Name : Kaifi Azmi
Full / Real Name : Kaifi Azmi / Akhtar Hussain Rizvi
Born :
Died : 10 May, 2002, Bombay
Notable Films : Aakhri Khat, Anupama, Arth, Chand Grahan, Haqeekat, Heer Ranjha, Kagaz Ke Phool, Pakeezah, Shama, Shola aur Shabnam
Contributed by : K Vijay Kumar
Born to a family of landlords in Majwan in the district of Azamgarh, UP, Kaifi Azmi was fortunate in having a liberal and modern father. His father took up a job as a tahsildar in various small towns in Uttar Pradesh. Although his fater wanted Kaifi to have a modern "English" education, pressure from relatives who wanted him to be a theologian saw him admitted to the Sultan-ul-Madris seminary in Lucknow. He soon ran into trouble with the authorities there, organizing a union and launching a strike which ran one-and-a-half years. Once the strike was called off, Kaifi Azmi was expelled and there ended his relatives' ambitions. Denied the kind of education he and his father wanted, Kaifi Azmi took courses at Lucknow and Allahabad universities that helped him acquire a command over Urdu, Arabic and Persian.

Being something of a prodigy, he was initiated into the world of poetry at an early age and a ghazal he wrote while just eleven "itana to kisi ki zindagi me na khalal pade" was sung by Begum Akhtar and became a rage in pre-partition India. He abandoned his pursuit of the classical languages to join the Quit India movement in 1942 and in 1943, he became a card holding member of the Communist Party of India. His party work required him to move to Bombay and once there he balanced party work with his love for poetry and participation in mushairas. Once such mushaira took him to Hyderabad where he met Shaukat, his wife to be, a well known actress of theatre and film in her own right.

Although his initial work was in the familiar lovelorn style of ghazals and the established themes of Urdu poetry in general, his leftist ideas gave birth to a rich vein of socially conscious and inspiring poetry. Kaifi's involvement with the Communist Party lead to his association with the Indian People's Theatre Association of which he remained an active member, and even served as a President. He encouraged new writers and had their plays performed at Bhulabhai Desai hall, for Communist Party fund raisers.

Kaifi Azmi first started working in films as a story writer (Yahudi Ki Beti, 1956; Id Ka Chand, 1958). He served as dialogue writer for several films, notably Garam Hawa (1973) and Manthan (1976). He even acted in Naseem (1995), a brilliant performance as a rambling grandfather, against the backdrop of rising Hindu fanaticism and the destruction of the Babri Masjid on 6th Dec, 1992. But it was as a lyricist that he is best remembered, and it was as a lyricist that he was most productive.

Guru Dutt's Kagaz Ke Phool brought him his first success in the world of film music and lyrics. He wrote very chooily, forming a close association only with the like-minded Chetan Anand for whom he wrote in films like Haqeekat (kar chale ham fida jaan-o-tan sathiyo, ho ke majboor mujhe, main ye soch kar us ke dar se utha tha, zara si ahat hoti hai), Hindustan Ki Qasam (hai tere sath meri vafa, har taraf ab yahi afsane hain), Hanste Zakhm (tum jo mil gaye ho), Aakhri Khat (aur kuch der thahar, mere chanda mere nanhe, baharo mera jeevan bhi sanvaro). His poetry often had to stoop to conquer, and like Sahir, he adapted some of his non-film work for use in films - ho ke majboor mujhe being a case in point. Equally at home with ghazal (aap se pyar hua jata hai, Shama; jhuki jhuki si nazar, Arth), nazm (ho ke majboor muhje, Haqeekat), qawwali (achcha unhe dekha hai, Shankar Hussain) and unstructured verse (dekhi zamane ki yaari, Kagaz Ke Phool) his contribution to Hindi film music is as far reaching as it is excellent.

However, Chetan Anand's Heer Ranjha (1970) must remain his best work ever - a towering tour-de-force in which the entire dialogue of the film was written in verse. In Raj Kumar, he found an actor with enough panache to carry it off, and in Chetan Anand, a director who could best showcase it. The songs themselves are wonderful (ye duniya ye mehfil, milo na tum to, do dil toote do dil haare) - and there are times when dialogue segues into song and song morphs into dialogue - like in meri duniya me tum aayi.

He published three anthologies of poetry Aakhir-e-Shab, Jhankar and Awaara Sajde. Penguin India has also published a translation of his poems in English - Selected Poems Kaifi Azmi. He was the recepient of numerous awards (inclduing the Filmfare award for dialogue & screenplay for Garam Hawa), and is survived by his son, Baba Azmi (a noted cinematographer), daughter and actress Shabana, daughter-in-law Tanvi, a fine actress herself, and son-in-law Javed Akhtar, a successful lyricist himself.