Kaifi – an interesting lafz in the Urdu vocabulary, it refers to a person who is intoxicated.
Kaif means intoxication.
And Kaifiyat is the state of mind or condition of being intoxicated.
Born as Akhtar Hussain Rizvi in a family of landlords of a small town of Uttar Pradesh, Kaifi Azmi was a very renowned Urdu poet of India. Like most of the Urdu poets, he began as a ghazal writer, cramming his poetry with the repeated themes of love and romance in a style that was replete with clichés and metaphors. However, his association with the Progressive Writers’ Movement and Communist Party made him embark on the path of socially conscious poetry.
In his poetry, he highlights the exploitation of the subaltern masses and through them he conveys a message of the creation of a just social order by dismantling the existing one. Yet, his poetry cannot be called plain propaganda. It has its own merits; intensity of emotions, in particular, and the spirit of sympathy and compassion towards the disadvantaged section of society are the hallmark of his poetry.
His important works include Aakhir-e-Shab, Sarmaya, Awaara Sajde, Kaifiyaat, Nai Gulistan, an anthology of articles he wrote for Urdu Blitz, Meri Awaaz Suno, a selection of his film lyrics, and the script of Heer Ranjha in Devanagari. Some of his best known poems are Aurat, Makaan,Daaera,Saanp, and Bahuroopni.
His work in films saw him as a lyricist, writer and actor. His greatest feat as a writer was Chetan Anand’s Heer Raanjha (1970) wherein the entire dialogue of the film was in verse. It was a tremendous achievement and one of the greatest feats of Hindi film writing. Azmi also won great critical accolades for the script, dialogues and lyrics of M.S. Sathyu’s Garam Hawa (1973). He also wrote the dialogues for Shyam Benegal’s Manthan (1976) and Sathyu’s Kanneshwara Rama (1977).
As a lyricist and songwriter, though he wrote for numerous films, he will always be remembered for Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat (1964), India’s greatest war film. Some notables films for which he wrote lyrics include Kohra (1964), Anupama(1966), Uski Kahani (1966), Saat Hindustani (1969), Shola Aur Shabnam, Parwana (1971), Bawarchi (1972), Pakeezah (1972), Hanste Zakhm (1973), Arth (1982) and Razia Sultan (1983). He also played a memorable role of Naseem’s grandfather in Naseem (1995).
His autobiography is included in a collection of his works, Aaj Ke Prasidh Shayar: Kaifi Azmi. Kaifi and I are the memoirs penned by his wife, Shaukat Azmi (translated by Nasreen Rehman) and is an outstanding portrait of the man, his family history and the times of early Independence in India when the Urdu Progressive Movement was at its peak. Kaifiyaat is also an audio book, in Kaifi’s own voice, on his collected works.