On Sunday, Urdu aficionados across the city came together to remember, discuss and delve into the nuances of the life and works of noted Urdu poet and award-winning screenwriter in Hindi cinema Akhtarul Iman.

Though Iman was recognised as among the important faces of modern Urdu poetry after he was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1962, there has been little discourse, or few seminars held on him, said academic Gopichand Narang at a daylong seminar organised by the All-India Urdu Manch and Sahitya Akademi.

Dr. Narang, professor emeritus at the Hyderabad Central University, spoke about several facets of the Iman's life and his poetry, alluding them to a “jigsaw puzzle”. Having been recognised by the Urdu community only after he was conferred the Sahitya Akademi award for Yaadein, Dr. Narang said that Iman's works needed to be revisited.

“It was only after the award that everyone started reading him, and his name was taken with the likes of Meeraji and N.M. Rashid,” he said. He was fiercely independent, and though he was writing for Bollywood for his “source of livelihood”, he was always “an outsider” to Hindi cinema. He said Iman neither compromised on his ‘shayari' nor ‘films'.


Iman wrote several award-winning screenplays, including for classics such as Waqt, Dharmputra, Kanoon, Patthar Ke Sanam and Gumrah. However, he did not write lyrics for film songs unlike many of his Urdu poet contemporaries, Dr. Narang pointed out.

‘Jigsaw puzzle'

On the “jigsaw puzzle” that he compares the poet's persona to, Dr. Narang said Iman's writing was multifaceted. While, on the one hand, his poetry reflected a sense of longing for human values, relationships and innocence that a migrant would feel in a metropolis like Mumbai (Iman himself migrated to Bombay from Uttar Pradesh), it also dealt with weighty socio-political issues such as corruption, poverty and injustice, he said.

“A facet of his writing can be compared to R.K. Laxman's ‘common man' who observes all that is wrong around him, all that is commercialised, and the erosion of human values,” Dr. Narang explained. While Iman did refer to and appreciate revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, he was not among the activists, he added. “Some are activists, and then there are others who simply use the power of their pen.”

No ghazals

Several papers discussing the works of Iman were presented at the seminar. Khaleel Mamoon, former chairman of the Karnataka Urdu Academy, said Iman would be remembered for his strong individualism. “He never wrote ghazals as he felt that the form does not permit expression of original ideas and concept. He also believed that ghazals as a form had already reached its zenith by the time of Mirza Ghalib... so kept himself away from the tradition of ghazals.”