Shabana Azmi On Her Legendary Father Kaifi Azmi

Shabana Azmi: My earliest memory  of Abba (father Kaifi Azmi)… sitting  on a  writing table  in his kurta-pyjama smoking incessantly and writing  till the wee hours of  the morning.

As a child I was convinced a poet was a euphemism  for someone who didn’t have any work. Daddys were supposed to put  on trousers, shirts and  ties and go out to work. In fact  when  people would ask me  what my father did I said he  was a  businessman and  quickly changed the topic….Oh , the follies of innocence…My father was  a   really gorgeous looking man  with  this beautiful voice.  People  don’t know this, but he  had a tremendous sense of  humour.

I remember  once I was  putting eye-drops in his tiny  eyes. The drops kept falling all  over his face.  He told me about this inept  prince who was taught archery and who broke everything in  the house during practice. Then he said, ‘Put  the drops in my  ears they’ll go in my eyes.’ He said  such   lines with a poker face.  He always made digs at  the strange procedure in  our films where  tunes came   first and lyrics were  written  into  them later. ‘It’s like first digging a grave and then trying  to fit a corpse into it.

But I constantly  keep   fitting  the corpse into the grave, so everyone  thinks  I’m a good  lyricist’ he said…. You know I took  my father for granted, as all children tend to. But as a poet he continues to overwhelm me  each day even four years after  his death.

Whether it was his poem Makaan  or Aurat…they’ve  been a great source of inspiration. My concern  for slum-dwellers started with my father’s poem Makaan which  talks of  the irony of  the construction worker who builds  a building with his sweat and blood  but isn’t allowed  to   enter  it.In   Hindi cinema , along  with Sahir, Majrooh  , Jaan Nissar Akhtar and  Shailendra,  my father raised  the standards of film lyrics. They were often deceptively  conversational  –Kuch dil ne kaha…..kuch bhi nahin….

As  a film lyricist he was a mixture  of  simplicity and poeticality. Take these lines Kissi  ka na  ho jiss pe saaya mujheaisi din  aisi  raat do/ Main manzil to khud dhoond loongi mere haath main zaraa apna haath do/ Qadam-do-qadam tum mera saath  do….

And when Lataji   sang  these lines by myfather….what can be said? You know what was exceptional about  my father? He  never spoke at  home  about  his work.My  most favourite Kaifi Azmi lyrics? Hmmmmm… Koi kaise yeh bataaye ke wohtanha kyon hai/who  jo apna tha who aur kisika kyon  hai/yehi duniya hai to phir aisi yeh duniya kyon  hai/yehi hota hai to aakhir yehi hota kyon hai?…

The simplicity of  these  lines kill me.  Imagine , a spouse-deserted woman (in the film Arth) being faced with these lines!….That sense of  commitment which artistes  of my father’s generation had ,  has been missing. But slowly it’s coming back in my film fraternity. I like it when film people   come  out to involve themselves with social issues.”

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