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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Young poets have developed a new metaphor, language and style: Javed Akhtar

Renowned screenwriter and poet Javed Akhtar on why young poets should have better control over their craft and the importance of working on one’s aesthetic sense

Written by Alaka Sahani |
Updated: August 13, 2021 9:42:35 pm
"Shayari or poetry has been a very integral part of India and it has evolved over time." Express photo by Vasant Prabhu. 20-02-2013. Mumbai

Legendary poet, scriptwriter and lyricist Javed Akhtar will present a special act in the upcoming show on Zee Live, titled India Shayari Project, that premieres on August 15. The show, promising to be a treat for all shayari and poetry lovers, will feature lyricist-writer Kausar Munir, comedian-poet Zakir Khan and poet-politician Kumar Vishwas.

Ahead of the show’s launch, Akhtar talks about his association with India Shayari Project, which aims to celebrate poetry and freedom, and how poetry gives the poets the space to represent themselves in the most authentic way. Though the Padma Bhushan recipient lauds young poets for using various mediums, especially digital ones, to showcase their work, he emphasises on the need for bettering their craft and aesthetics. Excerpts from an interview:

Shayari has been an integral part of our cultural consciousness. Can you sum up its evolution and journey in independent India — from the days of nation building to present-day India?

Shayari or poetry has been a very integral part of India and it has evolved over time. In different times, different forms of communication have developed. Now, this is a time when perhaps people don’t depend on written word or paper. They get a lot of information from electronic media. They listen to poetry on different kind of platforms that are readily and easily available. As long as the communication is there, let’s not be so worried about the form of the communication. As long as the message is going through, that would be enough.

Are you happy with the kind of appreciation and reception that shayari continues to get?

Shayari is getting its due appreciation. I keep getting this question where people ask me that the younger generation is losing interest in poetry. I tell them: ‘It is not correct’. Maybe the source of communication has changed but if you go on YouTube or other platforms, you will realise that there is a huge audience and following of poetry and poets. So, the younger generation have found what is missing in their lives, if I may say so. They are discovering poetry on their own. I’m very happy to tell you that the young poets have developed a new metaphor, a new language and a new style. I am positive about poetry and its future as well as the connection between the young generation and the old. An initiative like India Shayari Project (which will stream on Zee5) has collected poets across generations to celebrate poetry.

“My only secret is that I do not have any set process.” (Express photo by Vasant Prabhu)

You once mentioned that you have this unique ability of writing from anywhere. Does the secret of this lie in your culturally rich upbringing that exposed you to literature?

My only secret is that I do not have any set process. I can write at any time, and I write only when I feel I won’t be able to meet the deadline. It is the terror that is the basic motivation in my life. So that is when my neurons start working. Once they are working, even in the midst of a party with people talking and moving about, I can write. Only condition I have is that personally I prefer a blank paper. So, when I am doing some creative writing, when I’m writing poetry or even dialogues, I need a pen and a blank paper, because it happens somewhere between the point of the nib and paper.

How crucial is that the young and upcoming poets should work on their craft?

I have always believed in perfecting the craft. However, with the new generation I feel that these young people have a lot of passion. Very often they have some new ideas but they do not have control over their craft. Every art has two aspects: fantasy, imagination, dreams, romanticism etc. On the other side, there is something exactly the opposite: the craft which is as romantic as mathematics or algebra. They need to carry these incompatibles together. On one hand, while writing they are dreaming. On the other hand, they should be ruthless, objective and hone their craft. They should have better control over their craft to avoid basic mistakes whether its grammatical or related to meter, rhythm or rhyme.

“Shayari/poetry is not like Aspirin or a pill you can pop to get rid of your headache” (Express photo by Vasant Prabhu)

At a time when the platform for shayari and approach to it are so diversified, what would you advise those dabbling with this art?

Shayari/poetry is not like Aspirin or a pill you can pop to get rid of your headache. Poetry is like vitamins. If you keep consuming, if you keep taking it, it gradually helps your aesthetic and muscles of your intellect develop. Aesthetics sense is necessary because they tell you what is ugly and what is beautiful. Whatever is crude, indecent and unjust becomes ugly and whatever is just, fair and empathetic is beautiful. Ultimately, if one keeps consuming shayari, poetry, literature, prose, novel and short stories, they tell you two things. One, people are so different from each other and, two, how similar they are. Both these facts may sound contradictory, but that is how life is. When you start understanding people, you start understanding beauty that develops sympathy in you. That develops a better person in you and ultimately a better poet.

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