Amjad Islam Amjad

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Amjad Islam Amjad

I detest sentences containing ifs and buts — Amjad Islam Amjad

By Naseer Ahmad


Amjad Islam Amjad
Amjad Islam Amjad

Amjad Islam Amjad shot to fame with Waris, the play serial that kept its audience glued to the TV screen throughout its 71 or so episodes in the early ‘80s.

It was among the handful of PTV serials that famously caused the streets across the country, and up to Amritsar, to become deserted. Whereas artistes such as Mehboob Alam, Abid Ali, Aurangzeb Leghari, Uzma Gilani and Firdaus Jamal got instant recognition of their acting talents through this serial, the writer also earned acclaim in proportion.

Even a mention of the serial reminds one of the dialogues TV enthusiasts were seen practising and perfecting among friends and colleagues:

Yeh agar magar walay fiqray mujhay zehr lagtay hain. (I detest the sentences containing ifs and buts.)

Amjad did not stop there and went on to write serials including Samundar, Dehleez, Raat, Inkar Waqt and Apnay Log, and many other serials and plays. At the same time dozens of his poetry pieces were also sung by popular singers on TV.

Although it was a period of so-called Islamisation by General Zia-ul-Haq, there was so much of Amjad on the country’s only channel that humour master Zamir Jaafri cried out:

Islam kum hai TV mein, Amjad Islam ziyada hai

He has also written stories and dialogues for films, newspaper columns, book reviews, versified translations of poems of foreign languages. It makes one wonders how he managed to accomplish so much while holding positions of responsibility.

But what he takes pride in is his a score or so collections of ghazals, poems, lyrics and hamd-o-naat.

His latest book Asbab is a collection of his hamd, naat and salam. Copyright restrictions, forbidding even photocopying of part of the publication, on such a book seemed odd to me, so I asked about it and he explained: “That’s the publisher’s routine notice. I have never stopped anybody from using excerpts from my books. Otherwise, too, who gives a damn about copyright in this country,” he said in an interview with Dawn. “Junaid Jamshed has recently contacted me to seek my consent to his working on some of my religious verses and I have given him permission.”

During this spiritual journey, he says, he has enjoyed the longest period of aamad, spontaneous composition. Asked if he really believed in the concept of aamad, which has an air of mysterious powers at work, he said:

“Aamad and aawurd (laboured or planned composition) are the terms coined by Altaf Hussain Hali in his Muqadama shehr-o-shahiri. I very much believe in this concept. Actually, good poetry is a combination of both aamad and awurd.”

When asked why he did not write prose, Ahmed Faraz had once replied that “talent is like a glass of milk. People doing more than one creative thing at a time actually dilute their milk to fill other glasses”. Prof Fateh Mohammad Malik had similar fears about Amjad. He thought that by doing multiple things Amjad was compromising his poetry, but his observation led him to say: “Amjad’s TV plays haven’t thinned his poetry, as it were. They have rather complemented each other.”

Amjad’s had been an established name in the world of Urdu literature long before the Waris phenomenon. He had already published several collections of poetry, both poems and ghazals, and one hopes the journey continues.

Amjad is so famous for his repertory of jokes that in a paper read out at a book launch in Islamabad in 1989, Parveen Shakir dealt at length with his inexhaustible storehouse of jokes.

“If we take out jokes from Amjad, little of him will be left. But whatever is left, will be worth preserving,” she said in a lighter vein while speaking about a sojourn in the United States where the two were together for over two months.

But the outstanding poet insists that he doesn’t want to be remembered as a joker. He explains that since school days he has had the habit of keeping friends in good cheer. “I try to make the atmosphere around pleasant. However, I haven’t made any conscious effort to learn things in this regard. This keeps one from being arrogant and aloof. Making others smile is also an act of piety.”

His poems mainly reflect his romantic instinct, but his comments on political and social issues are also abundant and incisive:

Khuda ka rizq tau hargiz zameen par kum nahin Amjad/ Mugar yeh katnay walay, magar yeh bantnay walay

(There is no dearth of grains on the earth, but if there is any food shortage, it is created by the unjust distribution system.)

Although both of Amjad’s parents belonged to Sialkot, the city of Iqbal, Faiz and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, he was born, brought up and educated in Lahore.

After doing his master’s in Urdu with distinction, he joined the M.A.O college as a lecturer. From 1975 to 1979 he served the Punjab Council of Arts as a deputy director before returning to the college.

He has also served as the director-general of the Urdu Science Board and the project director of the Children’s Library Complex, Lahore. For the time being he is living a retired life and, probably, more at ease to read and write.

Amjad has received several national and PTV awards, including Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Pride of Performance and Nigar Award. On receiving the best playwright award of PTV for a fifth time for his serial Inkar, he declared that was that and asked the PTV authorities to rather encourage new writers.

His books include: Barzakh, Fishar, Us par, Itnay khwab kahan rakhoon, Satwan dar, Zara phir say kehna, Seher aasar, Barish ki aawaz, Mairay bhe hain kuchh khwab, Hum us kay hain and Asbab.

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