Kaifi Azmi: Celebrating the poet-songwriter’s multi-layered legacy on his 103rd birth anniversary

It would be difficult to reconcile the many aspects and achievements of kaifi azmi the artist Whole. An important part of the Progressive Writers Movement, Azmi was also a poet, a dialogue and a screenwriter and more popularly, a lyricist. For the first time in 1951, he took up his pen to write a song for a film. Kaifi Azmi wrote tracks for Buzdil, and worked a lot throughout his life as a lyricist till the late 90s. He died in 2002.

Born in a family of artists, almost all the members of Kaifi Azmi’s family are active in this field. His three brothers were also poets; He was married to Shaukat Azmi, a film and theater actress. His daughter Shabana Azmi is an actor, son Baba Azmi is a director-cinematographer, while son-in-law Javed Akhtar is a famous Hindi film lyricist. Kaifi Azmi developed a natural skill and fondness for writing when, at the young age of 11, he wrote his first ghazal “Itna To Zindagi Mein Kisi Khalal Pade”. Over the years, he developed a genuine penchant for Urdu poetry, and later turned his attention to the world of cinema in the early 1950s to support his growing family.

Arguably, one of his most favorite and remembered songs is “Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam” from Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool. The song is sad, but it also has a tinge of nostalgia that gives it a bitterly sweet aftertaste. The track tells of two people who once knew each other, but fall prey to the curse of time, which has transformed them and turned them into familiar strangers. Its universal theme of the passage of time and how it changes us is presented in the sore voice of Geeta Dutt. Another classic is a number featuring Kaifi’s daughter Shabana Azmi from the movie Earth – “Tum Itna Jo Mascara Rahe Ho.” From romantic verses, to songs that spoke of true patriotism (from Haqeeqat to “Kar Chale Hum Fida”), Kaifi Azmi did it all, and did it with such passion and sincerity that we are still singing his songs. , more than five decades after they were first born.

in an earlier interview with indianexpress.com, Shabana Azmi Describing the relevance of his father’s songs, he had said, “These songs had very little philosophy of life. He has taught us how to navigate our way through life in times of sorrow, distress, love and glory. Every time you listen to these songs, special memories related to them come back.”

For his work in art, Kaifi Azmi was honored with various prestigious awards, including two National Film Awards (for Saat Hindustani and Garam Hawa), two Sahitya Akademi Awards as well as a Padma Shri. But despite all this, one of his most important works is the 1970 Chetan Anand film Heer Ranjha, the first of its kind and a unique achievement, with full dialogues written in verse.

In an interview uploaded on YouTube by Prasar Bharati Archives, Kaifi Azmi spoke about how he firmly entered the world of Hindi cinema when Guru Dutt decided to hire him. However, in the same breath, the lyricist lamented the fact that Dutt’s beloved work Kaagaz Ke Phool failed to connect with the audience. Kaifi said, “They (the film industry) didn’t think I couldn’t write just because Dutt’s film flopped, they only came to the conclusion that ‘their stars are not taking their side’.”

But the stars of poetry, dreams and moving pictures have always been shining for the poet-songwriter, and he continues to do so as songwriters from different generations draw inspiration from his vast, multifaceted body of work.