Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 May 2019

Ode to the creative life of Kaifi Azmi

The family of the renowned Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi is celebrating his life and works on stage at the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre.
The theatrical production Kaifi Aur Main, about the famous Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi, is based on a book by his wife Shaukat Azmi (front right) and is performed by their daughter Shabana Azmi (front left) and son-in-law Javed Akhtar.Courtesy Ductac
The theatrical production Kaifi Aur Main, about the famous Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi, is based on a book by his wife Shaukat Azmi (front right) and is performed by their daughter Shabana Azmi (front left) and son-in-law Javed Akhtar.Courtesy Ductac

Kaifi Aur Main is a theatrical collage based on the life and work of one of the most beloved Urdu poets and film lyricists, Kaifi Azmi. This sensitive and touching narrative, by the noted theatre and film actress Shaukat Azmi about life with her husband, is based on her book Yaad Ki Rehguzar (The Road of Memories) and is performed by their daughter Shabana Azmi and son-in-law Javed Akhtar.

The play

With a script by Akhtar, Kaifi Aur Main traces the journey of Kaifi and Shaukat, from the early bloom of young love to their 55 years of marriage. The play leads the audience through Kaifi's life in Bombay (now known as Mumbai) in the 1950s, his involvement with the progressive writers' movement, his entry into Indian cinema and his subsequent success there and finally his unending courage in the face of a life-threatening illness. A tribute to Kaifi's contribution to Urdu poetry and Indian cinema, the narrative is interspersed with renditions of his poems and songs, supported by a live orchestra. The poetry and lyrics are sung by Jaswinder Singh, with music byKuldip Singh. The play is directed by Ramesh Talwar.

Kaifi Aur Main premiered in Mumbai in 2006, on the fourth anniversary of Kaifi's death. It received standing ovations and rave reviews in India and across the world.

The actors

Seen together for the first time on stage in this show, Shabana Azmi and Akhtar are perfect for their parts. In their inimitable style, they take the audience on this very personal journey that weaves together humour, pathos and the triumph of the human spirit.

Referred to as "the finest dramatic actress of the country" by the noted filmmaker Satyajit Ray, Shabana Azmi, a five-time winner of the National Award for Best Actress, is one of India's most revered actresses. She has acted in numerous plays and more than 140 films, including arthouse and commercial Hindi films as well as a handful of international films. She has won the Filmfare award for Best Actress three times and received the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. Internationally, she is one of the most respected faces of Indian cinema.

Having been a member of the Indian parliament between 1997 and 2003, Azmi believes art should be used as an instrument for social change. She is a fierce advocate of the rights of vulnerable groups and takes a keen interest in development, reproductive health, housing for the poor , public health and HIV.

Akhtar, an Urdu poet, film lyricist and one of the finest scriptwriters in Hindi cinema, is the son of the famous progressive poet Jan Nisar Akhtar and Safia Akhtar, who was a teacher and writer. He traces his family tree back through seven generations of writers. Since he started writing Urdu poetry in 1980, Akhtar has carved out a niche for himself as one of the best modern Urdu poets. An avid reader with a keen interest in politics, his poetry reflects both his political awareness and his literary concerns. He has written many poems against communalism and social injustice and in favour of national integration and women's rights.

Along with his co-writer Salim Khan, he has scripted numerous hit Indian films and, in the past two decades, has won the coveted Filmfare Award 14 times for Best Lyrics and Best Script as well as the National Award five times including the Best Lyricist award three years in a row (1997-1999). In 2007, he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mumbai Film Festival.

About Kaifi

Recognised as one of the finest Urdu poets of modern times, Kaifi was born Syed Athar Husain Rizvi in 1918 in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India. He wrote his first ghazal (Urdu poem) at the age of 11. Immortalised by Begum Akhtar, the ghazal keeps his legacy alive even today.

Along with Faiz and Makhdoom, Kaifi is credited with revolutionising Urdu poetry. His poetry, which is a combination of romantic idealism and sympathy for the exploited classes, has delighted three generations of Urdu-lovers and has fired the imagination of generations of Urdu poets.

Shortly after the country's independence, he migrated to Bombay along with a group of progressive, creative people, hoping to use the popular medium of film to channel their revolutionary ideas. While there, he changed the tenor and vocabulary of Indian film songs. The period when he contributed to films (1955-1975) is often considered the golden age of the Indian film song.

Not one to let his work be confined to the printed page, Kaifi was an eager participant in poetry recitals and literary gatherings and believed that poetry should be used as an instrument for social change. He wrote several poems against communalism and religious fundamentalism and for the rights of women.


Kaifi Aur Main will be staged at 8pm on Friday and Saturday at the Centrepoint Theatre, Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai. Tickets range from Dh100 to Dh500. Call 04 341 4777 or email box.office@ductac.org

Updated: November 20, 2012 04:00 AM