The Unrivaled Poet Kaifi Azmi – I

This year, we have a number of birth centenaries, Shamshad Begum was one, the other one is Kaifi Azmi. And as with Shamshad, his exact date of birth is also not known. But we find mention of 14th January 1919. So it was difficult to celebrate birth centenary, but I thought, at least we have the year correct (hopefully!). So here I’m with the songs, penned by Kaifi Azmi, in his birth centenary year, but on his 17th death anniversary.

Before going to the song list, let’s look into his early days. He was born as Sayyad Akhtar Hussain Rizvi, in 1919, in Mijwan, Azamgarh district, Uttar Pradesh. He preferred to keep himself away from any strong religious influences. He didn’t believe in any religion or the rituals. He shared the zeal for poetry with his brother, who encouraged him in childhood. It is mentioned that, he wrote his first song, a ghazal, when he was just eleven! Later, his father and others tested his talent, by asking him to complete a verse. And he succeeded with flying colours in the task. He also was interested in other languages, Persian and Urdu.
In Lucknow, he once attended Progressive Writers’ Conference and was attracted to communist Ideology. He left all the homely comforts and started thrifty livings. It was 1936. He came to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1943, for the communist party. Here he met his love, Shaukat. Both of them had similar thoughts and she left everything behind for him. They fell in love to marry ultimately in 1947, and still used to live at Khetwadi. A place to live, for the enthusiasts of the communist party. More or less like a hostel, with amenities on sharing basis. Their children, Shabana & Baba were born there.

His first film song was for the movie, Buzdil (1951) for S D Burman. The film was produced & directed by Shaheed Latif. While the credit for Rote Rote Guzar Gayi is given jointly to Shailendra & Azmi, his separate song is said to be Dar Lage Duniya Se Balma from the same movie. He was in need of money and was the main driving force for him to write for the Hindi movies. Even after a good break with Burman da, his initial period wasn’t an easy journey. He could not get much offers for ‘A” grade movies, but had to write for other films like, Yahudi Ki Beti (1956), Parvin (1957) , Miss Punjab Main & Id Ka Chand in 1958. Later, after S D Burman separated from Sahir, he wanted someone, who would think differently and understand the basic concept of Kagaz Ke Phool (1959). He called for Kaifi Azmi, and the rest is history.

He was never a part of any group in the Hindi film industry. So we don’t find a set of combinations for him. Still Khayyam, Hemant Kumar & Madan Mohan could be said to have a successful and melodious association. So in the first part of the post, let’s have a look at Kaifi’s songs composed by these three. Though he was acclaimed mainly for soulful songs, he was at ease with romantic songs, lullabies, playful happy songs and he also has penned Mujras and qawwalis too! I’ve tried to incorporate all types of songs in my twin posts.

He worked with Madan Mohan for the first time in Haqeeqat, that was a perfect war film, and Kaifi Azmi was spot on with his sensitive and heart touching songs. It had patriotic songs, romantic songs, a soulful song of separation, a Diwali song etc. Kar Chale Hum Fida is still considered one of the finest patriotic songs, and though it ignites the spark of patriotism, the lyrics are not loud, or unnecessarily blustery.
The peak of their association would be ‘Heer Ranjha’ where azmi wrote the songs as well as the dialogues. The dialogues were also in the form of poetic verses. The experiment wasn’t a success, but hats off to Azmi for the hard work he must have put into it. He wrote for Madan Mohan in a number films, the notables include, Naunihal, Maa Ka Aanchal, Hindustan Ki Kasam, Bawarchi, Hanste Zakhm.

Khayyam was also his favourite composer. Though the number of films, they did together are not much, the quality is superb! The films include, Lala Rukh, Shola Aur Shabnam, Aakhri Khat, Shankar Hussen, Razia Sultan etc. Khayyam always took care not to disturb the harmony of the lyrics, never tried to overpower the lyrics. The tunes enhanced the overall impact of the songs, in fact added to the beauty of the songs. He complimented the lyrics by his apt tunes.
The album, Shaguftagi, was released in 2002. The album had non filmy ghazals of Kaifi Azmi, set to tune by Khayyam. The singers were Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Kavita krishnamurthy & Roop Kumar Rathod.

Hemant Kumar also worked with him for a few films, Kohra, Anupama, Do Dil, Faraar being the popular ones. All the songs had sublime lyrics and were set to tune keeping the beauty of the lyrics intact. Mainly the songs from, Kohra and Anupama can be considered among the best of his film songs.

