Du Express revisits the legacy of renowned Urdu poet, Kaifi Azmi on his 102nd birth anniversary.
142 minutes in verse, the entire screenplay, all the dialogues following a rhyming scheme. Be it Ranjha’s first encounter with Heer or a simple reply to a friend, 1970 hit Heer-Ranjha was written with poetic magic by the legendary Urdu poet, lyricist and screenplay writer Kaifi Azmi. Such a bold feat hasn’t been done since then in Bollywood.
Kaifi’s first ghazal, which he wrote at 11 (absolutely a child prodigy) was sung by Begum Akhtar. Even Kaifi read his poems in a lyrical manner but after meeting Sarojini Naidu, who advised him to go on with a simple recital, he changed his way. Nida Fazli crowned him as one of the greatest reciters in Urdu in a BBC interview.
Revisiting his nazms
Whether it be romance or revolution, Kaifi never fails to surprise. Subtle and precise descriptions with both political and personal context form a large part of Kaifi Sahab’s work. ‘Aurat’ is a pinnacle in Indian Feminist literature. From Shaheen Bagh protests to a lot of marches, ‘Uth meri jaan mere saath hi chalna hai tujhe’ has been the drum rolling sound.
It’s been fifty-seven years, since ‘Ab tumhare hawale watan saathiyon’ became one of the most famous patriotic songs, and still it hasn’t lost its enigma and soul. It inspired Manoj Muntashir to write Teri Mitti, which landed in almost everyone’s 2019 playlists.
His words for workers then echoed again during the migrant labour crisis. Makan captures the raw hand with which life deals the working class. Another of his old nazms, ‘Ram ka dusra vanvas’ came to light when the Ram mandir verdict was passed.
Some of his greatest hits like ‘Chalte chalte’, ‘Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam’ and ‘Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho’, are all-time favourites of old souls.
So if you need to impress your crush or partner, ace up on hindi/urdu writing, add beauty to your speeches or find a nazm to fit your political digs, Kaifi is your man. To get a peep into his works, join in Rekhta’s musical show being organised in his memory.
Life of Metaphors
The interesting stories of Kaifi’s life are in no way less fascinating than his works. He was a dedicated part of the Progressive Writers Movement. Kaifi lived a progressive life not just in his nazms, but also in his actions. In the 1980s when some Mumbai slums were ordered to be cleared of its residents, it was Kaifi’s daughter, Shabana Azmi who stood with the residents in their protests. When Shaukat Azmi, Kaifi’s wife coaxed him to ask their daughter to come back and not meddle into political affairs. Kaifi’s only words to Shabana were, “All the best, comrade.”
Kaifi had an ever-growing greed for Mont Blanc pens. He didn’t know English so he sent others as Shabana’s parents for her admission to a convent school. Kaifi even wrote a love letter to Shaukat Kaifi with his blood, whom he met at the same mushaira where he performed ‘Aurat’.
With his socially conscious poetry, Kaifi Sahab will always continue to be a part of our lives, somewhere in our political agitation and somewhat in our lonely sessions through his classical hits. So play Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam and let Kaifi Sahab warm you in this chilly weather and ignite your heart in these troublesome times.