Deepa Gahlot

Direction : Salima Raza
Writer : Salima Raza
Cast : Farrukh Seyer, Paayal Kapoor Nair, Anaamika Tiwari, Tarique Hameed, Navendra Mishra and others


Those were heady times, writers, poets, artists, joining the stream of progressive thought and expression-makes one wonder, in fact, how the work of these stalwarts could have been eradicated so easily in so-called modern times. Asrar-ul-Haq, with the pen name Majaz Lakhnawvi was educated at Aligarh Muslim University that was the crucible for so much creativity and revolutionary ideas. (He wrote the anthem for AMU-- Yeh mera chaman, hai mera chaman, main apne chaman ka bulbul hoon.) Imagine the times that produced Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ali Sardar Jafri, Kaifi Azmi, Ismat Chughtai, Sahir Ludhianvi, Josh Malihabadi, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Jazbi and Majaz, the man who wrote an immortal line like: Terey mathey par yeh anchal khoob hai lekin, tu iss anchal se ek parcham bana leti toh achha tha.

D For Drama's MAJAZ ZINDA HAI, written and directed by Salima Raza, is about the life of the poet (who was the brother-in-law of poet Jan Nisar Akhtar and maternal uncle of Javed Akhtar, though Majaz died in 1955, and could not have influenced his nephew directly), picking some key incidents, accompanied by live singing of a selection of his poetry (music composed by Subhradeep Sahoo and Shashi Bhushan Samad), which obviously includes his best-known poem Aye gham-e-dil kya karoon (used in a film 1953 film, Thokar, sung by Talat Mehmood and picturised on Shammi Kapoor).

Farrukh Seyer, dressed in wide Aligarh Pajamas and achkan, could be a dead ringer for Majaz, charismatic enough for young women to be crazy about him, and running a raffle to pick the one who could invite him home and have the pleasure of hearing him recite his poems. Majaz, however, fell in love with Shahnaz (Snigdha Anand Prakash), who was married to another. This heartbreak led to his alcoholism, and possibly mental collapse. As a character says in the play, quoting from a newspaper article, that he possibly suffered from bipolar disorder, which at the time remained undiagnosed. The solution for all mental illness was to cart the patient off to an asylum, which in those days, probably did more harm than good. In spite of the devoted care of his sister Hameeda (Anamika Tiwari), Majaz died of exposure to the cold on the roof of a Delhi tavern.

The simple production focuses a lot on his thwarted romance and mental disturbance, and perhaps not enough on his achievements in the literary field. Strangely, Ismat Chughtai (Payal Kapoor Nair) walks in and out as a narrator, but her life and work being not only well known but also controversial, the character walks away with a lot of laughter and applause.

Seyer does well in the romantic as well as the breakdown sequences, and is supported well by the other actors and singers. Majaz Zinda Hai at a crisp 80 minutes could do with some more fleshing out. It does, however, serve as an introduction to the great poet, whose life was tragically cut short. Those who are hooked by the poetry, can look up his work-most of his poetry plus books by and about him (Hameeda wrote one too) are available online.

(Deepa Gahlot is a journalist, columnist, author and curator. Some of her writings are on

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