Aluminary of Urdu literature, Amjad Islam Amjad, has undoubtedly contributed richly to Urdu poetry and prose. His stature as a poet, playwright and lyricist needs no introduction.
Mr Amjad talked at length about his literary journey in a recent conversation with Dawn at his Defence residence.
Talking about what keeps him busy these days, the poet said: “These days, I am writing two weekly columns for a newspaper and planning to write my autobiography. For around six years, I have also been working with education-related charities and have toured various countries with those organisations. My heart bleeds when I look at the situation of education in the country that there are 20 million children who have never got an opportunity to attend school. My friend Anwar Masood and I have joined hands for this cause.”
Getting nostalgic, Mr Amjad shared some fond memories of the years gone by, saying nostalgia was good, but faces and situations kept changing. “If I look back, the nucleus of literary gatherings in Lahore used to be Pak Tea House. The finest thing about it was that personalities from both fine and performing arts used to gather there. If around one table one would see Shakir Ali and Amanat Ali Khan, sitting on another would be Nasir Kazmi and Intezar Hussian. There used to be an exchange of ideas among all those who used to represent literature, art, music, film or stage.”
When asked about the idea of establishment of a book street here when there is a food street, Mr Amjad said that the buying power of today’s generation was restricted to English novels and books. “They can’t read Urdu well nor have they developed an interest. On the other hand, there are loads of taxes on paper so due to all this establishing a book street comes somewhere at the end of the priority list of those who matter.”
When asked what he thought of the current generation of Urdu poets, he narrated that in the time of Ghalib there were some 3,000 poets who had got their poetry collections published, who used to be called sahib-i-deewan shaair. “Now it seems as if there is a marathon in which poets of all tastes are running. There may be a dearth of very good Urdu poets but nevertheless we have fine poets such as Dr Waheed Ahmed.”
Mr Amjad wrote, among many other plays, the very popular Waris for PTV. But it has been long since he penned a TV drama. He said his days at the Punjab University led him to write the play. “I used to study at University of Punjab where I had children of feudals studying with me. Their lifestyle often pinched me, compelling me to think they were there to just get a degree; education perhaps never mattered to them. In those days, I also read a lot of Russian literature so a host of factors led me to write Waris.”
Now, it had been 16 years since he wrote another play for the mini screen. The reason, he said, was the kind of plays he wanted to write would not “be acceptable to those at the helm of affairs”.
“Drama has gone far from realism. Some plays written today are good but most did not depict the society we belong to. When PTV started its transmission in 1964 it had people like Kanwar Aftab and Aslam Azhar, in 1974 people like Ayub Khawar, Shoaib Mansoor and Sahira Kazmi joined. Even till 1980s PTV had some meat when it came to producers, but hiring made in 2000 perhaps bore no fruit in terms of talent,” he lamented.
Mr Amjad’s new collection of poetry would be launched next year and he added that so far his three anthologies had been translated into English, Turkish and Italian.
Originally published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2017