“Kaifi who was too ill to join us sent a message with his nurse Maria to Javed “Please sing Ai Meri Zohra Jabeen” from the film ‘Waqt’ for my wife from me” (This is a song that Balraj Sahni sings for his wife Achala Sachdev in the film which has become the hallmark for older people expressing sentiments of romantic love),” wrote Shaukhat Azmi about her husband and one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, Sayyid Akhtar Hussein Rizvi, better known as Kaifi Azmi.

The father of famous actor, Shabana Azmi, was born today in 1919 in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh. His contribution in bringing Urdu literature in cinema can never be forgotten by admirers of art and literature.

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Azmi started his journey by writing a poem at the age of 12 and found himself reciting it in a mushaira right after that. His first work was ‘Itna Toh Zindagi Mein Kisi Ki Khala Pade’. Azmi wrote some beautiful poems and ghazals thereafter and one of his ghazals was even sung by Begum Akhtar that went on becoming a rage before Independence.

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As Independence came closer and Quit India Movement began, Azmi abandoned his studies of Urdu and Persian literature because of the deep unrest in the country. After Independence, Azmi’s interest moved towards cinema and he started writing lyrics for films. That was the advent of Hindi cinema and Azmi immersed himself in it. Yahudi Ki Beti (1956), Parvin (1957), Miss Punjab Mail (1958) and Id Ka Chand (1958) were one of his early works for the industry.

Apart from being one among the stalwart poets, Kaifi was also a progressive writer and was a member of the Progressive Writers’ Association (PWA). Through this group, the writers would bring in ideas to bring social change in society with the help of Indian cinema. The Padma Shri awardee wrote a poem on women — Aurat:

qadr ab tak terii tarriikh ne jaanii hii nahiin
tujh mein shole bhii hain bas ashkfishaanii hii nahiin
tu haqiiqat bhii hai dilchasp kahaanii hii nahiin
terii hastii bhii hai ik chiiz javaanii hii nahiin
apnii tarrikh kaa unvaan badalnaa hai tujhe
uth merii jaan mere saath hii chalnaa hai tujhe

Picture credit- Azmikaifi