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April 4, 1997


"The government is to blame, they have no cultural policy"

Suparn Verma

The top 10 Hindi film songs

1. Telephone dhun mein hasne wali (Hindustani)

2. Pardesi, pardesi, jana nahin (Raja Hindustani)

3. Gaate the pehle akele (Khamoshi)

4. Ho nahin sakta (Diljale)

5. Yaara o yaara (Jeet)

6. Aankh maare, ho ladka aankh mare (Tere Mere Sapne)

7. Tere chahat mein (Mr Aashiq)

8. Sundara sundara (Rakshak)

9. Haale haale (Aar Ya Paar)

10. Jhanjariya (Krishna)

Says a lot about our taste in music, does it not? And even more so about the kind of lyrics we are willing to tolerate in thename of entertainment.

This, despite the fact that we have truly talented lyricists of the calibre of Kaifi Azmi (left). Yet, Kaifisaab has not penned a single lyric for the industry for the last 13 years.

“I have not stopped writing,” says the poet who last seared the screen with his fiery lyrics in Mahesh Bhatt's Arth.“But if you wish to find the reason behind why I have not written lyrics for Hindi films for the last so many years, you will have to pose this question to the film-makers themselves.”

The hiatus will be broken with actress Pooja Bhatt's Tamanna,her debut as film producer. “They have used a stanza from a popular inqualabi nazm of mine called Aurat which I had written many years ago,” smiles Kaifisaab.

Director Mahesh Bhatt, who is currently concentrating on wrapping up the film, says, “Kaifisaab is one of the most brilliant poets we have today, but he is not in the market. Also, he wasn't here (in Bombay) for quite some time. Another major reason is the fact that people are intimidated by his intellect and there is a block that they cannot understand him. But he will definitely be working with us on future projects.”

Kaifisaab himself does not rule out further assignments. “I am happy that the stanza was used in Pooja's film. Mahesh is a good friend and Anu Malik has provided a very nice score. I'll definitely write for them again if they want me to.”

There can be no doubt that the abysmally deteriorating standards of the film industry has hurt him bitterly. “What can I say?” he asks unhappily. “Today, the films that are made are of such low standards that they demand such disgusting lyrics.”The blame, according to him, totally falls on the government's shoulders. “They are to blame because they have no cultural policy - they are all aping the west.”

But creativity, of the kind that runs in Kaifisaab's veins, has to be channelised. And his affinity to the film industry cannot be denied. Kaifisaab's actress-daughter Shabana has just won the Best Actress Award for the role in Deepa Mehta's film Fire at the Chicago film festival. His wife, Shaukat,is a renowned actress. His son, Baba Azmi, is rated as one of India's finest cinematographers. His son-in-law Javed Akhtar is a poet-lyricist-scriptwriter of repute, while his daughter-in-law,Tanvi Azmi, is a much appreciated actress.

In fact, Kaifisaab himself has acted in Saeed Mirza's award-winning Naseem. (right) “I loved acting in Naseem. Saeed has made a very good film, it has a lot of substance in it. It is a pity that the film has not been released as yet.”

At present, he is co-writing Ramesh Sippy's serial on the 50 years of Indian cinema with Manohar Shyam Joshi. “It is the story of the evolution of our country after Independence.”