Thursday, September 17, 2015

Only a Fool can be Totally Original: Javed Akhtar

Veteran lyricist, script-writer and poet Javed Akhtar continued his charm offensive in Hyderabad as he soaked in the adulation on the centrestage and the sidelines of the Literature Festival. If on Friday, he had audiences listening attentively at a plush hotel, on Saturday it was in the corridors of Hyderabad Public School that he cast a spell on people he interacted with. The man of one-liners and putdowns spoke up about fear of deadlines and how any form of art, poetry, music is emulative. 


"Batayiye dahi hota hai ke dahi hoti hai? Hyderabad mein dahi hoti hai! But phir bhi Hyderabad mein yahan ke logon se zyada khubsoorat kya hoga?" he asks with a laugh about continuing nok-jhonk about the correct diction and accent of Urdu. 

Born in Gwalior, Javed Akhtar's name was Jadu Akhtar. Jadu was the name derived from one of the poems written by his father Jaan Nisar Akhtar, a well known poet. "If my name is Jadu, definitely people will call me Jadu," he says as he becomes nostalgic about his father, "I still remember how my father used to talk about the difficulty in writing in simple language. Simple writing can come from a writer who is very sure of himself. Only a fool can be totally original. All art forms are influenced and emulated. What's new about these art forms? It is very difficult to find new avenues after what the maestros have already done. In my college days, I was very impressed by Sahir Ludhianvi. It's impossible to remain uninfluenced by your favourite writer." 

Even now, his source of inspiration remains: fear of deadline. "I am very scared of deadlines. If someone tells me I have to write within a deadline, I leave everything aside and focus on the ticking clock," he says, adding, "Sometimes, I am stuck with two or three lines. I keep the paper in a drawer and after six or eight months, when I feel I am emotionally more prepared, I add a few more lines and it becomes a longer poem then." When asked if his wife Shabana Azmi is the inspiration for his romantic poetry, he blushes, and nods. Then he says, "Sab kuchh aap ko nahi bataunga. Phir mazaa hii kya!" 

A strong votary of Telangana agitation, Javed reminiscences about Krishna Chander's novel Jab Khet Jage, which is about Telangana Rebellion before India's Independence, "Urdu writers were writing exceptional pieces during the Telangana rebellion. I salute people of Telangana for what they have achieved." 

Incidentally, Javed's journey into poetic world began at Hyderabad where he recited his first ghazal. "I had come with Kaifi Azmi Sa'ab. I was very nervous on the stage. His presence made me comfortable," he says. Though he may be writing some of the better known songs and stories of Hindi film industry, Javed has a soft corner for the poets of Hyderabad, "Makhdoom Mohiuddin was my favourite. And so were Shaz Tamkanat and Aziz Qaisi."

Published in The Times of India. I met Javed Sa'ab at Hyderabad Litfest, 2015.

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