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Of poetry and memory

Some painting, some poetry. The evening had a perfect balance



Farhan Mujib: `Javed's poetry always has a strong element of nostalgia, of what the world used to be, the perfect world.' — Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

IT WAS an evening Bangaloreans got to hear a language one does not hear too often. Urdu poetry and with a distinct Lucknowi flavour.

Not recited, but flowing free from the heart for friends, languorous memories of a childhood and an era gone by, of talking rooms, empty roads, the gypsy feet of time, and a fairytale world one often associates with stories narrated by grandparents.

Childhood friends Javed Akhtar and Farhan Mujib were brought together in Bangalore by Sharan Apparao, founder of the Apparao Galleries, for an evening titled Through the Prism of Memory. A series of collages by Mujib, a physics professor, to which celebrated poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar, set his poems and the mood for the evening.

Sold out

Though every single painting of Mujib's was sold before the evening began, it was obvious the select audience — predominantly women of Javed Akhtar's generation — were there to listen to him. Friends since 1956, Javed and Mujib have often connected at different levels and it was Javed who encouraged the hobby-artist to go public with his works. Collage met poetry for various reasons: "We both share the same cultural background of U.P., Urdu and the Ganga-Jamni tehzeeb, Awadh, the same value systems and cultural heritage, and the same quest for beauty and aesthetics," was how Javed Akhtar put it.

Farhan Mujib, on his part, demystified his artwork for the benefit of the connoisseurs rather modestly: "You have a deadline and you've got to sit down and work. You have piles of magazines to cut from (for collages) and you tell yourself you are on your way to a masterpiece. After two hours, you wonder why you started it all. There are ups and downs and there's no time to think of your creations."

But think and remember you will, when you see the collage paintings. Doorways and windows vie for attention with a stand and vase here, a painting-in-a-painting there, a bird here, a deity there, all framed, all held together in one cloistered space. They could remind you of palaces or your own grandfather's tiled home.

"There is a lot of my childhood seen through my memory," confessed Mujib later, on a more serious note. "I never lived in a home like this... but the space is about the security and fairytale existence of childhood. It's gone and life has changed. But the images remain, detailed by the unconscious. And I'm playing games with paper."

After some good-natured banter, on Mujib's request, Javed opened the evening's poetry with his famous "Woh kamra yaad aata hai... " that talks of an animate room that is more a protective mother, where chairs are friends, the almirah an old woman, the pictures on the wall smile; a world where the kamra is meherbaan and the takiya, narm dil. And the room spoke. Much like Mujib's paintings.

Melting the audience with this one, Javed then took the evening through three other poems. The poignant "Mujh ko yakin hai sach kahti thi, jo bhi ammi kahti thi", "Rang pachisi' inspired by Mujib's paintings, and finally "Banjara".

From Silsila

It was from "Banjara" that the famed lines for the film Silsila were taken, Javed Akhtar would have us know. The lines "Tum hoti to kaisa hota... " made legendary by Amitabh Bachchan's baritone voice form but a part of the romantic poem that talks of gypsy feet travelling from place to place, much like the way we travel through time. Pity most of "Banjara" was left out of the film!

As friend Mujib says: "Javed's poetry always has a strong element of nostalgia, of what the world used to be, the perfect world."

We lesser mortals couldn't say much about the world. But the evening was perfect.

BHUMIKA K.

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