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‘A tribute straight from the heart’

By January 25, 2019No Comments

Source : The Hindu

As HLF 2019 gears up to celebrate the centenary of Kaifi Azmi, Amita Talwar recalls the making of ‘Yaadein’, her documentary on the poet



The Hyderabad Literary Festival (HLF) 2019 will commemorate the birth centenary of poet Kaifi Azmi (1919-2002) by screening Yaadein , a documentary by Amita Talwar. The 57-minute documentary was first telecast by Doordarshan in 1999.

Hyderabad-based photographer and art patron Amita Talwar gets nostalgic as she reminisces its making 20 years ago. “I had an avid interest in music and poetry, which was fuelled by my parents. They both could read and write Urdu and we were exposed to good shayari . In our adolescent years, radio and Hindi films were the primary source of entertainment. I remember wondering who these wonderful poets were who wrote lyrics that touched our hearts and in some ways shaped our sensibilities,” she shares.

In the late 90s, she began researching on film lyricists and decided to start with Kaifi Azmi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Gulzar, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Javed Akhtar and Shailendra. Her first attempt was met with rejection, she recalls: “Gulzar sahibdid not give me permission, which was disheartening.”

However, she gathered courage and spoke to Kaifi Azmi who was “extremely encouraging”. Amita remembers the conversation: “He asked me ‘ Bibi aapne pehle koi film banayee hai ? (have you previously made any film?)’. I thought it was going to be the second rejection, but I was pleasantly surprised when he said ‘ Nahin banayee to koi baat nahin. Aap Bombai aa jaiye. Kahin na kahin se to sab nae shuruaat karni hai’ (it doesn’t matter if you haven’t made a film. Come to Bombay; everyone has to begin somewhere).”

Incidentally, two youngsters Shivram Apte and Anu Guddur who had just finished their film course came aboard for the project.

Hyderabad poet Rashid Ali Khan, who knew Kaifi Azmi well, became the team’s anchor and and helped with the groundwork. Amita felt handicapped that she couldn’t read or write Urdu. She watched most of the films for which he had penned the lyrics, read translations of his poetry and the script of Yaadein took shape. “We had to make some changes as we couldn’t get some of the film clips; but at the end of the day, we were happy with what we got,” says Amita.

Interviews were conducted with Kaifi Azmi’s wife Shaukat, daughter Shabana Azmi, Ali Sardar Jafri and his wife Sultana, and a few others from Kaifi Azmi’s native village Mijwan in eastern Uttar Pradesh. However, both Kaifi Azmi’s son Baba Azmi and son-in-law Javed Akhtar were unavailable for interviews owing to prior work commitments.

Amita describes Yaadein as “a simple tribute, straight from the heart”, to a poet of repute. She wishes she could have had more content if not for the limitations of funds and experience two decades ago. “But I will always remain grateful to Kaifi sahib for giving me the opportunity to take a peep into his life,” she says with a smile.

She feels the poet’s work continues to remain relevant and must be celebrated. “His concerns about inequality, oppression of women, and love are eternal. Kaise baazaar kaa dastur tumhe samajhaun. Bik gaya jo woh Kharidar nahi ho sakata…The lyrics have a perennial charm.”

Capping the tribute will be a curated photography exhibition. “We have images from various sources. Shabana, her god daughter Namrata and her partner Vikas have been helpful. We also got some visuals from Siasat Archives. We have 50 photographs to share at the HLF,” sums up Amita.

I remember wondering who these wonderful poets were who wrote lyrics that touched our hearts and in some ways shaped our sensibilities.

Amita Talwar

The schedule



  • Yaadein (English/Urdu) will be screened with English subtitles on January 27; 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet. Amita Desai of Goethe Zentrum will be in conversation with Shabana Azmi.




  • From January 25 to 27, view the photographic tribute to Kaifi Azmi titledYaadein , curated by Amita Talwar, at Hyderabad Public School.


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