On Father’s Day, lyricist Javed Akhtar said he learnt how to write lucid poetry from his father, poet Jan Nisar Akhtarhim, and added that his “father was too versatile to establish a poetic identity”. This year also marks the 100th birth anniversary of Jan Nisar. Jan Nisar is known for his uncomplicated film lyrics like “Ae dil-e-nadaan’ (Razia Sultan) and “Yeh dil unki aur nigahon ke saaye” (Prem Parbat), “Gham ki andheri raat mein dil ko na beqaraar kar” (Sushila), “Behkudi hadd se jab guzar jaaye” (Kalpana).
Javed said his father wrote meagrely for movies, not because he was not prolific but because he didn’t know how to sell himself to the film industry.
“My father belonged to the old school. He didn’t believe in peddling his poetry to producers…Maybe if he was alive today, we’d have persuaded him to hire a business manager,” he said.
The father-son relationship was not ideal, Mr. Akhtar confessed. “My relationship with my father went through very troubled times. He was of Communist ideology. An arrest warrant was issued against him and my father went underground in Mumbai while my mother was left behind to look after two very small children.”
“When I was 18, he recognised the poet in me and encouraged me to write. He would recite what he wrote to me and we’d discuss his poetry. He took my criticism seriously. And we spoke poetry like equals.,” said Javed.
He said his father’s endeavour was to make the Urdu language as transparent and accessible to the common man as possible. “There is a difference between the Lucknow and Delhi school of Urdu expression. The Delhi school uses a lot of Arabic and Persian words. But Lucknow, because of its proximity to the Awadhi culture, didn’t allow the Urdu to be influenced by Arabic and Persian. The Luknow Urdu poets like my father avoided Arabic and Persian words. His poetry was pure simple and very Indian.”