Indians in Australia got an evening to remember as Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi celebrated the life of poet Kaifi Azmi through the theatre production ‘Kaifi Aur Main’, based on the memoirs of his wife Shaukat
The Sir John Clancy auditorium was witness to a rare kind of theatrical spectacle! ‘Kaifi Aur Main’ brought to Australia by SAI Creative Arts Network (SCREAN) lays bare the story of renowned poet Kaifi Azmi and his wife Shaukat Azmi through the heart beats of Shaukat. A memoir written to celebrate their finer moments of their life together, ‘Kaifi Aur Main’ holds your hand while taking you on this journey. The play is very well crafted by none other than Javed Akthar who also portrays the role of Kaifi. He is joined on stage by his extremely talented wife Shabana Azmi in the role of Shaukat.
The songs in the play are rendered by talented new-age ghazal singer Jaswinder Singh with Ramesh Talwar (‘Doosra Admi’ fame) directing the play. After premiering in Mumbai in 2006, ‘Kaifi Aur Main’ has drawn standing ovations not just in India but the world over. The almost-packed-to-capacity Sir John Clancy auditorium buzzed with excitement and exuberant applause as the audience basked in the glow of the talented artists on the stage. The stage setting though sparse was extremely meaningful.
An intricate montage of romance, adventure, laughter and tears, ‘Kaifi Aur Main’ condenses Kaifi and Shaukat’s 55-year long relationship to a two-hour stage presentation, a candid sneak-peek from his childhood in Mijwan to their unusual romance and marriage, his part in the Progressive Writer’s Movement, their social, cultural and political activism, his unparalleled contribution to Hindi cinema, their battle with his physical impediment and their stubborn persistence to create a progressive Mijwan.
Amartya Sen sums ‘Kaifi Aur Main’ very aptly. He says, “It is an enchanting recollection of the life of a hugely talented and sensitive human being, shared with a great poet. They were united not only by love and marriage, but also by an individually assessed joint commitment too.” This ambitious project was Manju Mittal and Ruchi Bansal’s event firm SCREAN’s first venture.
In the book, Shaukat acknowledges the contributions of Shabana and Javed in making it a reality. “After Kaifi passed away, I lost all interest…, and pushed the half-finished manuscript of the book aside. It was Javed who encouraged me and persuaded me…’, she says. “If Shabana had not taken it upon herself to ensure its publication, the manuscript would have been gathering dust on my bedside table,” she continues.
The uniqueness in presentation and freshness of approach is this play’s USP. Watching an actor of Shabana’s calibre up and close on the stage was indeed a great experience. A powerhouse of talent, Shabana is a phenomenal actor who has changed the landscape of not only Hindi, but Indian cinema. Her radical acting choices and portrayals, both in experimental and mainstream movies have made her the unsurpassed actor of her generation. A highly accomplished artist, Shabana has won several accolades that include both national and international awards. She was also conferred the Padma Shri for her outstanding contribution to Indian cinema. A graduate from FTII, she is a method actor and during her acting career, has predominantly paid attention to real-life portrayals. Her portrayal of Shaukat and her array of emotions were more than real.
Javed Akthar is one of those rare artists who has made his presence felt even though most of his work has been restricted to behind the cameras. He has kept himself relevant even today, three decades on, immortalised by his dialogues and his lyrics. A winner of five National awards, the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan, listening to Javed emote Kaifi Azmi on stage was an absolute treat.
Honouring a man of his word
The play reached its crescendo when Javed recited the verses he had penned in honour of Kaifi Azmi.
“He was an unusual man
He was a melody of love; he was a rebel’s song
At times he was fire, at other times a flower….
He was an unusual man
To all obstacles he would say
I’ll triumph over you
One day, all trace of you will be erased
The world will forget you
But my story stands apart
In eyes that have dreams in them
In hearts that have hope in them
In arms with strength in them
On lips with words on them
I will after I fade away
He was an unusual man.”