May 10, 2002 
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Kaifi Azmi
'He was today's Mirza Ghalib'
Bollywood pays tribute to Kaifi Azmi

Renowned Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi is no more. Azmi, who had been ailing for some years now, passed away at Mumbai's Jaslok Hospital at 7 am this morning. A forceful voice as a Communist Party of India activist, his contribution to Indian cinema and literature was immense as well.

Director Chetan Anand would not think of anyone else but Azmi as lyricist for his films. In fact, Anand and Azmi were close friends. They were both members of the Indian People's Theatre Association. Yore has it
the two shared such a deep bond that they would sit for hours together --- in absolute silence. Neither would speak a word to the other!

One of the last films which boasted of Azmi's lyrics was Vijay Anand's under-production Jaana Na Dil Se Door. One of the songs of this film was sung by Vijay's brother and veteran filmmaker Dev Anand, actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda and television artiste Arundhati Ghanorkar.

His death, say his fans, leaves a void that cannot be filled. Here, a few luminaries of the Hindi film industry pay their respects:

Sitara Devi (dancer)

He was such a lovely man. We have known each other since 1945, if my memory serves me right.

I remember he wrote an innovative play called Aakhri Kshama on the life of the poet Mirza Ghalib. It was very popular then.

His play mentions a fairy who has a dance sequence. Once, his regular dancer fell ill. He approached me for help. I reassured him I would send someone. I dressed for the part and went to dance. The situation demanded dim lights so I was sure no one would recognise me.

He said, gratefully, "I couldn't possibly have asked you to dance." In fact, later, people were surprised that I had danced without any publicity.

[Kaifi Azmi's wife] Shaukat and I used to go to a health club together and chat for hours. I recall [his daughter] Shabana as a tiny girl.

Just recently, I bought Kaifisaab's book of poems Meri Awaaz Suno in Delhi. I memorise the lines --- they give me a lot of joy.

Nida Fazli (poet-lyricist)

Azmi's contribution has been manifold because he had such varied interests --- he was an activist-poet who belonged to the generation of progressive writers.

In Urdu, the progressive movement started with Mulk Raj Anand, Sajjad Zahir and Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Azmi belonged to the junior cadre of the progressive movement. He was also connected with the Indian People's Theatre Association and was an active member of the Communist Party of India till the very end.

I found him very gentle, very quiet, a man of socio-political awareness. He was socially active. Most of his work was for the downtrodden and oppressed. I participated in many mushairas with him, both in India and abroad. His voice was God's gift --- he would out his verses on stage --- it was a joy to watch him.

He lyrics are immortal --- Waqt ne kiya kya haseen situm [Kaagaz Ke Phool] Kar chale hum fida jaan-o-tan saathiyo [Haqeeqat].

His Heer Ranjha with Chetan Anand was an experimental film written totally in verse.

Khayyam (composer)

Khayyam I am shocked. The 1940s and the decades highlighted the fact that he was one of our leading poets.

I always called him today's Mirza Ghalib. His style was totally individualistic. Recently, I composed an album on his writings titled Shaguftgi. His poems and ghazals were also educational. You know, he could keep you enthralled for hours when he recited his verses.

When his songs came to me, I always felt it was incredible stuff. I worked with him first in Lala Rookh. Look at his words: Pyaas kuch aur bhi bhadka di jhalak dikhlake, tujhko parda rukheroshanse hataana hoga. They were huge hits.

I remember there was Mohammed Rafi number: Hai gali gali ke lab par tere husn ka fasana, which also did very well.

We worked on Baharon mera jeevan bhi sanwaro [Aakhri Khat], a beautiful song, together.

As a person, he had a lot of love for the poor. He was upset by the disparity between the rich and poor. And his poetry reflected his sentiments. He would complain: How could there be inequality in God's presence?

His work is immortal.

He spent almost his whole earnings on his village, Azamgarh, which is in Uttar Pradesh. He founded a school, a hospital and introduced computers there.

India should be proud of him.

Sardar Mallik (composer)

Such a great poet! His writing was completely original. I loved listening to his ideas --- he spoke so beautifully. There was never any disparity between his actions and philosophy; what he wrote is what he said.

He always said be it God or Allah or Bhagwan, this entity was big enough to look after everyone. He was unwilling to believe in a small God.

As told to Lata Khubchandani

Also read:
Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi dead


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