Amjad Islam Amjad - Playing the Creative Role
Written by LegendsofPakistan   

AMJAD Islam Amjad is a household name in Pakistan. His has seen a career that has taken into its fold both the print and the electronic media with a comfortable excellence in both.

So when he says "I'm fifty-nine now, and so to see and describe things is easier," it cer¬tainly doesn't come as a surprise. "But when I started everything was hazy," he adds. And from those hazy days he has travelled a long way to success.

In 1998 he received the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, and was awarded the Pride of Performance in 1997, the National Hijra (Iqbal) Award 1403 for Best Book of Poetry for Fishar and the Writers Guild Award for Best Work of Translation for Aks.

He is also the recipient of fifteen Graduate Awards (1975-2000) and five Best Playwright Awards from Pakistan Television.

Sitting comfortably behind his office desk at the Children Library Complex, he is a man quite satisfied with his contribution towards society. As Project Director of the institution, he has added a science museum to the complex and on his cards is a state of the art mini complex for handicapped children matching world standards. "As a child I hated maths and science. The reason being that I was never shown the proper approach towards science. I felt that if we want to prosper as a nation we must make our children confident and for that scientific knowledge is a must," reaffirms Amjad Islam Amjad.

One expects a more creative line of action than this from him. Yet "creativity has many forms", says the poet inside him.

"I believe that if a thinking mind is guided properly and channels itself then a novel direction evolves from inside it. Getting feedback keeps him on the track."

Amjad started writing poetry when he was studying at the univer¬sity. In the 1950s romantic poetry was in vogue and he followed suit. "I was an emerging poet without a sound academic knowledge of the genre. The young blood in me was adventurous and even if I made mistakes they were overlooked." However he now feels that as an established name in literature the "mental world may have opened up for him but otherwise the limitations are many."

Stopping by a chollaywala and devouring the taste of a hot plate of desi cuisine or buying a gallery tick¬et at the cinema house or walking on the canal with friends without any fear of breaking the rules of recog¬nition are memories of a time in his life that he sometimes misses a lot.

Amjad explains the background to his emergence as a poet.

"The socialist movement was gaining strength and in nearly all the third world countries socialism was taking root. The subcontinent too had its share of political awakening. The writers of those days had a dual responsibility. One was to get inde¬pendence from the British Raj and secondly to write for the masses."

However when Amjad Islam entered the era the first cause had already been addressed. The second remains to the present day.
"Ours is an anti-human society," says Amjad, "and social change is a two-way traffic". Amjad stands for a form of creativity whereby justice becomes accessible to the common man and the conscience of the rul¬ing class is touched in such ways that change occurs. He feels that our society will only progress if the mid¬dle and lower class moves up on the ladder and takes charge of society.

Thus his poetry varies from romance to serious issues of justice and social change.
"One very important thing that guided my poetry was the concept of time. That really haunted me. Exploring the idea what the world around us and the time we live in is very interesting. Iqbal calls time an eyewash and that there is no past, nor any future nor a present. The current moment is the only reality and I have worked a lot on this. Yet this is not very attractive for the common reader who indulges more in my romantic poetry. However I do have my share of readers who have appreciated my efforts," says Amjad.

Over the years Amjad has enjoyed a steady readership, the majority of which are university and college students who enjoy and know his romantic poetry by heart.

He is also among the few poets of Pakistan whose books are printed more than once in a year. Amongst his fans is a new class of expatriates who often invite him to tmishairas abroad. Therefore media coverage has led to the public knowing more of the poet's activities.

In the last fifteen to twenty years, literary editions of newspapers have come up. Thus today's poet has more contact with his audience and the exposure he receives is immense. Therefore Amjad the poet is now more read and known along with the playwright. "Television has a wider range of audience. There is more feedback. Comparing it with poetry which is a limited art form is not justified," says Amjad Islam.

Amjad Islam Amjad firmly believes that "The form of verse is only incidental to poetry. The con¬tent brings with it its form." So read¬ers of Amjad's poetry have wit¬nessed him exploring both the forms, ghazal and nazm. Another form like the geet is more related to craft and the poet has also ventured into this realm.
"In real life people have a set word bank that they use. There is no written rule that so many number of words have to be used by a poet in a poem. If the words are used correct¬ly and are conveying the message then there should be no problem," says Amjad as he defends a consistent repetition of vocabulary in his poetry.

Amjad has to his credit twelve serials spread over his 23-year-old professional life as a playwright.

"This isn't much as compared to my contemporaries. But I am satisfied. The majority of my plays have won me awards and I have got the recognition,"

says Amjad who last year voluntarily announced his resigna¬tion from future national awards. He even gave away the award for his play Inkaar.

Inspired by Bano Qudsia who was the first to do this, his is a graceful exit from the competitive world of playwrights thus placing him at a much higher plane. Very intent on carrying on his work, he neverthe¬less faithfully believes in creating a tradition of "leaving the stage for the younger generation when the time is right".

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Tracing his steps back in time when television was a new medium and he himself was just an emerging poet and playwright, he moved on to writing plays for television because television offered a whole new world of opportune expression. But television and the fame that it later brought him did not come easy to Amjad. Time and again he would submit his work to the producers who would return it with the words "rejected" stamped on it. "Unfortunately that was the time when nobody was actually trained for television. My predecessors were trained in radio and thus were unable to pinpoint my mistakes.

"I learnt through a process of trial and error," explains Amjad Islam Amjad

. Starting with a few short plays for television a time came when he began to make people take notice of him. Not yet a front liner, Amjad persevered his way to the top. It so happened that a 25-minute slot was left empty on PTV and had to be filled. Amjad was assigned the job. With Ghazanfar Ali as the first producer Amjad Islam took the chal¬lenge very seriously. Waris, the clas¬sic TV serial was now born.

The first seven episodes were an absolute hit and PTV, for the first time in its history, increased the duration of a running programme from 25 minutes to 50 minutes. This was no mean achievement. The man in the field saw himself on screen and TV became the media of the masses. The environment, the lan-guage, the nuances and the clothes all communicated the plight of the common man.
Ever since his university days Amjad had been intermingling with people from a varied background. He came to understand the injus¬tices of the feudal society and was pained to see the reality of life beyond the urban divide. "It was evi¬dent that a feudal's dog was more important than all the villagers put together. Any humanist is sure to react to this inhuman treatment," says Amjad Islam. "My reactions to this system gave a surge to creativity,

"Strangely enough the peak of my career as a playwright came right in the beginning with Waris" admits Amjad Islam.

Nonetheless he has explored a new theme in each of his plays. Ranging from university poli¬tics producing professional gang¬sters, to a drive against narcotics, to recreating historical characters, his themes are unique. Currently he is also writing a sound and light show on Heer Ranjha for a private company.

A great believer in translation as means of international communica¬tion, Amjad takes pride in using the medium to communicate his creativ¬ity with a non-Urdu speaking audi¬ence. A collection of works by poets from the subcontinent done in 1990 in Canada carries some of Amjad Islam Amjad's poems. His play Dhokon ke Chadar carried sub-titles by Navid Shehzad for an interna¬tional channel.
His play Waris was also pub¬lished, dubbed and telecast on Chinese Television National Network in Chinese. Contented with his professional life he says, "I see the social change setting in our society. I have played my role as a creative mind and I feel hopeful about the future." •

Written by Khuzaima Fatima Haque