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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Remembrance of Lines Past

Salima Hashmi is not an avid follower of Bollywood. When the rest of Lahore livens up to pirated editions of Hindi films,the 65-year-old confines herself to curating art shows and painting in her house in Model Town.

Written by Debesh Banerjee |
March 25, 2009 10:55:27 pm

Salima Hashmi talks about her father,the poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz,and lending his mukhda to Bollywood

Salima Hashmi is not an avid follower of Bollywood. When the rest of Lahore livens up to pirated editions of Hindi films,the 65-year-old confines herself to curating art shows and painting in her house in Model Town. A rare Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi would happen when her daughter,studying film and media studies,gives a strong recommendation at the dinner table. But Hashmi,daughter of Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1914-84) and who holds the rights to his poetry and nazms,has her own discreet way of interacting with Bollywood. She has recently lent a mukhda from one of his ghazals — Gulon mein rang bharay,baad-e-naubahaar chalay — for the song Gulon mein in Piyush Jha’s upcoming film on Kashmir,Sikandar.

“I like contributing to good causes and my father’s poems were always on the side of humanity and suffering. He never took the side of those who propagated pain. His poetry assumes relevance in a world that is consumed by hate and violence,” says Hashmi,sitting on the lawns of the India International Centre. In 1986,she had lent his lines to Muzaffar Ali’s 1986 classic Anjuman on the exploitation of women in Lucknow.

The Gulon mein ghazal was written when Faiz was imprisoned for four years,between 1951 and 1955,on charges of colluding in a failed coup to overthrow Liaquat Ali Khan’s government. Salima was eight then and knew for the first time what ostracism meant. “I went to school as usual and had friends who stood by me in those troubled times,” she reminisces. The ghazal later became part of an anthology called Nuskha-Hai-Wafa,which included two other famous works Dast-e-Saba and Zinda Nama,also written in prison. “Despite being confined to the solitude in the cell,my father wrote his most inspiring works. The poem says how,despite the sadness,there is spring in the air and flowers are blooming. The theme recurs in many of his works written in prison,” says Hashmi.

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Faiz,the anguished poet who wrote Ye daag daag ujaalaa,ye shab gaziidaa sahar,wo intezar tha jis ka,ye wo sahar to nahi (This daybreak,pockmarked/ this morning,night-bitten/ surely it is not the morning we’d longed for) on the morning of August 1947,never minced words in his poetry. His poems on the 1971 war particularly irked the establishment but,Hashmi says,were loved by the people. “My father wrote one poem during the conflict and two others,Dhaka se vapsi par and Nazar karo mere tan se,after the war was over. His poems mention the massacre on the streets and the great mourning that followed. He was always aghast at bloodletting,” she says.

Ahmed’s last years were spent in exile and were the most painful. Hashmi recalls visiting her ailing father in Beirut in those years. “He wrote to me that since he had missed out on my childhood,he did not want to miss out on my children’s. He missed home terribly and wrote poems about being away from Pakistan. His poem Mere dil mere musafir captured the pain and longing to go home,” she sighs.

Instead of writing poetry like her father,Hashmi took up painting. “I was an introverted kid,who locked herself in her room and painted,” says Hashmi,who is a dean at the School of Visual Arts at Beaconhouse National University,Pakistan,besides being a member of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission. But outspokenness is in her genes.

Disturbed by post-26/11 comments that artists should desist from crossing the border,she says,“This is a short-sighted approach. The real test of our cultural strength is in the times of conflict. There is no point in having ties when things are hunky dory. There is no culture that is self-sufficient. It is natural for artists from Pakistan to come to Bollywood and vice versa.” She remembers her father telling her one day how he wanted to be an agent to bring about peace between the countries. Faiz’s hoped-for dawn.

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