Candid chat with Amjad Islam Amjad | Pakistan Today

Candid chat with Amjad Islam Amjad

Born on August 4, 1944 in Lahore, Amjad Islam Amjad received his primary education from Lahore, graduating from the Islamia College Civil Lines, and acquiring his Masters degree in Urdu literature from Punjab University. He has received many creative awards and his achievements comprise “Pride of Performance” and “Sitara-e-Imtiaz” to name a few. Some of his popular works include “Waris”, “Samandur”, “Dehleez”, “Din”, “Raat”, “Waqt”, “Fishaar” and “ Inkaar” in plays, and “Sahilon Ki Hawa”, “Phir Yun Huwa”, “Zara Phir Se Kehna”, and “Itne Khwab Kahan Rakhun Ga” in poetry.
Amjad has also served the Punjab Textbook Board, Lahore, as the Director (Curriculum Wing), Govt. MAO College Lahore as an Assistant Professor, Punjab Council of Arts, as Deputy Director (Drama and literature), Urdu Science Board Lahore as Director General and Children Library Complex Lahore as Project Director.
Invited from Lahore to attend the ‘urs’ of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Muttahir Ahmed Khan caught up with the popular writer and chatted with him about his life and his career.
PT: Tell us a bit about your experience of attending the ‘urs’ as a special guest from Punjab?
Amjad: It was a real spiritual journey and a source of soul-elevating energy for me. I am thankful for being invited to such occasions.
PT: Tell us something about your childhood?
Amjad: I was lucky to be taught by the famous teacher Master Abdul Aziz in the Muslim Model high school. He was the father of the former Finance Minister Dr Mahbub-ul-Huq. This school was very famous for studies and sports and especially for cricket and cricketers. I finished my matric there. Interestingly, the cricketer Asif Masood was my class fellow and I am a colour holder of the college in Cricket. I was in the eleventh-side of Islamia College Civil Lines that defeated the Government College team after 12 years. They were the champions for the last 12 years. In those days those who were to become famous very soon were studying in GC, including Shafqat Rana, Pervez Sajjad and other test cricketers. I guess, if I had not been a writer, I would have definitely been a famous cricketer!
PT: So how did you take a turn towards literature instead of sports?
Amjad: I had to choose one field to concentrate on and it was a critical phase for me. But finally, I chose literature and enrolled for an MA degree. I topped in Punjab University Oriental College and got second position in the entire university. I was also the Chairman of the Literary Society in fifth year, and worked as the Chief Editor of “Mehver” (the University journal) in my sixth year. My first poem was published in the quarterly “Fanoon” of Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, in January 1966.
PT: How did you switch to play writing?
Amjad: I started with a play titled “Tooti Kahan Kamand”. It went on air in 1967 and was directed by the late Jamil Malik, while Talat Hussain, Badi-ul-Zaman and Saleem Nasir performed in it.
PT: Your age was a classic one replete with legendary contemporaries and literary idols. What about screen writing?
Amjad: My first TV play was “Aakhri Khawb” telecast by Rawalpindi Centre in 1973. Next, I wrote two plays, titled “Mom ki Guria” and “Barzakh” for the series “Havva Key Naam”, directed by Sahira Kazmi in 1974. Rahat Kazmi acted in it. My first play for Lahore Centre was “Khwab Jagtey Hain” and it was aired on March 23, 1975. Can you believe it was the same day I got married! It must be lucky for me because that play won me the first Graduate Award. Since then, I have achieved 16 Graduate Awards and 5 out of a total 12 PTV awards for the best writer. My first TV serial was “Waris”, presented from October 1979 to February 1980, from PTV Lahore Centre. That very play brought great fame and popularity for me. This serial has even been translated into Chinese and telecast twice on their national TV Channels.
PT: The theme of “Waris” was a unique one with an iconoclastic approach and it did create a new surge in the field of social literature. How did you write about feudalism and its harmful impacts on the society while you yourself were from an urban background?
Amjad: People often discuss this issue with me and strangely enough, many of them do not believe that I have never lived in a village in my life. I was born and brought up in urban Lahore with no connection to any kind of feudal set up. But right from my early life, I was quite conscious of and concerned about social injustices and class discrimination. The events and real life stories around me were reflective of this culture and these very factors paved the way for “Waris”, and I think that the masses welcomed and appreciated this.
PT: You have been amongst policy makers and advisors for our educational development. What is the basic reason behind our deteriorating education system?
Amjad: Frankly speaking, the policy makers are not educationists. They are either politicians or army generals. Unfortunately, our educationists too betrayed the nation by conceding to policies made by certain bureaucrats only in order to please them. During my tenure, in this regard, I tried my best to change the status quo but all in vain. I was disliked and excluded from future meetings.
PT: Is it right to consider the fact that poets and writers have always been sensitive about social and economic injustices and have reacted against them?
Amjad: Progressive writers used to gather around at the very famous Pak Tea House, at Mall Road (Lahore). I knew many “intellectuals” who used to write and speak for the promotion of a socialistic society and culture here. But, their life-style and family background was coincidentally an upper class background. Their big, comfortable cars used to pick and drop them and they always used expensive brands of cigars and dresses. I would like to quote the Chinese socialist leader Tzu En Lai here. He said: “You cannot declass yourself, living in the same society.” Therefore, literary intellectuals are also a part of this society and they possess their individual views and beliefs.
PT: So was it not the forcefulness of intellectuals that awoke the masses and created socialist revolutions all over the world?
Amjad: I would like to quote Mao Tse Tung. “All the literature of the world is propaganda, but all the propaganda is not literature”. There is a hell of difference between ideological and practical approaches towards real life problems.
PT: There used to be a trend of reading but now you hardly find this. Some senior editors are of the view that reading habits are slowly diminishing. Why have people lost interest in reading?
Amjad: They say nothing lasts forever except change. One has to accept changes in the environment. I think literary thirst is always there but the mode of presenting it has changed. Nowadays people have access to a tremendous number of channels. Then there are impacts of the Internet that has provided access to libraries and books. So maybe I would be right in saying that interest in literature has not completely died.
PT: If there is something you would like to say to the upcoming generation in Pakistan what would you say?
Amjad: My advice is that although we have wasted over 60 years without making positive policies or promising decisions for the betterment of our nation, it is never too late to mend our ways and attitudes. We should stop criticising our society and country and should begin to ponder over our problems and their solutions, instead.



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One Comment;

  1. Shahbaz ahmed said:

    i am a big fan of Amjad islam Amjad’s poetry , and i want to dedicate a poem to him,

    Its my own poem.
    Usi aik lamhy ki chaah me,
    K jo waqt par na ada huwa,
    Yeh musafaten hein nigah me,
    ….
    (To be continued)
    I wish one day he will read or listen this complete poem from me

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