Javed Akhtar turns 61
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Javed Akhtar turns 61

Today, the man hailed as sexy at 60, turns 61. He is Javed Akhtar. Wish him

india Updated: Jan 17, 2006 18:14 IST

Today, the man hailed as sexy at 60, turns 61. Happy birthday to Javed Akhtar, whose name spells aesthetics. And creative acumen. Andcontributes enormously towards soothing minds, motivating generations, urging thinkers, enlivening the psyche, and heartening spirited brains and calling a spade a spade.

Last year, as wife Shabana Azmi organised a three-day affair making elaborate arrangements – from a ten course meal to a guest list which looked like a Who's Who down to games and competitions for guests, he had quipped, Kuch zyada hi kar diya, Shabana ne…" (Shabana has overdone it). But it was time to applaud his achievements. Arguably Javed Akhtar is one such celebrity whose mention brings to mind an image of gentlemanly manners, a deep sense of culture and a refined taste. And a thinking man, whose opinion invigorates many. He, along with poet lyricist filmmaker Gulzar, is one of the few among Mumbai's vast circle of film luminaries, whose intellect has won them honour and acclaim universally. With good reason, too.

It isn't the depleted scenario in Mumbai which elevates the two to such great heights – giving them an iconic status. They would have been in great demand even among the stalwarts of the bygone era. "But any poet speaks the truth of his contemporary state of being and his relevance is to the times he lives," says Akhtar, refusing to be just a mere echo of the voices of poet laureates of yore.

As one listens to Kumar Sanu's vocals in the haunting R D Burman composition, Ek ladki ko dekha…" from 1942 – A Love Story or the Kishore-Lata duet, Dekha ek khwaab to …' from Silsila or Har ghadi badal rahi hai…' in Sonu Nigam's voice from the film Kal Ho Na Ho, one wonders how good sensible and inspiring poetry is still alive at a time when bawdy, risque and lewd is what lyrics are all about. Right from the pedestrian khatiya to suggestive double entendres to clearly stated libidinous lines get passed off as songs. That's why he needs to be honoured for weaving magic into songs in his inimitable sense of imagery and profound thought.

Akhtar, whose parents Jan Nissar Akhtar & Safia Akhtar were professors at Hamidia College, Bhopal, schooled at the Cambridge School-Bhopal, Calvin Talukadar College-Lucknow, Minto Circle-Aligarh, and graduated from Safiya College-Bhopal in 1964, firmly believes that only "a poet has the strength and the moral courage to stand up for the veracity of reality."

In complete accordance with his belief, Akhtar too voices his opinion on all matters concerning life candidly, fearlessly in almost a no holds barred fashion. The underlying rationalism for his dauntless spirit is nothing new though. As a young man and subsequently as an artist he has invariably been a rebel, a fact that estranged him from his father at a young age. His difficult years as a young adult in Bhopal, had never urged him to attempt any compromise no matter what the circumstances were. And he did go about expressing his views fearlessly allowing his creative freedom to become his strength rather than any hindrance to his flight of fancy to look for greener pastures in the city of dreams – Mumbai where he headed for with a Bachelor's Degree under his belt and aspirations alone to make it among the
plethora of dream merchants in the big bad world of films.

"Which city should I call my own? Born in Gwalior, it was in Lucknow that I came to my senses only to lose them a little later in Aligarh.

In Bhopal I sharpened my wits but it was in Mumbai that I really came alive," recollects Akhtar's about his childhood, who has been bestowed with Padmashree for in 1999 by the President of India for his literary contribution.

"I slept wherever I fancied -sometimes in some verandah, sometimes in some corridor, sometimes under some tree where several homeless, jobless people like me also lived," recalls the poet. " At last in November 1969 I get some work which in film parlance is called a "break."

He was fortunate to have got his break after a long period of struggle during which time he wandered on the streets looking for work and waiting patiently for Lady Luck to smile on him. Around this time he also met the "frank uncomplicated Honey Irani on the sets of Seeta AurGeeta and after four months of courtship married her.

The time that followed had a string of blockbusters, as also several awards. Two children Farhan and Zoya and nationwide acclaim.
Unparalleled fame and fortune came his way as he tasted success one after the other and continued to win laurels as a scriptwriter along with Salim Khan as a team. As someone who is a socially concerned citizen, he works for an organization – Muslims For Secular Democracy - of liberal, educated & progressive Muslims who want to raise their voice against all kinds of communalism and fundamentalism within the community and outside. We, The People and Citizens For Justice And Peace are the two other organisations he has been closely associated with over the years.

If it's fair to categorise him as a lyricist or a scriptwriter, for which he has been known over the years, then his body of work as a poet, though relatively lesser acknowledged, is no less significant for his book - Tarkash, a collection of nazms and ghazals released in 1995 both in a book form and as an audio book. Dr David Mathews, formerly Senior Lecturer in Urdu and Nepali at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London University has translated his poems into English while noted Bengali author Sunil Gangopadhyaya has translated his works in Bengali. Renowned painter, M.F. Hussain has painted sixteen canvases based on his poems.

His contribution as a scriptwriter, along with Salim, is too huge to be discussed in detail. Zanjeer, Sholay, Haathi Mere Saathi, Don, Trishul, Shaan, Joshilaay are some of his best works but Arjun, Sagar, Main Azaad Hoon and Lakshya have also been his solo attempts at screenplay writing.

Among his albums, Silsilay and Soz with Jagjit Singh, Sangam with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Nine and Breathless with Shankar Mahadevan and Tum Yaad Aaye with Alka Yagnik sold millions of copies. He also has many National Awards to his credit - for the Best Lyricist for three years in succession - Saaz in 1997, Border in 1998 and Godmother in 1999. He was the recipient of Padmashri in 1999.

First Published: Jan 17, 2006 17:20 IST