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Musing 499: Rafi 203. GaDiMa on Najm Naqvi

Here is a translation of a Marathi article on the director Najm Naqvi written by G D Madgulkar translated by Dhananjay Naniwadekar, otherwise known as nani, a very prolific contributor to the classic RMIM. It appeared there on May 25, 2001.

The article is quite long, so

Rafi 203

All of the following is by Nani.

Here is the translation of Ga Di Madgulkar's Marathi
article on Najm Naqvi. I enjoyed translating it
and I hope you will enjoy reading it.
My comments [... - dn] are in brackets.

- dhananjay naniwadekar


My Muslim Friend .... (Maaza Yavan Mitr - by GaDiMa)

The story of my friendship with Najm Naqvi is a real life
manifestation of Valimiki's epigram. We met much as two pieces of
wood may suddenly come together in a frothing sea. Naqvi had
worked before in Pune's film world. But that time, my plant had
not yet reared its head in the film world. He was a shrewd
director who served art while understanding public tastes and
preferences. Old and knowing people in the Pune industry used to
tell many 'tales' about him. [this 'tales' in quotes obviously
suggests tales to be whispered. But GDM's next sentence
contradicts that spirit. However there must have been 'tales' of
other kinds, too. Afzal-ji has already given some input on that
score. A little more gossip about it follows later. - dn ] He was
famous for unceasing industry, stubborn pride and frank manner.

Miya.n Kardar it was who broke the small dam of Pune Film
establishment. Following coat-tails of Rajabhau Paranjape [a
famous Marathi actor of that period - dn], I ended up in the
Mumbai bazaar. Rajabhau had already given me the benefit of his
experience in that world during our talks. I already knew that I
would not be able to survive in that merciless world. Miya.n
Kardar had given me a contract for writing three stories. As per
the historic tendency of Maharashtrians, I was frequenting Mumbai
with a view to managing as much money there as possible and
bringing the loot back to Pune. I had never dreamt of carving out
a niche for myself in 'Hindi territory'.

I was staying with a friend in Dadar. One day, I was holding
forth on how I could not adjust to Urdu language and Islamic
politeness. My only two listeners were my friend and his wife.
The door bell rang. My friend's wife opened the door. In the dim
evening light, one unknown person came in, somewhat uneasily and
stiffly. "Madgulkarji hai ?" , he asked.
"Jii, mai hu.n Madgulkar", I got up to respond. He bowed a
little. He curled his four fingers the way hosts do when
applying sindur on their guest's forehead. And touched his
forehead with his curled fingers, as a mark of respect. I
realised that that fellow was a Muslim.
"Mai.n Najm Naqvi", he explained.
Our set-up in my friend's house was of a rather modest,
village-type nature. A dari made of grass, a load without the
outer cover, a small paan-kaa-dibba. And the brass utensil
associated with paan.

I had not imagined that a Muslim brother will come right in my
'tent' to say hello and welcome me. I was hesitant in asking him
to sit on the same modest dari (grassy carpet) as mine, and was
uneasy about saying 'baithiye' to him. I thought of pulling the
chair for him - but I remembered the famous tale about
Nana [Fadnavis, the diplomat during Peshwa years around the
year 1790 - dn] and the Englishman. That he should sit at a higher
level from the ground, and I on a grassy carpet ? My Marathi
pride would not consent to such an interview.

I kept him standing by asking generalities like : 'kaise aanaa
hua', but he was such a sawaai !! He just sat next to me. And our
talk started from a 'common level'.

He had also signed a contract with Kardar Studio. It was decided
that he would direct the script written by me. He requested me to
outline the plots and ideas I had in mind. My lame eloquence
tried to make its presence felt in Hindi territory by using
crutches of Sanskrit words. [People from Mumbai-Pune-Solapur
Western Maharashtra region used to be notoriously poor at Hindi
in those days. Nagpur was not in Maharashtra then; it was in
today's Madhya Pradesh. But MP was called CP (Central Province)
and Berar. As a result Nagpuris are much more comfortable with
Hindi. - dn ] That Muslim worthy's face lit up with the
expression of a true rasik. I was surprised. My stories had a
flavour of jowar-baajari. Their roots were typically Marathi. I
could not believe that he could truly appreciate them. I could
not help but confess my surprise to him. He smiled a little. And
utterred just one sentence - "I had wept inconsolably after
seeing Prabhat's Gyaaneshwar." [Naqvi was referring to the film
'Sant Dnyaneshwar' by Prabhat Film Company. "Prabhat kaa
Gyaneshwar dekh ke mai.n phoot phoot ke roya." - dn]

It did not take me long to hit it off with a Musalman who had
cried after seeing 'Gyaaneshwar'. Our mehfil lasted for full three
hours. This degree-holder of Aligarh University, and a
Muslim of 'Sayyad' caste came very close to my heart emotionally.
I had spun a yarn of a humorous story for Marathi film. I
revealed the design of that 'cloth' to him. He was pleased and
said, 'muze pasand hai'.

