Published On: Tue, May 10th, 2016

Tribute to Kaifi Azmi, on his 14th death anniversary today.

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One of the finest poets of our times, Kaifi Azmi’s contribution to the world of music and literature stands unparalleled.

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Akhtar Hussain Rizvi popularly known as Kaifi Azmi was born on 19th January, 1919 in a landlord’s family of Mejwan, Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Kaifi’s father Syed Fateh Hussain Rizvi wanted his son to take modern education in English, but due to pressure from his elders it didn’t happened. Instead his elders wanted Kaifi to become a theologian, so they admitted him to Sultan-ul-Madaris, a seminary in Lucknow. However, he doesn’t suit in the environment of the seminary. He formed a students union, who go on strike to fulfill their demands in the seminary. The strike ran for a year and half. Later the strike gets over and Kaifi was drawn off from the seminary. Later he cleared several exams from Lucknow and Allahabad university which helped him to hone his skills in Urdu, Arabic and Persian language.

Kaifi later left his studies and joined the Communist Party of India in 1943 when the Quit India move was high in unpartitioned India. During the time he was also recognized by the progressive writers association of Lucknow, who joined him as member of Progressive Writers’ Movement of India. The Movement was consisting of group of writers who worked against the inequality and social injustice through their writings when India was ruled by the British Government.

Although being son of zamindaar (landlord), he left all his comfort and started working for Communist Party on full time basis. He moved to Bombay (Mumbai) and started working amongst other workers of the Party. At the same time he was participating in Mushairas (gathering of poets where they showcase their poems) at various places in India. As a part of Party’s work he penned his writings for Party’s paper ‘Quami Jung’.

Kaifi’s poetry started with writing Ghazals first. He wrote his first ghazal ‘Itna To Zindagi Mein Kisi Ki Khalal Pade’, at the age of 11. His poems include love, compassion and social awareness theme. His popular poems include titles Saap, Makan, Bahurupni, Daaera and Aurat. Numbers of collections of his poems get published. His first poem collection Jhankar was published in 1943. His other poem collections includes Awaara Sajde, Kaifiyaat, Aakhir-e-Shab, and Sarmaya.

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However, Kaifi’s film career as lyricist gets started with Shaheed Latif’s film Buzdil in 1952. Besides lyrics writing, Kaifi also had done script writing, while he also acted in some films. During his early film career, he was used to write primarily for Nanubhai Vakil’s films. His film along with Nanubhai Vakil includes Yahudi Ki Beti, Parvin, Miss Punjab Mail and Id Ka Chand. While later he worked with other directors like Bimal Roy and Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. While like many other lyricist including the veteran Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi changed his style of writing songs to suit to the film style.

Meanwhile, his greatest treasure to Indian Film Industry includes his work as writer for Chetan Anand’s film Heer Raanjha (1970). The interesting part of his writing is that the whole dialogue of the film was in verse. The film is one of his greatest achievement.

His work as dialogue writer will be best remembered for films Garam Hawa (1973), Manthan (1976) and Kanneshwara Rama (1977). His work as lyricist will be best remembered for films Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Haqeeqat (1964). Kaifi also has penned lyrics for numbers of films like Kohra, Anupama, Saat Hindustani, Shola Aur Shabnam, Parwana, Bawarchi, Pakeezah, Arth, Razia Sultan and many more.

Kaifi also acted in a film Naseem in 1995, where he played the role of character Naseem’s grandfather. Kaifi received good reviews about his role.

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Kaifi Azmi has won various awards and he has been honoured by various national and international institutions. These include the Uttar Pradesh Urdu Academy Award, the Soviet Land Nehru Award and the Sahitya Academy Award for his collection, Awaara Sajde, the Maharashtra State Urdu Academy’s Special Award for his contribution to Urdu literature and the Afro-Asian Writers’ Committee’s Lotus Award. He also won the National Award and Filmfare Award for the screenplay and dialogue of Garam Hawa. Kaifi Azmi was also the subject of a documentary film Kaifi Azmi (1979) made by Raman Kumar.

When attending one of the Mushairas in Hyderabad, in 1947, Kaifi met his life partner Shaukat there. Both of then fell in love with each other and they later get married. Shaukat later became a theatre and film actress. the couple together has two children Shabana Azmi and Baba Azmi. Shabana Azmi is a popular Indian actress, while Baba Azmi is a well known film cameraman.

Kaifi Azmi passed away on May 10, 2002.

About the Author

Syed Ammar Alavi

- is Lahore (Pakistan) based journalist & writer with 25-year experience in print, wire and broadcast forms of journalism. His major fields of interest are politics, film,tv,sports, climate change and technology