The revolutionary trio

November 27, 2016

Faiz, Ustad Daman Khan and Khurshid Anwar shared not just a warm friendship but ideological similarities

The revolutionary trio

Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ustad Daman and Khurshid Anwar were very close friends and all three died within months of each other. While Khurshid Anwar died in October, Faiz passed away in November and Ustad Daman breathed his last in December. The year was 1984.

All of them were roughly the same age and they shared much of what they valued to be the operating principles that governed their very eventful and creative lives. While Khurshid Anwar and Faiz went to the best institutions, Daman was a dropout from a taat school. After the death of his father when he was in class four, Chirag Din (his original name) had to leave school to become a tailor.

Khurshid Anwar shifted back to Lahore from Bombay as he became a leading composer and took up his work with the growing film business in the new country but one wonders whether he composed in full any ghazal or nazm of Faiz. One has heard of certain verses and phrases forming a part of his film compositions like ‘Ab yahan koi nahi koi nahi aaye ga’ or ‘Roshniyon ke Shehr’. While many other leading composers and vocalists created memorable numbers from the ghazals and nazms of Faiz as he grew in stature and popularity over the years.

Faiz also made it a point to review the films that were either directed or produced by Khurshid Anwar, a rare initiative considering that he was the editor/ chief editor of the daily Pakistan Times, while such tasks are usually assigned to film reviewers or reporters. Faiz and Khurshid Anwar were in college together, perhaps the same class or with a difference of a year, and it appeared they developed a connection which lasted till the very end despite the very turbulent lives that both lived.

As narrated by Faiz’s daughter, Salima Hashmi, when he went to see Khurshid Anwar in hospital a few days before the latter died he was told by Anwar, his friend of over fifty years, that that he was to die very soon - "Main tey chalyaa’n" (I’m leaving). Faiz first tried to ignore him but when he insisted that his words be heard as prophecy, Faiz - who was as taciturn as one got - just also mumbled that if Khurshid Anwar died he would follow him soon - "Pher main vi aa riyaa’n".

In varying degrees, they all went to jail and were incarcerated for one political crime or another, considered by the state to be too threatening. They only talked about freedoms that they had all fought for.

And it so happened that after about a month, Faiz too breathed his last.

Ustad Daman was very ill when he heard of the passing away of Faiz but he insisted on attending his funeral. One saw him being literally carried to the house to offer his condolences to the bereaved family. And after a month he too died, the three having passed away within months of each other.

They shared much, and all of them had a vision of what the Pakistani society should be and in the process they all became frustrated by the closing of minds and hardening of hearts. They wanted this society to be based on equality and freedom. In varying degrees, they all went to jail and were incarcerated for one political crime or another, considered by the state to be too threatening. They only talked about freedoms and democratic rights that they had all fought for in the formative years of their lives.

Faiz talks very fondly about Khurshid Anwar in the little prose that he wrote: There were episodes of failed love, unrequited passions friends tend to share in that age, as well as the months of summer vacations spent in Srinagar with Khurshid Anwar’s family. In college, Khurshid Anwar fancied himself a better poet than Faiz and was acknowledged so as well.

Faiz was fully aware of the role and conviction that landed Khurshid Anwar in jail during the years leading up to independence of India. The post-independence too was visualised by Khurshid Anwar as a society based on merit that had everything for everyone and not based on exploitation and lopsided distribution of resources. He led the youthful revolt in pursuit of that dream but his utopia eventually became music - the region free of any contradiction where all paradoxes come to a quiet equilibrium.

Looking at the films that Khurshid Anwar made and the music that he composed, these may have been a little different from the concept of revolution that ordinary people or revolutionaries nurture. Similarly, the poetry of Faiz too was very different from the stated concept of a poet who is supposed to spew anger and wrath calling for a drive to arms in pursuit of a worthy cause.

Of the three, Ustad Daman carried a more belligerent tone and chose the path laid down by tradition where the poet led from the front. If your literary predecessors happen to be Shah Hussain and Bulleh Shah, it becomes impossible to escape their dominant influence. The entire idiom of Punjabi poetry is charged with that belligerence and readiness for battle hardly found in the tone of Urdu poetry. Daman abided by the traditional role of folk poetry which was supposed to be recited or spoken aloud, rather than read.

He was not really bothered about his works being published and read as a result. Whatever is published has been after his death, collected from scraps of papers and memories of his friends and well-wishers. He was sung too and his famous ‘Mainoo dharti kali karade main nachaan saari raat’ caught the imagination of a great many.

Though there may be plenty of declamatory emphasis in Iqbal but there is no charge so to say that determines the tone of his poetry. It was he who created the cleavage between ‘shamsheer o sana’ and ‘taoos o rubab’. He posited an ‘either or’ dilemma - it was just not possible in his worldview to create unity but those who followed him tried to create that unity between the same ‘shamsheer o sana’ and ‘taoos o rubab’.

The revolutionary trio