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Javed Akhtar pores over poetry

November 18, 2018

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Javed Akhtar talks during a session along with Amjad Islam Amjad and Ambreen Salahuddin at the Faiz International Festival. — White Star
Javed Akhtar talks during a session along with Amjad Islam Amjad and Ambreen Salahuddin at the Faiz International Festival. — White Star

LAHORE: Indian poet and screenplay writer Javed Akhtar says he is okay with free verse, but finds prose poem problematic and that there is a certain parameter that differentiates prose from poetry.

Furthering his point of view, he asked about the difference between both genres of literature, arguing that there is nothing like hot-cold and living-dead. Taking a dig at those writing prose poems, he said there was no shame in writing prose but if one wanted to write poems, one should learn how to do so.

Responding to him, Urdu poet and academic Yasmeen Hameed said she would avoid arguing with him, as he was a guest.

Javed Akhtar was speaking at a session, Sun’nay Walon Kay Naam, on the second day of the Faiz International Festival on Saturday.

To a comment by Yasmeen that logic and rationality were more dominant than emotions in Akhtar’s poetry, he said, in a lighter tone, he had started writing poetry at the age (after 30) when others stopped writing it. There should be a balance between emotionalism and rationality in poetry as any one of them only would take the pleasure out of it, he said, adding that poetry was a “felt thought”.

Talking about Urdu and Hindi in India, he said, “Ninety per cent vocabulary in Urdu and Hindi is the same as is their grammar. ‘Hindustani’ was the word used for such a language which is no more in vogue now. Urdu poet Arzoo Lakhnavi wrote a book, Sureeli Bansuri, that had no word of Persian or Arabic in it.”

Earlier in the day, Mr Akhtar was also part of the session, Mohabbat Ki Zabaan, along with poets Amjad Islam Amjad and Ambreen Salahuddin. To a statement of Amjad that poets believed more in giving love than receiving it and that poetry was a language of love, Akhtar quipped that poetry should not be considered toothless with the tag of ‘language of love’ as it was also the language of conscience. He pointed out the role of the poet, saying that he/she should sometimes write bitter truth as well, which was needed more in today’s world. Amjad made fun of it by quoting Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi, saying that “voice of conscience does not stop one from committing sin but just destroys its joy”, eliciting laughter from the audience.

Akhtar was asked by the audience to recite his famous political poem, Hukmnama, on the theme of dictatorship and controlled societies. He said he wanted to return to Lahore next year also. He had recited the poem on the first day of the festival, so recited some others in this session.

ALYS FAIZ: A session was held on Alys Faiz with translator Nayyar Rubab. The session, Over My Shoulder, was moderated by Dr Sheeba Alam.

Ms Rubab said she was not really aware of Alys and her actual work before reading the book on Alys. “This book covers the whole life of Alys Faiz, from her childhood to the later years. Two kinds of people must read this book: those who want to read unbiased history and lovers.”

Ms Rubab talked about Alys as a wife who had adapted herself to the family of Faiz and conditions of the country and her struggle when her husband, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, was jailed. Dr Sheeba and Rubab also read out passages from the book.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2018

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