Baba Azmi honours his father Kaifi Azmi in his new film ”˜Me Raqsam’

By Manju Mittal

As a writer, reader and a promoter of ”˜Kaifi Aur Main’ in Sydney, his life story is close to my heart.  Firstly I am inspired and touched by Kaifi and Shaukat’s love story and secondly having hosted ”˜Kaifi aur Main’ musical theatre play last year 2018 in Sydney, Australia and New Zealand, it behoves on me that I go see while in India, a tale of love that Kaifi’s son Baba Azmi and wife have stitched together in the form of a film.  

I met Baba Azmi and Tanvi Azmi at their residence ”˜Kaifi & Shaukat’ in Juhu, Bombay in March this year where I was invited over to their house for the interview.  Tanvi was wearing black and white churidar kameez, big bindi on her forehead, I must add, she was simply elegant and stunning. Baba was in his casual outfit he looked to put it simply, extraordinarily handsome. I felt welcomed and comfortable around the Azmi couple. It was quite inspiring to hear their experiences.

Well known cinematographer Baba Azmi, son of renowned poet writer late Kaifi Azmi, is famous for his cinematography in films like ”˜Mr India’, ”˜Dil’, ”˜Tezaab’ and ”˜Chalk N Duster’, Baba is now producing and directing a Hindi feature film titled ”˜Me Raqsam’ (I want to Dance), the story of a father and daughter, in the U.P. village. Kaifi Azmi once told his son Baba in passing that it would be nice if a film were made on his birthplace, Mizwan.

The story of the film revolves around the relationship shared by a father and his teenage daughter. It stars Aditi Sharma, a 14 year old Mizwan resident, in the lead and is expected to be ready for release by the years’ end.

Baba says, “It’s a very simple and emotional story, it is the story of a young girl who wants to be a dancer, but being from a small village like Mijwan, everyone questions her choice. It’s only her father who supports her and helps her achieve her dream. This film is my tribute to my father Kaifi Azmi, it is dedicated to him”. Grateful for the support he’s got from his people in his village and the Industry, Baba added, “There are mostly newcomers in my film and Danish is a well known theatre actor. They all have come on board as friends”.

I got an opportunity to talk to Baba Azmi’s lovely talented actor wife Tanvi Azmi and she shared her insight into his journey, “I am so proud of him that he is making a film in tribute to his father Kaifi Azmi whose birth centenary is being celebrated this year; his father would have been so proud of him,” Tanvi said. Tanvi also shared that she met Baba Azmi on the sets of the production ”˜Pyari Behna’ and got married in 1985.

Tanvi has acted in a number of Marathi and Hindi films. National Award winning actor Tanvi Azmi has stormed the film Industry with her powerful performance in ”˜Akele Hum aakele Tum’, ”˜Pyari Behna’, Prakash Jha’s ”˜Aarakshan’ as Amitabh Bachchan’s wife, ”˜Anjana Anjani’ and many more. Last seen in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ”˜Bajirao Mastani’, Tanvi shaved her head for her role in the film. Tanvi has also done some commendable work on TV with ”˜Mirza Ghalib’, ”˜Jeevanrekha’, ”˜Rao Saheb’ and ”˜Family No 1’ to her credit.

The Azmi home was a tiny cottage in Juhu’s Janki Kutir, where poets like Josh Malihabadi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Firaaq Gorakhpuri and singer Begum Akhtar were frequent house guests. Later, Guru Dutt, SD Burman and Chetan Anand would visit often. The family celebrated all festivals. The Kaifi centenary is a way of reminding ourselves of those great people and those times.

Kaifi saab’s actor daughter Shabana Azmi recounted how it was home to so many memories, thanking her brother Baba Azmi and his actor wife Tanvi Azmi for restoring the cottage for the annual event in memory of their late father.Kaifi Azmi, who is recognized as one of the finest poets of our times has borne witness to an entire era of social change. Kaifi Azmi was born in a Zamindar family in Mijwan, Azamgarh. Kaifi Azmi wrote his first ghazal ”˜Itna to zindgi 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. As a lyricist his most popular songs are from the movies ”˜Kaagaz ke Phool’, ”˜Haqeeqat’, ”˜Arth’ and ”˜Heer Ranjha’. ”˜Heer Ranjha’ and his other film songs were written entirely in verse. Kaifi Azmi has also received the greatest number of literary and poetry awards for his work.

Shaukat was born into a well off Hyderabad family. The tall young Kaifi was already making waves as a revolutionary poet when 19 year old Shaukat, saw Kaifi for the first time at a mushaira in Hyderabad in 1847. She was fascinated with his looks, his voice and the beautiful poem ”˜Aurat’ that he recited. “In those days when it was considered a woman’s lot to stay at home and raise children, and for the man to go out and struggle, Kaifi wrote ”˜Rise my love, you have to march shoulder to shoulder with me’. And thus a love story was born.

Kaifi died on 2002 and his legacy lives on through his children, grandchildren who share the same beliefs in being self reliant and hard working to achieve goals, all for the benefit and unconditional love of family.

Looking at a release sometime later this year, Baba says, “As a film maker, everybody wants their film to reach the theatre, so I would ideally like to release the film in the multiplexes but there is no hard and fast rule for it. But I will also enter it for festivals”.

We sincerely wish Baba Azmi best of luck for ”˜Me Raqsam’ and all his future endeavours.

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