I started writing a story named 'Safed Jhooth' for him. He started
coming to my place of stay every morning in an old motor-car. I would
go to the studio with him. In a spacious,
comfortable room, we would discuss the story. However, the story
would frequently be cast aside, and we would discuss other random
things dear to our hearts. His knowledge of Urdu-Faarasi
literature was amazing. He knew hundreds of she'rs of the
renowned shaayars by heart.

It was the month of saavan. I was observing one religious custom
associated with that month. Naqvi guessed that I was a staunch
Brahmin. I also discerned that he was a staunch Muslim. 'Hindi
hai ham, vatan hai Hindosta.n hamaaraa' became the basis of our
working relationship and the work proceeded without any problems.

One such day, we two were at work when one errand-boy sent by
Kardar sahib came to me politely. He saluted me
and said : "Miya.nji-ne aapko salaam kaha.n hai".
I at once answered : "unko bhi mera namashkar kehna".
The boy was greatly puzzled and discomfited and Naqvi burst into
laughter. I was confused.
"salaam kahaa hai means he has asked you to meet him", Naqvi
explained to me in Hindi. This custom / usage was totally unknown
to me.
"You also accompany me to miya.n-ji's office", I said to Naqvi.
"khudaake ghar bhi na jaayenge be_bulaaye huye" Naqvi answered in
a she'r. I was greatly amused by his habit of peppering his
conversation with she'r(s).


The month of Saavan gave way to Bhaado. I ordered my lunch in the
studio. Naqvi's lunch also came from his house. As we sat at the
table, he asked : 'will you eat something from my tiffin?'.
"zaroor", I said. He was surprised. I guessed his doubt, and told
him Tatyarao Savarkar's famous statement. "A Hindu won't get
corrupted even if he ate a Mussalman himself, never mind his
food." He was quite impressed with my staunch Hindu-line and
nodded appreciatively. Then he started giving me his 'alu-gosht'
daily from his tiffin.

Four days later, Ganesh Festival started. I ran off to Pune. And
stayed put there for the next 10 days of Ganesh Festival. One
morning I received a letter from Naqvi marked URGENT. It
contained just one line in devnaagari script. 'aa jaa mere
baalamaa, teraa intazaar hai'.

I liked his sense of humour a lot. So I sent back
a jawaab : 'bagair intazaar ke mile, to mazaa hi kya rahaa ?'
He showed my letter to everybody in the studio. A few days later
I sent him a telegram : COMING.

I reached Mumbai early in the morning. By the time I finished my
bath, Naqvi had arrived. He had brought a small basket full of
flowers. "What's this?" I was surprised.
But the flowers were meant for me only. I felt very awkward about
this fragrant gift. I accepted the flowers by meekly
protesting : "Why all this ?"
"People shouldn't whisper that a kavi was reunited with a
na-kavi", he joked. [na-kavi is a weak pun on Naqvi. -dn] In my
absence he had gathered some information about me. He was told
that I was not just a writer, but also a very famous kavi.

He had brought HARSINGAAR flower for me, called paarijaatak in
Marathi. While going to the studio in his car, I told him the
legend about paarijaatak in Hindu mythology. And painted that
story before his eyes. His eyes got moist as he heard about the
delicate character of Rukmini [Krishna's favourite wife - dn]. He
greatly liked the story's poetic idea that this tree was brought
to the Earth from Heaven by Krishna to please his wife. While
getting off the car, he wondered : "Why do Hindi people call this
flower HARSINGAAR unnecessarily?" I could not answer him, but I
got to know that the paarijaatak flower was originally called
HAAR-SHRINGAAR, and I liked the name for one.


