Kaifi Aur Main

(Background post on the play “Kaifi aur Main”)

“Kaifi aur Main” is played out by Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar reading selected texts from Shaukat Azmi’s recently published memoir read by Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar reading out from Kaifi’s writings.

The major part of the narrative recounts the days of Kaifi and Shaukat Azmi till the early fifties when they lived in the famous Bombay Commune of the Communist Party. As others who lived through those days have also recounted, it was a time when it was “the very heavens to be alive.” The Party was young, most of the leading cadres were in their twenties or thirties, and there was till hope- the dissensions that were to begin with the exposure of Stalin’s crimes were yet to emerge.

Both Shaukat and Kaifi describe how the life in the commune was, and both recollect the late CPI Gen Sec P.C. Joshi. I specially liked the bit when he instructed the other members of the commune that Kaifi be allowed to get up late. It was also a revelation that the Party had initially decided that Shaukat Azmi not have her baby when Kaifi was in jail. It was only on her persistence that the Party agreed to let Shabana be born !

There is much of history well peppered with humor and though the music is nearly all from Kaifi’s films, it perhaps enhanced the popular appeal of the play.

Shabana Azmi undoubtedly carried the day, her performance carried the soul not only of Shaukat but also Kaifi Azmi. Javed Akhtar’s performace is a constant let down, his lisp making his rendition all the more labored, except in the end when in an inspired moment, he stands up and recites his own nazm on Kaifi Azmi.

Ramesh Talwar, the veteran IPTA director who has directed this play as well, would have suited better with his sonorous voice and amazing command over the language.

Jaswinder Singh had a confident and melodious start with “Meri Awaz Suno” though the remaining ones did not hold onto the promise established in the first one. Only “Tun jo mil gaye ho”, rendered with uncharacteristic flamboyance brought life to the songs, though a few others were good too (specially “Waqt ne kiya”).

A few short clips from the play. I did not expect them to come out so well, and should have carried more memory in my camera.

11 thoughts on “Kaifi Aur Main

  1. Wow you got a change to see it! and record it too!!

    I remember in Bangalore Jaswinder Singh sang at least a couple of non-film song. May be they changed it later.

  2. suparna: glad you liked it. I am kicking myself for not zooming in for a closer picture and also for not having carried enough memory.

    alok: He did sing the first ghazal that Kaifi wrote at the age of 11 (and it is something that Kaifi definitely felt embarrassed about, redeemed only by the fact that Begum Akhtar had sung it). There was another one that I thought was from some newer movie, but I could be wrong.

  3. Hey thanks! At least got a flavor of what it was about…
    though I too wish you’d carried more memory!!

    Javed doesnt sound that well compared to Shabana…a theatre background actor might have done more justice…

  4. Siyaah: Glad you liked it.
    Rukmini: Thanks for the link. I have done the same.

    >out of curiosity- was it legal to film
    Perhaps by Western notions, no. But I am sure IPTA will not mind !

  5. Can’t thank you enough for those videos. Watching those I felt Shabana’s job in the play was made easier by the passionately eventful life of her parents and the delightful wit of her mother’s memoir.

    I am even more eager to watch this now. ‘Hope they have mercy on Dilliwallahs and bring the show here.

    Thanks for the great review!

  6. They certainly lived in very invigorating, and hopeful times. It goes to Shabana’s credit that she has been able to re- create some of those magical moments.

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