It’s a pity that Kaifi Azmi was not considered among the popular or successful lyricist. In the Hindi film industry, where some of the lyricists were successful just because of the hit songs, the listeners hardly ever caring for the content in the song. There would be hundreds of popular songs, just because of the catchy tune or an attractive rhythm. But, it’s very unfortunate that no one actually tries to scrutinize the lyrics. Kaifi Azmi’s song portray the exact emotions, a character goes through, in a certain situation. The emotions are so true, so touchy, so sincere, as if he himself is living the moments with the character in the film. Very few lyricists had such miraculous talent, but the film industry is ruled by successful artists, not necessarily all of them are talented or deserving. Even an average person, who has a basic knowledge of songwriting, has succeed here, and a few were stamped ‘unlucky’. To our bad luck, Kaifi Azmi was one of them. At this point, I remember one article, I read a few months back. Once a person approached Azmi. He wanted to sign Azmi for the songs of his forthcoming film. Kaifi asked, why does he want to engage a person, who’s considered unlucky in the Hindi film industry? The person said, “no matter what they consider! I’m sure about your creativity and you are the perfect person for my film. And talking about unlucky artists, I too am counted among them!” The person was Chetan Anand, who approached Azmi for Haqiqat. And interestingly enough, the composer was also on the list of unlucky persons. But the masterpieces, the trio created over the years are proofs enough of our lucky destiny. They blessed us with so many memorable songs, that stood in elegant glamour till date.

And, without a further ado, here we go with the enchanting melodies of Kaifi Azmi with the composers, Khayyam, Hemant Kumar and Madan Mohan. It includes, my favourites and a few songs, I came across, while researching for the post. The songs are in No particular order.

1. Pyas Kuchh Aur Bhi – Lala Rukh (1958) Talat & Asha Bhosle / Music – Khayyam
The song has a rich use of Urdu, so may be a little difficult for a common man. But it’s full of romantic conversation.
He requests her to lift the veil, so as to see her beautiful face. She replies, let the arrogant eyes of the love be polite to the beauty.
He asks, even the moon and the stars get to look at her, why not him?
She replies, the moon is like my mirror, the I stars make my walkway. Why a stranger like him should pine for her?

The sad version
The lady is alone, remembering her love and the happy moments they had together. Again full of Urdu words, I think, situation demanded it.
I wasn’t aware of the sad version of the song, which proved equally wonderful and special mention of Shyama, who looks absolutely beautiful in both the versions. The song is sung entirely by Asha Bhosle, and Talat makes a late entry, for a few lines only.

2. Kuchh Dil Ne Kaha – Anupama (1966) Lata Mangeshkar / Music – Hemant Kumar
I love this song a lot! What a perfect song, subtle instruments, very softly sung, and great poetry! Sharmila Tagore sings the song to herself to express her repressed grief. Her father doesn’t care for her, as he holds her responsible for her mother’s death. Her mind wants to open up, her wishes and desires want to express themselves. But she’s afraid, she doesn’t want anyone to know about her distress.

3. Jane Kya Dhoondhti Rehti Hai – Shola Aur Shabnam (1961) Rafi / Music – Khayyam
Again a well written poem. I wish I knew the situation in the song, to interpret it correctly. It was a love triangle, with a fourth angle too! But to summarize, the man is explaining the lady to forget him. He wants to sacrifice for his friend, who has helped him with a job and handsome salary, when he needed. So his love for the lady, is now turned into ashes, with no spark or hope.

4. Yeh Nayan Dare Dare- Kohra (1964) Hemant Kumar / Music – Hemant Kumar
Romance is in the air. A song with a touch of gentle sensuality. He is trying to woo her, making her less apprehensive. The night is beautiful, so is the moon, but her charm and beauty is unparalleled. And, her love is even more beautiful than herself. What a romantic thought.

5. Mere Chanda Mere Nanhe – Aakhri Khat (1967) Lata Mangeshkar / Music – Khayyam
From romance to a lullaby. The baby wanders aimlessly on the streets of the city, after his mother’s death. At night, the baby falls asleep on a platform near a church. Her mother can no longer be there, she helplessly stares at him. So touching! The lyrics and the picturisation both! I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the baby and ended up with tearful eyes.

