Renowned Urdu poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar criticises progressive writers and their counterparts in equal measure as he launched a book on one of Urdu’s great poets and critics, Khalil Ur Rehman Azmi.

He was speaking at the launch of a book entitled ‘Many Summers Apart: Gems From Contemporary Urdu Literature’. Javed Akhtar also reminisces his days as a school student spent in Aligarh. He was in conversation with Prof. Shafey Kidwai from Aligarh Muslim University’s department of journalism and mass communication.

Transcreated from Urdu by Huma Khalil, the book ‘Many Summers Apart’ is based on Khalil Ur Rehman Azmi’s original work ‘Urdu Mein Tarqqi Pasand Adabi Tehreek’. Published in 1972, Azmi’s book is considered to be a great scholarly work on progressive writing.

Teri sadaa ka hai, sadiyo’n se intizaar mujhe…
Merey lahu ke samandar, zara pukaar mujhe..
Main apne ghar ko bulandi pe chaDh ke kya dekhu’n..
Urooj e fan, meri dahleez pe utaar mujhe…
— Khalil Ur Rehman Azmi

Khalil Ur Rehman Azmi (1927-1978) was one of the greatest Urdu poets of his generation. Born in the district of Azamgarh, UP, in 1927, he completed his initial education from Shibli High School and then went on to join Aligarh Muslim University for higher studies where he taught Urdu for the rest of his life.

Very few people know that he was instrumental in nurturing one of the greatest Urdu Scholars of English language – Professor Ralph Russel.

Khalil Ur Rehman Azmi taught Urdu to Ralph Russel in Aligarh. Prof. Russel, later in his life, went on to write books such as Three Mughal Poets, 1968, Ghalib, life and letters, The Oxford India Ghalib: Life, Letters and Ghazals 2003, The Seeing Eye: Selection from the Urdu and Persian Ghazals of Ghalib 2003 and many others.

There’s a long list of great Urdu scholars, teachers, poets and writers who found a great patron and Ustaad in Khalil Ur Rehman Azmi. Akhlaq Mohammad Khan ‘Shahryar’ – the Urdu poet who is a household name – is one of them. The same Shahryar who penned some of Hindi cinema’s best lyrics for Muzaffar Ali’s feature films Gaman and Umrao Jaan. Khalil Sahab was just like his elder brother, patron and mentor.

His original book ‘Urdu Mein Tarqqi Pasand Adabi Tehreek’, has had eight successful reprints. The book helps in providing a perspective to the literary work of Urdu stalwarts such as Sajjad Zaheer, Munshi Premchand, Ismat Chughtai, Saadat Hasan Manto, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Kaifi Azmi, Sahir Ludhinavi, Sardar Jafri and other giants.

Arguably, Khalil Ur Rahman’s greatest achievement is his modern Urdu poetry. He’s an institution, according to Urdu scholars.

A selection of his nazms and ghazals has been published in Hindi by Rekhta books entitled: Mere Lahu Ke Samandar’ recently. The book is available on Amazon.

Late Shahryar edited one volume of his selected poetry titled ‘Aasmaa’N Ae AasmaN’.

The hindi book of his selected poems entitled ‘ Teri Sadaa Ka Intizaar’ is also available in the market.


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