This time, I translated many Marathi poems by me and some other
Marathi poems by (other) great Marathi poets into Hindi for Naqvi. He
was overcome with emotion. He was also pleased with the
story of the picture that was taking good shape now. He started
adoring me. He did not allow me to order my lunch from hotel. He
started bringing my lunch also. He used to bring ghee and lot of
rice for me. His gharwaali specially started preparing Marathi
food which she had learnt in Pune. [Naqvi had enjoyed stints with
Marathi crowd in the film world before this. Maybe his wife
learnt Marathi dishes that time. - dn] Naqvi became my soul-mate.
He started praising me to various film producers. He started
visiting Andheri-Goregaon [Mumbai suburbs - dn] at his own petrol
expense with me. I felt quite awkward about it.

Thereabouts, some imporatnt work cropped up for me in Pune.
'Safed Zooth's plot was at an interesting stage. I had to
interrupt that work, and I reached Pune. Next morning, Naqvi
showed up at my house. "What is this", I was surprised. "I came
to see your children", Naqvi answered. I doubted whether this
fellow of different religion would be accepted in my house. But I
requested him to stay on. He had come prepared for a longish
stay. He lived in our house for 7-8 days.

He had brought one small mat and a copy of Quran. In the morning
he would close his door. He would go through his religious
routine. Nobody in the house was disturbed by him. He started
liking Marathi vegetarian food so much that he never missed meat.

When children sat at the dinner table around him, he used to look
at them with affection. When he saw our happy, bantering joint
meals, his eyes would moisten. He would exclaim 'hey khudaa'. One
day he forced my wife to perform 'drusht' (or drisht) of my
children. [The concept 'kisi ki nazar na lage' is known all over
India. This drusht business is like bachche ki arati utaaranaa.
The intent is that bachche ko nazar naa lage. Or to drive away
lagi hui nazar. - dn]


In the next phase, the story of SAFED ZOOTH neared its
completion. I was suddenly summoned by (famous film
producer) Bhalji Pendharkar to Kolhapur. Naqvi, too,
accompanied me.

I took him to meet Bhalji in Kolhapur. Bhalji is a Hindu fanatic.
He mentioned right in front of Naqvi : "Even if Muhammad
Paigambar came here, I won't care for him a damn." Naqvi
understood his Marathi sentence, but was not angry at all. He
said : "Some people just happen to be religious zealots." He made
sure that he saw all the historical spots in Kolhapur. He heard
Shivaji's life story from me with keen interest.

Sudhir Phadke (gdm's favourite MD) and myself started composing
songs for Bhalji's next film. Naqvi joined us with enthusiasm. He
even suggested some smart changes in the music.
One Marathi song he picked was 'raat virahaachi raajaa, kaTataa
kaTena'. ['birahaaki raat mere raajaa, kaTate kaTate khatam na
ho' - dn]. He kept humming this song. He adjusted himself so much
in our group that we wondered whether he was a 'Sayyad' from
Amroha or a 'Momin' from Miraj. [I think Momin is a Miraj based
Muslim community who are entirely familiar with the Marathi
way of life. - dn]

We returned to Pune after winding up our work in Kolhapur. He
went to the market alone. He bought many toys for my children.
"Naqvi, why did you do all this", I asked. "thoDe din to yaad
rahe bachcho.n-ko Naqvi chacha ki", he said. And really Naqvi had
the kind of affection for my children that he deserved
to be called 'chacha'.

During his stay in Pune, my son Kumar was a little indisposed.
His fever was caused by simple indigestion. But Naqvi wouldn't
work till Kumar recovered, and did not allow me to work either.
He was worried, his face darkened. He kept pacing up and down in
a room. Every two hours he would come to Kumar's room. He would
stand uncomfortably near the door, and ask my wife : kaisi hai
bachcheki tabiyat ?

Next morning, a restored Kumar was standing in his chair as the
table was too tall for him. Naqvi was relieved to see him drink
coffee. He touched his ears with his hands, and said : Khuda
rahem-dil hai. [I am trying to find out Kumar's year of birth
through my sources in Pune to confirm that Naqvi was in Pune in
early 1950s. Kumar must have been born after 1947. - dn]


We finished the story of SAFED ZOOTH. The muhurat was performed.
But somehow it never got to the shooting-phase. Naqvi started
singing : "ban ban ke bigad jaati hai taqdeer hamari"

Both his luck and my luck stalled and failed. Even after 6-7
months, our film did not get going. [I wonder whether Kardar went
to Pakistan abandoning the contract - dn] Naqvi took me to many
producers and presented the story, but with no luck. His sense of
humour did not desert him even when faced with disappointment. He
sensed that our work was going to waste. He said : "When two
gentlemen like a Hindu-Brahmin and a Muslim-Sayyad combine to
create a work of art, these paapi filmi people are not going
to be able to digest it and see its plus points."

