says Javed Akhtar, writer, poet, lyricist, scriptwriter – one man but with many roles. In fact, Indian cinema owes a lot to this living legend. Having achieved incisive finesse in all forms of writings, Javed Akhtar is an institution in him, not just for those seeking to make a career in writing but also for his innumerable fans, who love and admire him for his thoughtful renditions. Smita Dwivedi gets lucky enough to speak to the legend. Excerpts– Prolific writing is in his genes; Javed Akhtar's lineage can be traced back to seven generations of famous Urdu poets, writers and freedom fighters. His father, renowned Urdu poet Jan Nisar Akhtar, mother - famous Urdu writer Safia Akhtar and uncle, noted Urdu poet, Majaaz were amongst pioneers of the Progressive Writers' Association.
“Fortunately, I was born in a family where writing and reading was all around; I grew up in an atmosphere where we used to breathe literature, almost like oxygen. By the time I was 13-14 years old, I had read almost 15 classics. I also remembered and learned 100s of couplets by heart. By the time I was 15-16 years old, I realized I could write poetry and express it well. And it took me no time to realize that talent,” remembers Javed fondly.
Poetry in his thirties…
“Somehow I didn’t write poetry for long...for so many reasons. Firstly, I wanted to be a film director and always wanted to join films…so my priority was somewhere else. Moreover, there were so many poets around that being a poet was not an accomplishment for me. Poetry was not a new avenue for me. It was like Arey Tum Bhi (Oh, you too). So I was reluctant to do that. And I feel more we are inherent about something, more courageous we become,” he added.
Being a poet was a welcome change for Javed Akhtar, as he explained, “I actually started writing poetry perhaps at an age where people stop writing poetry. It was in late 30s. And within a few years, I found great amount of appreciation and recognition, it was really kind of others.”
It would be useful for the readers to know that Javed saab has written two powerful poetry books – Tarkash and Lava. Both the books are compilation of poems against communalism, social injustice, national integration, women's rights, life, relationships, etc.
His first collection of Urdu poetry Tarkash was released in 1997 and today it is in its eleventh edition in Hindi, and seventh edition in Urdu. It has received rave reviews both as a book and as India's first audio book. What’s more? According to a recent survey, Tarkash is the most sold book of verses in the last 60 years.
However, it took him around 15 years to compile his first poetry book – Tarkash, and 16 years to write the second one. Infact, his second book of poems – Lava was recently launched after a long gap of 14 years, and it has been well appreciated by the literati.
“To me, it’s not an achievement to have many collections or writing a lot, but I feel one should write enough to edit anything that seems weak. That is how it was. So for Lava, it took me a decade and half to compile literary endeavors,” shared Javed saab.
If you read Tarkash or Lava, you will find poetry on different genres. “I feel there’s no particular genre to write. There’s no guarantee that you will write great poetry unless you feel that topic. The only way one can write great poetry or literature is by writing something that one genuinely feels or means. Somehow honesty and genuine concern or involvement is best conveyed through words. No one can fake it, somehow even if you fake it and get appreciation and clap for it, it will be for some time and ultimately won’t last,” believes Javed saab.
“My poetry is strong. It’s about sweet bitterness and bitter sweetness of life and society. It’s not about soft romantic verses. So, I cannot name them Kaliyan, Chand, or Shabnam. It has to go with the poetry,” he added.
Writer with a difference…
Javed Saab’s words are always inspiring and motivational. How does he manage it? To this, he replied, “This is definitely not deliberate. Because the moment a writer wants to become preacher or teacher, he is not accepted. If you have right value system, right concerns and right priority… inspiration will come on its own. If you tend to become a preacher with certain kind of moral arrogance or holier-than-thou attitude, then it irritates the reader.”
Two of his books Talking Films and Talking Songs, published by Oxford University Press, are termed as the most definitive works on Indian Cinema.
Penning own biography
“So many people ask me to write an autobiography. I believe it is a major task. You don’t remember the chronicles; you don’t remember the names, places and events properly. It will take a lot of time and effort to do that. But what really interests me to write my autobiography is not because it is about me, but because it will also be about the interesting people, incidents and circumstances that I had witnessed over the years. In fact, any autobiography, if written with honesty and sincerity would be great because there are no two similar lives,” he told.
On reading books…
“I have no favorite book as such, which I had read again. Such favorites are of religious people, and I am an atheist. There’s a plethora of wonderful literature by novelists, poets, short story writers or any writer. So, to choose one is not fair. Right now I am following Richard Dawkins, and reading his one book after another. I feel he is amongst 2-3 biggest intellectuals alive on this planet. I read all kinds of books, but a book has to be good. I have varied reading interests. I have read books on poetry, fiction, space, gene, or novel,” told Javed.
Having co-authored super hit Hindi films like, Sholay, Zanjeer, Deewar, Trishul, etc., Javed Akhtar has successful films like Sagar, Mr. India, Betaab, Arjun, Lakshya to his credit. According to a survey by The Times of India in 38 cities, three out of four most popular Hindi film dialogues (since the inception of Talkie Films in 1933) are from his films - Sholay (Kitne Aadmi Theye), Deewar (Mere Paas Maa Hai) and Mr. India (Mogambo Khush Hua).
On a concluding note…
“Words mean fragrance of honesty and sincerity. If the fragrance is missing, the words will not stay in people’s heart for long,” concluded Javed Akhtar.
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