Saturday, June 18, 2011

Two Giants of Urdu: Zia Mohiyeddin Reads Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

I’ve been informed by a very good source that in the past few months there has been a new energy field engulfing the universe. People are feeling out of sorts. Not sure what to do. Can’t find the groove. This energy field has affected the mood of the Washerman’s Dog too. I feel listless; as if I’ve hit the doldrums. Dead calm.

So I suppose tonight’s post is in keeping with this strange crack of time in that it is not music, in the strictest sense. But it is certainly musical and the very definition of mellifluous.

For anyone who has a love of language and poetry, there are few modern tongues more sweet or expressive than Urdu. And I have yet to hear anyone who is able to make the language sound so absolutely spell binding as the fine Pakistani actor Zia Mohiyeddin. Born in Faisalabad, (formerly Lyallpur), in Punjab, in a Urdu Speaking Family, Zia Mohiyeddin passed his early life in Karachi. He was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London from 1953-1956. After stage roles in Long Day's Journey Into Night and Julius Caesar, he made his West End debut in A Passage to India in 1960. He made his film debut in Lawrence of Arabia in 1963, playing the role of Tafas (the Arab guide who is shot by Omar Sharif for drinking water from the wrong well). He then made numerous TV and film appearances, and starred as Dr Aziz in the 1965 BBC television version of A Passage to India.
He returned to Pakistan in the late 1960s. There he founded and ran the PIA Arts and Dance Academy, and hosted his own TV talk show. Around this time he met and subsequently (in 1973) married the classical dancer Naheed Siddiqui. However after difficulties with the regime Mohyeddin returned to England in the late 1970s, shortly followed by his wife. During the 1980s Zia worked in Birmingham, Great Britain, where he produced Central Television's flagship multicultural program Here and Now.
He resumed his acting career in Europe, appearing in small roles in various movies and television programs. He has since traveled the world giving Urdu poetry and prose recitations. In the late 1990s, Zia remarried, and had a daughter with his wife, Azra. In February 2005 President Pervez Musharraf invited Mohyeddin to act as Chairman of the new National Academy of Performing Arts in Karachi.
To this date, despite his growing age, Zia is still active among Pakistani media as a speaker and hosts several TV programs both for National and Private Channels. He is also involved in narrating some abstract short films and commercials.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz was without a doubt the most famous, loved and accomplished poet of Urdu. A darling of the Left, and a lifelong Communist all his life, Faiz was born on February 13, 1911, in Sialkot, India, which is now part of Pakistan. He had a privileged childhood as the son of wealthy landowners Sultan Fatima and Sultan Muhammad Khan, who passed away in 1913, shortly after his birth. His father was a prominent lawyer and a member of an elite literary circle which included Allama Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan.
In 1916, Faiz entered Moulvi Ibrahim Sialkoti, a famous regional school, and was later admitted to the Scotch Mission High School where he studied Urdu, Persian, and Arabic. He received a Bachelor's degree in Arabic, followed by a master's degree in English, from the Government College in Lahore in 1932, and later received a second master's degree in Arabic from the Oriental College in Lahore. After graduating in 1935, Faiz began a teaching career at M.A.O. College in Amritsar and then at Hailey College of Commerce in Lahore.
Faiz's early poems had been conventional, light-hearted treatises on love and beauty, but while in Lahore he began to expand into politics, community, and the thematic interconnectedness he felt was fundamental in both life and poetry. It was also during this period that he married Alys George, a British expatriate and convert to Islam, with whom he had two daughters. In 1942, he left teaching to join the British Indian Army, for which he received a British Empire Medal for his service during World War II. After the partition of India in 1947, Faiz resigned from the army and became the editor of The Pakistan Times, a socialist English-language newspaper.
On March 9, 1951, Faiz was arrested with a group of army officers under the Safety Act, and charged with the failed coup attempt that became known as the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. He was sentenced to death and spent four years in prison before being released. Two of his poetry collections, Dast-e Saba and Zindan Namah, focus on life in prison, which he considered an opportunity to see the world in a new way. While living in Pakistan after his release, Faiz was appointed to the National Council of the Arts by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's government, and his poems, which had previously been translated into Russian, earned him the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963.
In 1964, Faiz settled in Karachi and was appointed principal of Abdullah Haroon College, while also working as an editor and writer for several distinguished magazines and newspapers. He worked in an honorary capacity for the Department of Information during the 1965 war between India and Pakistan, and wrote stark poems of outrage over the bloodshed between Pakistan, India, and what later became Bangladesh. However, when Bhutto was overthrown by Zia Ul-Haq, Faiz was forced into exile in Beirut, Lebanon. There he edited the magazine Lotus, and continued to write poems in Urdu. He remained in exile until 1982. He died in Lahore in 1984, shortly after receiving a nomination for the Nobel Prize.
Throughout his tumultuous life, Faiz continually wrote and published, becoming the best-selling modern Urdu poet in both India and Pakistan. While his work is written in fairly strict diction, his poems maintain a casual, conversational tone, creating tension between the elite and the common, somewhat in the tradition of Ghalib, the renowned 19th century Urdu poet. Faiz is especially celebrated for his poems in traditional Urdu forms, such as the ghazal, and his remarkable ability to expand the conventional thematic expectations to include political and social issues. (
So tonight we have the privilege of listening in to a pair of Pakistani and Urdu language titans. You may not know a word of Urdu but you will love this. I first bought the cassette 25 years ago and continue to derive pleasure from it today.

