A Musical Journey from the Mushairas of Aligarh to the Razzle Dazzle of Film World
By Lubna Kazim

On May 21 st, a memorable program was held in New York to raise funds for educating children in economically disadvantaged communities. The program was hosted by the Aligarh Alumni Association of New York (AAANY), in continuation of the event  AAINA which was originally produced and staged by AAANE in Boston last October. The show was also memorable because this was the first time a Boston-produced cultural event was being re-staged in another city, due to its phenomenal success. The elegant event booklet from AAANY presented to all the arriving guests, set the tone for the evening.

After the welcome address by the President, Dr Intazam Khan and Secretary Irfan Beg, eminent speakers Mr Ameer Ahamed and Dr Nadeem Tarin, followed next.

Historically, Aligarh gained prominence due to two emerging movements which brought brilliant personalities, who were to enrich its culture of the future. The first was academic. Syed Ahmed Khan established his Scientific Society then the AMU and Sheikh Abdullah founded the girl’s institution.

It is the second movement of the leftist intellectuals, which changed the trend in literature. They wrote stories on forbidden topics and exposed the ill-treatment of women. Public outrage forced the British Government to ban their publication  Angare, but five copies were still preserved in Britain. The next generation of writers and poets followed the trend and continued to write against injustice in the society they lived in. It is from this group that many of our poets, featured in the event, emerged from.

Siraj Khan, who was also the script-writer and director of  AAINA in Boston, co-hosted the New York event along with Dr Fozia Qamar. He introduced the concert and his team of performing artistes, showcasing the work of the illustrious poets affiliated with AMU, who had enriched the landscape of Bollywood by their poetry. The program featured stalwarts like Majaz Lakhnavi, Ali Sardar Jafri, Jan Nisar Akhtar, Shakeel Badayuni, Kaifi Azmi, Dr Rahi Masoom Reza, Shahryar, Ravindra Jain and Javed Akhtar.

The highly talented and vibrant team was made up of Dr Meena Sundaram, Jolly Bhatia, Dr Zafar Naqvi, Meenakshi Rana, Tehniyat Hakim, Dr Sadia Chaghtai, Dr Batool Kazim, Nousheen Hakim, Dr Fozia Qamar and myself from Boston. Dr Smita Guha, Rita Kohli, Bushra Karim, Dr Tazeen Beg, and Tanya Beg joined the cast from New York, Masood Farshori from Maryland and Asad Chaghtai from Philadelphia. How they rehearsed and came together cohesively is a story in itself. The Bostonians traveled together in a coach to New York, arranged by the hosts.

The program presented a unique blend of poetry recitation of the featured poets, the immortal film songs they had penned and anecdotes from the lives of these luminaries. After I attempted to take the audience down on a trip down the memory lanes of Aligarh, my daughter Dr Batool Kazim recited her grandmother Begum Khurshid Mirza’s   naat  Zahoor-e –Qudsi and also a ghazal  Dard ke Phool of Javed Akhtar.

From Majaz’s famous  Awaara to Shakeel’s  Gham-e-ashiqui se keh do and Ravindra Jain’s  Ab ranj se khushi se, the audience was held spellbound by the flow of poetry followed by the melodious songs that came one after the other from the talented singers. Starting with Meena Sundaram’s flowing rendition of Mubarak Begum’s Bemurrawat Bewafa penned by Jan Nisar Akhtar, it was an exhilarating experience watching the young emerging stars Tehniyat Hakim and Tanya Beg, captivating the audience by their talent and confidence, performing amidst many senior and accomplished artistes.  Kuch dil ne kaha and  Muskanein jhooti hein were superbly performed by the two youngest members of the team.

Siraj Khan always values and acknowledges the work of the senior singers, musicians and poets who have provided so much of joy in our lives. He sat there on stage with the Filmfare trophy of Dr Rahi Masoom Reza, awarded for his dialogs of the film Lamhe (1991), placed on the table in front, for inspiration. Siraj’s spiritual connection with composer OP Nayyar is well known, which did not end even with the maestro’s death. The OP Nayyar Memorial Trust, of which he is an integral part, supports the struggling and aging artistes in need and he is helped by many of his friends in music and the proceeds from the musical events, in which he is involved.

I thought it would be best to sign off through a couplet of Kaifi Azmi which Siraj recited towards the closure of a highly engaging and entertaining act, at about 2 am.

Guzarne ko to hazaron hi qaafle guzre

Zameen pe naqshe qadam bas kisi kisi ka raha



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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