6. Main Yeh Sochkar Uske Dar Se – Haqeeqat (1964) Rafi / Music – Madan Mohan
A song full of pathos, deep disappointment. He visits her full of hopes, when he would try to depart, she would request him to stay, hold his hand, all in deep love. But she behaves like a stranger. She keeps aloof, he goes away, but she doesn’t call him back. They finally separate, a painful separation for ever. Oh, my mechanical words won’t convey the feelings. Such a touching song of separation.
The violin was played by Pyarelal ( from the L P duo), and how beautifully played! It’s like the violin speaks with you. Just a short song, but leaves an impact that lasts with you for long!

7. Dil e Naadan Ko Sambhalu – Faraar (1965) Lata Mangeshkar / Music – Hemant Kumar
The lyrics and the tune complement each other. The lady sings to stop her love going away. The movie had a couple of popular songs. The other one has featured on my ‘Radio songs’ post.

8. Tumhari Zulf Ke Saaye Mein – Naunihal (1967) Rafi / Music – Madan Mohan
Kaifi wrote this romantic ghazal, sung by Rafi.
नज़र मिलायी तो पुछुंगा इश्क़ का अंजाम
नज़र झुकायी तो ख़ाली सलाम करलूंगा।

9. Sara Mora Kajra Chhudaya- Do Dil (1965) Rafi & Aarti Mukherji / Music – Hemant Kumar
Yet another romantic song, picturised on Biswajeet and Rajshree. The romance in the air captures the couple. The song has a sensuous touch to it.

10. Do Dil Toote Do Dil Hare – Heer Ranjha (1971) Lata Mangeshkar / Music – Madan Mohan
For the film, Azmi wrote the dialogues in poetic verses. The whole film was a musical. The songs were all wonderful, though majority had a touch of deep pathos. The song says, ‘the broken hearts of the couple are gifted (निछावर) to the brutal society, which was against the love.’

11. Aaj Socha To Aansoo Bhar aaye – Hansate Zakhm (1973) Lata Mangeshkar / Music – Madan Mohan
Chetan Anand gave Priya Rajvansh fair chances in his films. The film portrays her as a prostitute. It is forced on her, after she’s abducted in childhood. Destiny bring her to her own home, and she decides to sacrifice her love, for her sister. Her entire life has been a painful experience and now, her grief is even more deeper.

12. Bhor Aayi Gaya Andhiyara – Bawarchi (1972) Manna Dey, Laxmi Shankar, Kishore Kumar, Nirmala Devi / Music – Madan Mohan
From pathos to sheer pleasure! A different type of composition, if we hear it completely. Asrani singing in Kishore’s voice, a western tune, with a guitar in his hands. The song otherwise supports the classically based tune. A delightful song, whole family enjoying the fresh morning breeze, singing together. The lyrics of such songs are more difficult to write! The words have to be casual, yet meaningful and in sync with the overall classical theme.

13. Ek Paise Ka Sawal Hai – Ghar Ka Chirag (1967) Lata Mangeshkar / Music – Madan Mohan
Is not a popular song! But Azmi hasn’t penned many such songs, surely not beggar’s songs. A young blind kid, begging on the streets of Mumbai. The song is full of self pity, but a blind kid of tat age, is hardly expected to show bravery and strength. So the lyrics are apt.

14. Ab Har Taraf Yehi Afsane – Hindustan Ki Kasam (1974) Manna Dey / Music – Madan Mohan
After the success of haqeeqat, Chetan Anand again tried a war film, but couldn’t succeed. But the songs were good and few of them still are! A romantic song, for a change, Rajkumar lip synching to it. Not a familiar scene to me at least! And a sort of serenade, praising her beautiful eyes. But Kaifi didn’t restrict the praise to physical appearance, he certainly was a different kind of poet. And the excellently used violin pieces enhance the song to a different level.
In all, Kaifi has written a number of romantic songs, against popularity believed!

15. Jalta Hai Badan – Razia Sultan (1983) Lata Mangeshkar / Music – Khayyam
A sensuous seductive song, so elegantly written and composed. It’s delicate yet, spicy. And full marks to Lata Mangeshkar for excellent rendition. His only song for the movie.

Would you add a song?
Note –
Please add the songs composed by Hemant Kumar, Khayyam or Madan Mohan only. Kaifi’s associations with other composers would be covered in the next part of the series.

Disclaimer –
Mehfil Mein Meri, claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. Images on this blog are posted to make the text interesting. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from YouTube, only for the convenience of music lovers. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners.

19 Replies to “The Unrivaled Poet Kaifi Azmi – I”

  1. Anup ji,
    Enjoyed reading the post.
    For me the best song of AAKHRI KHAT is Baharon mera jeevan bhi sanwaro…Lata.

