Cine Ink celebrates Kaifi Azmi’s centenary year with Sudeep Sen, noted English Poet, who has just edited a book of Kaifi’s selected verse translated by Husain Mir Ali, Baidar Bakht, Sumantra Ghosal, Pratish Nandy and Sudeep Sen. Published by Bloomsbury, the book contains 50 carefully chosen poems of Kaifi Azmi (14 January 1919 – 10 May 2002).
Kaifi Azmi was one of the last remaining representatives of the Progressive Writers Association, a writers’ association that wielded unparalleled influence during India’s freedom struggle. His poetry remains solidly rooted in the tradition of Urdu poetry with its ardent longing for intense emotions and passionate espousal of radical causes. His poems celebrate love, compassion and human equality. The lyrical beauty and powerful expression of his film songs have captivated millions. Despite the political and economic shifts in India, he retained his idealism and remained to the end optimistic of a socialist future for India. This optimism was reflected in poetry replete with dreams of a socialist egalitarian society in which the voice of another fellow human being will be felt like melodious music.
Born in a Zamindar family in Mijwan, Azamgarh, India, Kaifi Azmi wrote his first ghazal ‘Itna to zindagi mein kisi ki khalal pade’ at the age of eleven. He joined the Communist Party at the age of 19, and started writing for the party’s paper, ‘Qaumi Jung’ and moved to Bombay.
He wrote his first lyrics for the film Buzdil directed by Shahid Lateef in 1952. His songs for Hindi films such as Shama, Kaagaz Ke Phool, Shola Aur Shabnam, Anupama, Aakhri Khat, Haqeeqat, Hanste Zakhm and Arth made him hugely popular. Apart from writing songs, he also penned Chetan Anand’s film Heer Ranjha entirely in verse and created history in dialogue writing.
Poet, translator, artist, and editor Sudeep Sen studied English literature at the University of Delhi and was an Inlaks Scholar at Columbia University, where he earned an MS in journalism. Recognised as one of India’s finest younger poets, Sen has published more than a dozen collections of poetry, including The Lunar Visitations (1990), Postmarked India: New and Selected Poems (1997), Lines of Desire (2000), Distracted Geographies (2003), Rain (2005), and Aria (2011), winner of the A.K. Ramanujan Translation Award. Two volumes of new and selected poems and translations were published as Fractals: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1978-2013 (2013) and Fractals: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1980-2015 (2015). Recent collections of poetry include Incarnat | Incarnadine (2017) and, with Setsuko Klossowska de Rola and Homa Arzhangi, Path to Inspiration (2017).
‘To say that this is a lovely book would be an understatement. 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 to social change, artistic creativity and personal and political ethics. In this excellent translation we have a lively account of an important part of Indian history, fired by sympathy, inspiration and imagination, but tempered by the hardship of reality.’