On the eve of her father Kaifi Azmi's fourth death anniversary, Shabana Azmi and husband Javed Akhtar staged a play called Kaifi Aur Mein at Mumbai's Prithvi Theatre on Tuesday.
In the two-hour play dedicated to the legendary poet's life, letters exchanged by Kaifi Azmi and his wife Shaukat Azmi during their courtship days -- and included in Shaukat Azmi's book Yaad Ki Rehguzar -- were read out by Shabana and Javed.
They also shared interesting snippets from Kaifi Azmi's life -- like his early years in his village Mijwan, Uttar Pradesh, and about him being thrown out of a madrassa because he was involved in a strike against living conditions in the hostel -- which had the audience in splits.
In one of her first meetings with Kaifi Azmi, Shaukat Azmi had said, 'College girls were clinging to him (Kaifi Azmi) like honeybees for an autograph, so I turned to (renowned Urdu poet) Sardar Jaffrey for his autograph. Only when the crowd dispersed, I went to him. He wrote a very bad verse for me. Later, when I asked him why he wrote a bad verse in my new notebook, he asked playfully: 'why did you take Sardar's autograph before mine?''
More nostalgia followed when they spoke about Kaifi Azmi's life in Bombay in the 1950s, his joining the Communist party, working with mill workers, his wedding, the death of their first son, Shabana's birth, Kaifi Azmi going underground thanks to his party work, Shaukat Azmi working for the radio, her theatre days, his fight against paralysis…
Kaifi Azmi also wrote scripts for films, the most memorable being the evocative Garam Hawa, about the effects of Partition on a Muslim family. He also wrote a script in verse, based on Heer Ranjha.
Shabana and Javed's attempt to give the audience an insight into the man behind the poet was well received. The best part was the way in which the narrative was interspersed with music.
Jaswinder Singh gave voice to Kaifi Azmi's memorable lyrics:
Meri awaz suno, Itna to zindagi mein kisiki khalal pade, Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam, Kar chale hum fida jaan-o-tan saathiyon, Milo na tum toh hum ghabraye, Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho and kya gham hai jisko chhupa rahe ho.
Needless to say, the play closed to a standing ovation.Edited by Qwest - 13 years ago
Where have all the love letters gone?
|With e-mails and mobile text-messaging dominating the mindspace of young people, the art of writing love letters is dying a slow death, reports Reena Martins|
I shall certainly not go out tonight, but will sit here at home and write to you." Nearly two centuries ago, novelist Victor Hugo penned these words to his wife Adele.
Today, when love is in a hurry and words don't really matter, the act of writing love letters has been swept aside by keypads and keyboards. And with emotions being abbreviated, the breed of Hugo and Adele looks like becoming a thing of the past.
Shaukat Azmi, theatre stalwart and mother of actress Shabana Azmi, has been one of the luckier few. She treasures the letters of love and longing written to her decades ago by her late husband, the poet, Kaifi Azmi. These letters, to be published in her autobiography Yaad ki Rahguzar, are written in chaste and poetic Hindi. "It saddens me to see that people do not write love letters any longer," says Azmi.
This was not so in the past when the letter was well nigh the only form of long-distance communication. For Ramjidas Saluja, the necessity of writing love letters to his wife made him study the Devanagiri script as she didn't know Urdu too well. "He must have been really in love with my mother to be able to do something like that," says his daughter Usha Dua.
Even during the sixties and the seventies of the last century, letters were the only way to keep communication alive between Sheryl and her husband Wilfred who was working in the Gulf. Sheryl stayed in Mumbai for long periods to deliver each of their four babies. The letters between Mumbai and the Gulf came at the rate of three a month, with Wilfred getting a dose of Sheryl's ire if he did not write as regularly as she wanted him to. But ire apart, these letters were also witness to their kiss-and-make-up sessions.
Sushmita Mitra (name changed) in Calcutta, who was privy to the letters her parents wrote to each other in the seventies, remembers them as being touchingly sentimental. In one of them, her father writes about having followed her mother in the rain, just to feel close to her.
But for several years now, love letters have taken a back seat, beating a slow retreat before the onslaught of telephones, the e-mail and, of course, mobile phone text messages. As Shaukat Azmi says, Shabana and her writer husband Javed Akthar express their love on the phone rather than through letters when they are apart. Similarly, Mumbai-based singer Babul Supriyo, who prides himself on his collection of love letters (written to him since 1994), says he cannot remember the last time he wrote one himself. He prefers to send his love by sms.
Most youngsters in Mumbai are no different. Berryl, a college student, would not think of writing love letters, preferring to send her love notes through sms. "In fact, I don't know anyone who writes love letters," she says.
It's not that everybody is averse to writing love letters. For instance, Lester, a youngster in Mumbai, actually finds the idea of a love letter romantic. He would be writing them, he says, if only he had the knack. But he wouldn't go so far as to take the help of any of the professional letter writers in Mumbai ? penning love letters for illiterate immigrants under a hail of pigeon droppings, as described in Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, by author, Suketu Mehta.
The cyberworld has also deprived diehard romantics of the physical presence that a love letter carries. Deepti, a student at a Mumbai college, who chooses to phone, e-mail, or send text messages rather than write a love letter, says she misses this quality in the sms or the e-mail.
In fact, according to Dr Harish Shetty, a Mumbai-based psychiatrist, the very act of controlling the pen while writing a love letter is capable of drawing one's feelings from within. Mangesh, a freelance journalist in Pune, who regularly writes to an intimate woman friend, vouches for that "something different" quality about pen and paper. "It brings out my true feelings on various issues. Moreover, my girlfriend says she feels closer to me in my letters," he says.
For Walesa Baretto, a student in Mumbai, who pens letters to her boyfriend, the reasons for writing are somewhat different. While she can be spontaneous in e-mails too, love letters are simply sweeter, she says. Besides, they give her a chance to exhibit her artwork, poetry and "good handwriting."
Among the college crowd at least, sms-es "have replaced not just letters, but e-mails, as well," says Dr Myrtle Barse, a professor of sociology at a Mumbai college. Many of these, she says, have strong sexual undertones. "With so much of sexual permissiveness in society, romance has anyway become a thing of the past," she says.
At least, the romance of writing a love letter certainly has.
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