    Rut jawan jawan Raat meherbaan is special because it was Bhupendra’s first solo and he appeared on the screen as well.


    1. Thanks!
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I’m also fond of ‘Baharon Mera Jeevan Bhi’, but slowly the lullaby grew on me and I selected it instead!
      Yes, I know about the solo being Bhupendra’s first! I haven’t heard it very often, so right now can’t comment on it!


  2. Same pinch! 🙂 I also just published my Kaifi Azmi tribute. And I’m glad to see we only share three songs in common. You mention a couple of songs I’m not really familiar with, and a couple which were in my shortlist but didn’t make it to the final post. I’m especially happy to see the Lala Rukh song in your list – such a lovely song, and such a delightful film!


    1. Yes! Same Pinch! and it happened after a long gap! I remember our posts overlapped in November 2017, when we did ‘Chitragupt’ post.
      Your post is fabulous as usual, enjoyed it a lot!
      And, the Lala Rukh song is my absolute favourite! The Urdu is a bit hurdle, but still it’s enjoyable! And Shyama looks absolutely beautiful! and she acts well too! No wonder you like her so much.
      And Thanks for liking the post. It’s for the first time that you have liked my post. I’m very happy.
      My next post would also have some songs in common with your post, but that’s quite natural! I could not ignore those songs. The songs had to be on my list too!
      I want to share one observation, most of his songs are solos. If you see your list or mine too, solos outnumber duets.
      Can we guess some explanation for that? Not a very interesting to discuss, but still.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm. I hadn’t noticed that most of his best songs are solos, but yes, now that you mention it, that’s right. Perhaps because a lot of his songs are deeply introspective or emotional? And that’s often not the sort of song that lends itself to duets (not that Azmi wrote only emotional songs, and not that duets can’t be deeply emotional…).


  3. SANKALP,1975.
    Sulakshana Pandit, Vinod Sharma; Khayyam.

    Tu hi Saagar hai Tu hi Kinara…

    Anup ji, I had posted a comment in the morning and , for some technical issues,it is not seen here.
    So, before proceeding with my contributions, let me once again say I enjoyed reading the post. You are right about his association being mainly with these composers and SDB. Well written.


    1. Thanks Dr Pradeep ji.
      Both of your previous comments are there. They appeared alright.
      I replied to the first one already! and I wondered why you sent the same comment again!
      The song from ‘Sankalp’ was there on my list and I liked it a lot! Not an easy for a lyricist like him to write a Bhajan like composition, as he wasn’t a God believer!
      So nice to see the Sulakshana Pandit song here.
      Let me add it here

      P S –
      I’ve covered his association with SD Burman in next part, so you would see some of their songs there. Some predictable and some rares too!


  4. Same pinch to me. I just commented on Madhuji’s post. As I wrote there, ‘Meri awaaz suno” from Naunihal is my absolute favourite. The music, lyrics and singing converge to make a moving song. And anyway I like all others on your list too.
    Oh yes also the one from “Do Dil”- “Tera husn rahe mera ishq rahe”.


    1. Kaifi Azmi was one of my favourite lyricist, although according to you he was not so popular.
      One of my favourites is the song from Farar pyar ki daastan tum suno to kahe sung by Lataji with music by Hemant Kumar.
      One more is from Haqeeqat, again by Lataji, zarasi aahat Holi hai …
      His lyrics were full of meaning and had good thoughts.
      Except one song of Lataji which I had not heard, all other songs are all masterpieces.
      Good collection.


      1. Firstly sorry, I’m late to reply!
        Kaifi Azmi is my favourite too! But his songs were not so popular, though those songs deserved to be!
        He did not get his due.
        And, Thanks for adding the songs.
        Pyar Ki Dastan from Faraar was there on one of my earler lists. So I didn’t include it here.
        Zara Si Aahat is wonderful song, I like it a lot. But again, I decided to select only single song from a film. Lyrically Main Uske Dar Se is more appealing, so I chose it.
        But I will take the opportunity to add it,


    2. Sorry for replying so lste!
      Yes, Meri Awaz suno is a good song!
      I had selected ‘Tera Husna Rahe’ and ‘Sara Mora Kajra’ from Do Dil
      And, finally I chose the latter. So nice to see the other song as well in the comments section!


  5. Anup,
    I am coming back from Madhu’s post. Nice to see a detailed post on Kaifi Azmi’s career, and some of my greatest favourites – ‘Pyas kuchh aur bhi bhadka di jhalak dikhla ke’ and ‘Ye nayan dare dare’.


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