         Track Listing:
       01 Poetry (Raat Yun Dil Mein)
02 Aek Manzar
03 Tanhaee
04 Mozo-E-Sukhan
05 Shaam
06 Rang Hai Dil Ka Meri
07 Manzar
08 Black Out
09 Heart Attack
10 Qattat
11 Farsh-E-Nomeediye Deedar
12 Ashkabad Kee Sham
13 Bahar Aaee
14 Do Ishq
15 Subah-E-Azadi
16 Mulaqaat
17 Mata-E-Loho Qalam
18 Zindaan Ki Ek Sham
19 Dard Aaye Ga Dabe Paon
20 Tum Yeh Kehte Ho Ab Koee
21 Ae Roshniyon Ke Shehar
22 Aaj Bazar Mein
23 Qaid-E-Tanhaee
24 Aaj Ke Huroof Ko
25 Khatam Huee Barish-E-Sang
26 Nisar Main Teri Galiyon Kay
27 Sochne Do
28 Koee Aashiq Kisi
29 Yeh Matam-E-Waqat
30 Hum Jo Tareek Rahon Mein
31 Dil-E-Man Musafir Man
32 Mere Milne Wale
33 Hijir Ki Raat Aur Wisaal Ke Phool
Listen here


Fawad Zakariya said...

I come visit this blog periodically and always enjoy it. One small point: Zia Mohyeddin's family, as far as I know, is of Punjabi origin (and not Urdu speaking). His chacha Muhammad Iqbal, the Persian professor at Punjab U. (not the poet) was born in 1894 and attended Government College Lahore. Iqbal's son and Zia Mohyeddin's cousin, Daud Rahbar also studied in Lahore and they lived in Model Town. Zia's father was a professor at Lyallpur College. Their reminiscences in various essays all point to a Punjabi background.

ajnabi said...

Zakariya Sahib,
I stand corrrected. Thank you for the very interesting information. Sounds as if you are personally acquainted with the family.

Fawad Zakariya said...

Actually I am not personally acquainted with them but my father was a professor at Punjab University so know a bit of their family history. Also, I have read several of Daud Rahbar's excellent Urdu memoirs which provide some good background info. BTW, he also wrote an informative book on music called "Kuch bateiN sureeli see" which you may find interesting.