Javed Akhtar still feels 'very young' at 63

By Shweta Thakur and Radhika Bhirani

New Delhi, Jan 16 (IANS) Javed Akhtar, poet, lyricist and screenplay writer, whose lyrics made the audience laugh and cry in "Om Shanti Om", "Dus Kahaniyaan" and "Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal" turns 63 Thursday.

And the poet-lyricist is feeling great. "Sixty-three is exactly two years short of sixty-five. I am still young. When you define age, it is always your age plus ten years. For instance, when you were 15, you always felt that the 25-year-old girl was old. At 35, the 45-year-old woman seemed over the hill and so on. I think the person who is 73 is really old," the witty lyricist laughed when IANS greeted him over telephone on the eve of his birthday.

For Javed, aging is rather "relative" - it matters only when placed in context of "other things". "I feel old when people talk about their children or I see other people's kids. Otherwise, I feel very young."

Javed does not have very elaborate birthday celebration plans. "Things have been very hectic lately. I will spend a quiet day at home with the family. But lots of friends and acquaintances will drop in uninvited," the lyricist predicted.

Bollywood paid him rich tributes. "Apart from being a legend, Javed is a great person. He is the master of extraordinary wit, an excellent story-teller and he makes everybody around him extremely comfortable," music composer Pritam Charaborty told IANS.

"Time just flies when you are with him. I remember when we were working together for 'Har Pal'. We were shooting in Khandala. He shared his experiences with me. And believe me, I was in splits. I was astonished to see how humble a legend can be," reminisced Pritam.

Javed the wizard of words was born on Jan 17, 1945 in Gwalior to Jan Nisar Akhtar, an Urdu poet and a Bollywood lyricist and Safia Akhtar, a teacher and writer.

Coming from a family of writers, his affair with the world of words was predestined. Majaz, a renowned poet, was his maternal uncle and Muzter Khaidrabadi, a milestone in Urdu poetry, was his grandfather.

The multi-talented writer completed his education in Bhopal and moved to Mumbai. He got his first break in "Yakeen" (1969) and since then there was no looking back.

The creative expert married Honey Irani, a scriptwriter for Hindi films, with whom he has two kids - Farhan, a talented director and Zoya who is going to make her directorial debut this year with "Luck By Chance".

After the end of his first marriage, in 1984 Javed married actress Shabana Azmi, the daughter of famous Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi.

As a scriptwriter, he established a partnership with Salim Khan. Along with his erstwhile writing partner, Javed churned out hits like "Zanjeer", "Deewar", "Sholay", "Haathi Mere Saathi", "Seeta Aur Geeta" and "Trishul".

The creative duo of Salim-Javed bagged the Filmfare Award for best screenplay and story For "Zanjeer" (1973) and is also credited with giving Amitabh Bachchan the "angry young man" image.

"He has devoted his entire life to film writing. Javed Akhtar is one of the best writers the Hindi film industry possesses. The duo of Salim-Javed churned out immortal pieces of work, which no one can ever forget or replicate," said scriptwriter Gaurav Sinha, who wrote the script for director Anand Rai's "Strangers".

The hit pair Salim-Javed parted ways in 1981. But Javed continued enthralling the audience and wrote hit scripts like "Sagar", "Betaab" and "Arjun". Till date, his work continues to inspire budding writers.

"Many young writers like me are inspired by Javed Akhtar's quality of work," added Sinha. Javed won the Filmfare Award in 1989 for the razor-sharp dialogues of "Main Azaad Hoon". But then came a string of flops. Javed took a break from scriptwriting and started concentrating on lyrics.

He came up with some of his best works as a songwriter, which includes "Saaz" for which he won the 1996 Best Lyricist National Award. He also bagged the National Award for "Border" (1997), "Godmother" (1998), "Refugee" (2001) and "Lagaan" (2002).

For his soul-stirring lyrics, he won six Filmfare awards for "1942 A Love Story" (1995), "Border" (1998), "Refugee" (2001), "Lagaan" (2002), "Kal Ho Na Ho" (2004) and "Veer Zaara" (2005). In 2007, Javed was conferred the lifetime achievement award at the 52nd Filmfare award function.

His first collection of Urdu poetry, "Tarkash" (1995) was India's first audio book. Available on cassettes and CDs, more than a 100,000 copies were sold.

It was translated into Bengali by noted author Sunil Gangopadhyaya. Renowned painter M.F. Hussain painted 16 canvases based on Javed's poems in "Tarkash".

The Ministry of Human Resource Development declared a song composed by him urging the misguided youth to work for the nation the National Anthem for Youth in 1995.

The President of India honoured him with "Padmashree" in 1999 and in 2007 he received "Padma Bhushan" for his literary contribution.

Javed is all set to wow the audiences with his soul-stirring lyrics in Ashutosh Gowariker's historical love saga "Jodhaa Akbar" releasing Feb 15.

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