Celebrating the life and times of renowned Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi, the stage was set for Kaifi Aur Main at Shilpakala Vedika on Sunday, where Shabana Azmi, Danish Husain and Jaswinder Singh took the audience on a 120-minute long journey of Kaifi’s life, full of humour, romance and social commitment. Directed by Ramesh Talwar, the play, interwoven with ghazals, incidentally marked its 200th performance.
Set amidst the backdrop of politics and a pre-independent India, the play began with establishing both the main characters of Shaukat and Kaifi Azmi, ably played by Shabana Azmi as Shaukat and Danish Husain as Kaifi. The theatrical and musical montage was a compilation of Shaukat’s interaction with Kaifi, from her book Yaad Ki Rehguzaar, along with portions from various interviews of Kaifi, which have been strung together by Javed Akhtar.
But what made the personal memoir interesting was that the play not only helped the audience to understand who Kaifi was, but also his different passions for poetry, writing and being a rebel with a cause. Kaifi Aur Main summarises everything about Kaifi — from his 55-year-old romance with Shaukat (right from the time she met him as a young girl), their struggles through thick and thin, his tryst with movies, right up to their last day together.
When the nazm, Jannat ek aur hai jo mard ke pehlu mein nahin, uski aazaad ravish par hi machalna hai tujhe, uth meri jaan, mere saath hi chalna hai tujhe, was recited, the audience was seen bursting into an applause. Interestingly, the words written in the 1940s still remain hauntingly relevant and beautiful and one doesn’t need to be a master of Urdu language to fathom the meaning. Not just the nazms, even songs like Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho, Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo, Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam or Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho by Jaswinder Singh and his live orchestra transported the audience to another realm altogether.
Shabana, who is known for her stellar acting prowess, didn’t disappoint on stage either. She stole the show with her rendition of her parents’ love story and Danish (with only two days of rehearsal time after Javed Akhtar, who usually performs as Kaifi couldn’t make it due to back pain) tried his best to do justice to Kaifi’s words. As the act neared the end, one could see an emotionally charged atmosphere where the actors and the audience were in tears, teleported to an unknown era full of colourful yet forgotten mushairas and a love story to remember....