I could not help appreciating this line of reasoning. I also felt
like joking. One servant in Naqvi's house had great trust in
Naqvi's auspicious touch / good omen. He believed that Naqvi's
mere touch to the patient could cure diseases, as he was a
'Sayyad'. I remembered that and said, "nothing is working for us.
Sayyad, hamaare sar pe haath rakho." Naqvi coolly replied :
'Brahmin, hamaare sar pe pai_r rakkho.' We kept trying like mad.
But nothing worked for us. He was bored with idleness and I
joined 'Raaj-kamal' [V Shantaram's film company]. He started
meeting me there daily. We both just felt uncomfortable if he did
not see me and I did not see him every day.


One afternoon he took me to his house with a special request. His
house was in Santa Cruz. Near the front door was a huge mango
tree. We sat on a charpai in its shadow. We ate the mangoes of
that tree to our heart's content. He called all his children
outside. He introduced me to all of them as their 'chachaji'.
Only his wife stayed inside. He did not forget to tell me that
she did not come out because of goshaa system. His children sang
for me songs from Marathi films.

After some time, one extra-conscious woman came there. Naqvi
introduced me to her. She was a famous heroine from Hindi film
world. Naqvi pulled her leg by offering her a totally unripe,
unfit mango. The woman moved her neck exaggeratedly and did more
nakharaa than was necessary and then went away. I was curious and
asked him, "Why did you introduce me to this woman?"
He said, "whatever I have, I presented it to my guest."
"matlab?" , I asked. Naqvi laughed loudly. He asked the
children to go away. He gave me a one-hour discourse on the
subject - Women in Film Industry. [I may add here that
GDM was famous for his rectitude in an industry
where fornicators abound. - dn]

Even after his long talk, I asked : "Did you have some affair
with the woman who had just been here?" He smiled naughtily.
And said : "your doubt is justified. In the beginnning, I was
totally fidaa on this woman's beauty." "And then?", I asked. He
uttered a she'r to answer my question. I [I = Gadima] don't
remember the first line exactly. But its broad meaning
was : "I got scared when during the exchange of goodies, she
cunningly grabbed hold of too many of my possessions."
I remember the exact words of the second line of
his she'r : 'maine apanaa dil uThaa ke, apani bagal me maaraa.'
Naqvi had always been trying this trick of concealing his own
heart from others [dil bagal me.n chhupaanaa, as the Marathi
phrase goes. - dn]. He hailed from a family of pedigree Muslims
from Amroha. He traced his lineage directly to Muhammad
Paigambar, the founder of his religion. He told me in detail
about the greatness of his family, the comfortable living and
sheer class of his forefathers and how he was greatly attracted
to literature.
Then he said bitterly :
"Film-ne Naqvi nikammaa kar diya
varanaa hum bhi aadami the kaam ke".

We came together through business demands. But we were destined
not to get a chance to work together. We became each other's pure
friends, free of any worldly or financial connection.

He went to Amroha for some reason. He brought back a paan-daan
[the thaali like vessel in which you keep paan and other related
material like tobacco, gulkand etc - dn] for me. It bore superb
Muradabadi design. A pattern of Jumma Masjid was engraved upon
it. Below it were written [on the same side as Masjid
engraving - dn] , in Urdu script, the words : 'Paan haajir hai'.
While presenting it to me, Naqvi mimicked the 'adaa' [style] of
dancing courtesans, and said :
dast-e-naajuk badhaaiye, saahab.
paan haajir hai, khaaiye saahab.

As a token of our friendship, I started using that paan-daan in
my Mumbai-Pune travels. Naqvi had great respect for Hindus and
their customs. He was madly in love with Marathi language. He
always referred to Shivaji as 'Shivaji the great'. I used to feel
strongly that I should bring Naqvi to Pune, and produce excellent
Hindi films there.

And then, one sad evening, somebody brought me the news : 'One
film-director from Mumbai has run away to Pakistan.'. I asked him
again and again for the name of this director. But he could not
remember the name. One she'r told by Naqvi himself started
spinning in my head.
Giri thi jisape kal bijali
woh meraa ashiyaa.n kyo.n ho ?

