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Faraz, the rebel poet

In “An evening with Ahmed Faraz” (Spectrum, Dec 14) Amarjit Chandan has chronicled the poet’s powerful trait — being a non-conformist and a rebel against the establishment.

Faraz lashed out against capitalists, usurpers and dictators, forcing a self-imposed exile during the Zia regime for writing Dekhtey hain (let us gaze) and Mohassra (the siege). His multi-faceted verse journey sent ripples in literary circles right from the days of his first volume ‘Tanha-Tanha’ in 1950.

He penned not only revolutionary and progressive fireballs, but also created love yearning poetry. Ghulam Ali, Mehndi Hasan, Runa Laila and Jagjit Singh have fondly sung his ghazals. Interestingly, he learnt Urdu past his boyhood, as Pushto was his mother tongue. Brutally honest and secular and surrounded by mullahs’ hegemony, he even wrote on Meera Bai and Kabir. The fragrance and aura of his poetry is phenomenal as is evident from these lines:

Suna hai rabt hai use kharab halon se, so apne aap ko barbaad kar ke dekhte hain suna hai bole to baton se phool jhadte hain, yeh baat hai to chalo baat kar ke dekhte hain.

B.M. SINGH, Amritsar

Hero worship

Khushwant Singh’s “Worshippers of stars, godmen” (Saturday Extra, Nov 22) was thought provoking. Today, cricketers belong to the most adored category. Their photographs adorn the walls of many a home in preference to those of the ancestors and deities. Big industrial houses select them as brand ambassadors to endorse their products for which they are paid heftily.

Cricket has become so popular that it is played in almost every nook and corner of our country, whereas hockey, our national game, is in official records only. It has lost its popularity and patronage that it enjoyed in the fifties and sixties. Even K.P.S Gill, former IHF chief, has candidly admitted (Dec 1) that “our national game hockey has almost died in our country.” The government should do the needful in this regard.

D.K. AGGARWAL, Hoshiarpur

True son of the soil

As a true son of the soil, Mulk Raj Anand (‘My novels came in a flood’, Spectrum, Nov 30) enriched his writings by using Punjabi slangs, metaphors and aphorisms in English translation, which make them novel and unique.

He considered Untouchable to be his best work and in this connection had visited Santiniketan in 1928 to show Rabindranath Tagore the first draft of this novel. There he also had a detailed discussion with him on Bankim Chandra Chatterji’s famous novel Anand Math. Anand told him that the song Vande Mataram from the novel had moved him immensely when he heard it sung by a Bengali doctor in London. He expressed a keen desire to learn to sing the song before leaving the Santiniketan.

Prior to his departure for higher studies in England, Anand met the great Urdu poet Sir Mohammad Iqbal for a word of advice and guidance. The poet listened to him patiently and as a parting gift presented a wad of currency notes to him.

V.K. RANGRA, Delhi

Queen of ghazal singing

Begum Akhtar (“Notes of life extraordinary” by Nonika Singh. Spectrum, Nov 2) was, no doubt, the queen of ghazal singing. No one has been able to match up to her excellence, melody, and grace till today. She was born to Mushtari Begum and Syed Asghar Hussain on October 7, 1914 in Bhadarsa, a small town in Faizabad (UP). She belonged to a well off family that was not inclined towards music. But Akhtari showed interest in music at a very tender age. She was sent to train under the great sarangi player Ustaad Imdad Khan. Later, she learnt classical music under the tutelage of great exponents like Mohammad Khan, Abdul Waheed Khan and Ustaad Jhande Khan.

At a charity concert organised in Calcutta, her ghazal rendition impressed Sarojini Naidu. It was here only that the director of a recording company recognised her talent. Thus, while singing ghazals, dadra and thumris, she entered into the film world. In 1930s she acted in several Hindi films — Ameena (1934), Phemtaz Begum (1934), Jawaani ka Nasha (1935), Naseeb Ka Chakkar (1935)Roop Kumari (1934), King for a Day (1933), Nal Damyanti (1933).

She sang all her songs herself. When she moved to Lucknow, renowned director Mehbood Khan approached her to act in the film Roti. Anil Biswas composed its music. The movie was released in 1942 and was a great success and took the world by storm. Begum Akhtar sang six ghazals in it, but four of these were deleted due to tension between the director and producer.

Akhtari got married to Barrister Ahmad Abbasi in 1945. Due to family restrictions she could not sing for four or five years. These restrictions told adversely upon her mind and body. Music was her only medicine. Doctors and the Aakhashwani director K.K. Malhotra advised her husband to let her sing if he wanted to see her alive and happy. Thus in 1949, Begum Akhtar returned to Lucknow Radio. Famous music director Madan Mohan persuaded her to sing in Daana Paani (1953), Ehsaan (1954).

Her last stint was in Jalsa Ghar. Her style of singing is inimitable. Her last concert was in Ahmedabad, where she felt her performance was not up to the mark as she was under stress. Her health deteriorated and she was rushed to hospital. She died there on October 30, 1974 in the arms of Nilam Gamadia, her friend, who had invited her to Ahmedabad for the performance. Eight days before her death she had recorded Kaifi Azmi’s ghazal.

Suna karo meri jaan un se unke afsaaney,

Sab ajnabi hain yahaan kaun kis ko pehchaaney

She as the recipient of Sangeet Natak Academy Award for vocal music, Padama Shri and Padma Bhushan, the last one was conferred posthumously.




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