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Muhafiz means the one who protects or keeps in his custody. The Urdu word mehfooz, to keep protected, also comes from the same root.

Muhafiz (In Custody)  is the name of a beautiful Merchant Ivory film based on the Anita Desai book, In Custody.  It is the story of Deven, a Hindi lecturer who is asked to interview Nur, India’s greatest Urdu poet and the subject of his obsession since his college days. The underlying thought of the book and the movie is the decline of Urdu tradition and the language itself “in the face of that vegeterian monster that is Hindi”.

Below is a beautiful Faiz Ahmed Faiz ghazal that forms the opening credits of the movie that stars Shashi Kapoor (as Nur), Om Puri (as Deven) and Shabana Azmi.

Aaj ik harf ko phir dhoondta phirta hai khayal (My mind is groping for a word today,)

Madh bhara harf koi, zeher bhara harf koi (A word as sweet as wine, as bitter as poison)

Dil-nashin harf koi, qeher bhara harf koi (A word that bewitches but is full of rage)

Aaj ik harf ko phir dhoondta phirta hai khayal.. (My mind is groping for a word today)

Harf-e-ulfat koi dildar-e-nazar ho jaise (A word as desirable as the lover herself)

Jis’se milti hai nazar bosa-e-lab ki surat (Whose glance is like a kiss on the lips)

Itna roshan ke sare-mauja-e-zar ho jaise (As radiant as a sea of gold)

Sohbat-e-yaar main aghaaz-e-tarab ki surat (In the company of a lover, where love is blossoming)

Harf-e-nafrat koi shamsheer-e-ghazab ho jaise (A hateful word cuts like a terrible sword)

Aaj ik harf ko phir dhoondta phirta hai khayal..(My mind is groping for a word today)

Ta abad shahre-sitam jis’se tabah ho jayein (A word that could destroy this city of sorrow forever)

Itna tariq ke shamshan ki shab ho jaise (As dark as the grave)

Lab pe laoon to mere honth siyah ho jayein (So dark that my lips turn black)

Aaj ik harf ko phir dhoondta phirta hai khayal…(My mind is groping for a word today)

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