Sujata and Sahir Ludhianvi's 'Tu Hindu Banega' from Dhool Ka Phool. Similarly, he felt that he was more deserving to win Filmfare in 1989 for 'Papa Kehte Hain' from Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak rather than Gulzar for writing 'Mera Kuchh Saamaan' from Ijaazat.
He considered himself more eligible for various other prizes as well. For example, he received 'Iqbal Award' for literature but felt that it should have been given to him before Anand Narayan 'Mulla'. He also believed that he was a 'purer' revolutionary poet than Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
You are free to judge him for his bitterness and for his poetry too but at the same time, he gave some of the most beautiful compositions to the Hindi film industry ((हम बेख़ुदी में तुमको पुकारे चले गए / साग़र को ज़िंदगी में उतारे चले गए) and to the world of Urdu poetry also. For example:
जला के मशाल-ए-जां हम जुनूं सिफात चले
जो घर को आग लगाए हमारे साथ चले
दयार-ए-शाम नहीं, मंजिल-ए-सहर भी नहीं
अजब नगर है यहाँ दिन चले न रात चले
हुआ असीर कोई हमनवा तो दूर तलक
ब-पास-ए-तर्ज़-ए-नवा हम भी साथ साथ चले
सुतून-ए-दार पे रखते चलो सरों के चिराग
जहाँ तलक ये सितम की सियाह रात चले
बुला ही बैठे जब अहल-ए-हरम तो ऐ मजरूह
बगल में हम भी लिए इक सनम का हाथ चले