THE PRAGMATIC POET
Javed Akhtar is living proof that poetry runs in the blood.
Tracing a lineage back to seven generations of renowned Urdu poets, Akhtar’s parents Jan Nisar Akhtar and Safia Akhtar were also the vanguard of the Progressive Writers Association. Born in Gwalior, Akhtar has lived in Lucknow, Aligarh, Bhopal and now Mumbai — each city adding a unique texture to his writing, reflective in the varied hues of his screenplays, lyrics and poetry.
Akhtar is one of Indian cinema’s most influential voices – as one half of the legendary scriptwriting duo of Salim-Javed, he co-wrote Sholay, Zanjeer and Deewar, amongst others; films without which no conversation about Indian cinema is complete. From the 80s, though, he turned his considerable poetic talent towards lyrics, going on to write some of the most evocative songs of the last three decades. The 76-year-old Akhtar has also written two definitive works on Indian cinema: ‘Talking Films’ and ‘Talking Songs’.
A source of inexhaustible passion, Akhtar is the President of ‘Muslims for Secular Democracy’ (MSFD), and is one of the most conscientious and vocal intellectuals in the country today. He is also a member of the organization Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), which took the Gujarat government to task for the carnage in 2002, along with providing rehabilitation to victims of the tragedy. A frequent speaker in Universities across the world on secularism, social justice, fundamentalism and the new cinematic icons of a changing social order; he has won countless awards for his activism as well as writing — including a Padma Shree, a Padma Bhushan and fourteen Filmfare awards.