But my doubt did not prove unfounded. It was on my house itself
that the lightening had struck. It was Naqvi himself who had run
away to Pakistan. He had run away without telling anybody about
it. He had sold all his belongings. He just had left behind just
the cats and dogs in his house, and had disappeared overnight.

Somebody told me : "He was a staunch Pakistani from the
beginning. He had transferred and invested his money there. He
strongly hated Hindus. ..." I did not pay attention to the other
things he told me.

This Muslim friend of mine who was slightly plump, of somewhat
darkish tan/shade [saavalaa], his teeth spotting red marks of
paan, chashmaa on his eyes ... I couldn't remove him from my
mind's eye. I kept remembering his habit of removing his chashmaa
and wiping his eyes after listening to some touching story. My
ears would feel his hearty laughter. I would recall how he often
patted my back with affection. The she'rs quoted by him would
dance in my ears.

It was impossible that Naqvi should run away. Mumbai film
industry started gossipping about him openly. Some said he went
disguised as a fakir. Some said, while going, he took with him
expensive jewels of Pakistani Muslims. [which they had presumably
left behind when they fled to Pakistan in 1947. - dn] I did not
accept these stories. I COULD NOT accept them.

Naqvi, who listened to the philosophy in Geeta with such great
interest in my garden in Pune; Naqvi, who would bring me flowers;
Naqvi, who bowed in front of Ambaa-bai of Kolhapur; Naqvi, who
was fully immersed in admiration for Shivaji's story; Naqvi, who
insisted that my wife should perform 'drusht' of my children - he
runs away to Pakistan? Not possible. Impossible under any
circumstances. [ Ambaa-bai Temple in Kolhapur is famous. She is a
form of Laxmi, I think. - dn ]

Recently I read an item in a newspaper. A film named 'Kunwaari
Bewaa', written and directed by Najm Naqvi, was released in
Karachi. [As shows, it was released in 1956. His
last Indian film was in 1954 - SAMRAAT. -  dn ]

After hearing its story, I had no doubt that he had just used my
story for SAFED JHOOTH in KUNWAARI BEWAA. But Naqvi ... did I fail to
understand him, or did he change dramatically in a short
time-span ? What happened ? What exactly could have happened? A
true 'rasik', who was equally impressed by the great principles
underpinning both Hinduism and Islam, who appreciated both Hindi
and Marathi poetry with the same fervour, who had a balanced mind
and sensible approach ... how did he change all of a sudden ? How
did he lose his addiction for good people and virtue ? A
humanitarian who chatted with me for hours, listening to great
thoughts in literature and telling me great thoughts in his own
turn ... where did that man vanish ?

'apne mehfil kaa rind puraanaa, aaj namaajii ban baithaa'... I
was dumbstruck with this thought. I kept brooding over his secret
flight for many, many days. True that he was tired of Mumbai Film
business; true that he was feeling frustrated there. But how on
earth did he run away to Pakistan like a blind religious fanatic
Muslim ? He may not have informed anybody else about his
intentions to run away; but how could he go without telling me ?
Thousands of reflections of different thoughts about him
enveloped my mind. All things which I considered sacred in life
took a terrible knock. Finally, a very faint and feeble thought
that people don't stick to principles the way I had assumed and
that one can never truly understand other people made itself
felt.  The world is not as I used to understand it; the people
are not what I felt they were. I felt betrayed by these thoughts.
This explanation cleared up my spinning head to an extent.
But my confusion did not go away entirely.

One fine day, I suddenly received a letter from Naqvi at my Pune
address. He had written : 'I have brought your story here with
me. It can be made into a film. Send me an authority letter to
the effect that I [I=Naqvi] have the permission to sell it to
anybody of my choice. I will make some arrangement to send you
some royalty. The All Powerful God alone knows when we will
meet again.'

I did not answer his letter. I will never answer it.  I know that
our meeting is impossible to happen. Correspondance will rub salt
into this wound of my separation from him. I am observing this
silence as I do not want to reopen the wound and make it fester
all over again.

However, in one corner of my mind, the hope still springs
eternal. A day will dawn when a coolie will come to my gate
with luggage on his head, and Naqvi following him. Naqvi will
curl his four fingers the way hosts do when applying sindur on
their guest's forehead. He will touch his forehead with his
curled fingers, as a mark of respect. Then he will bow a little,
and say to me : Aadaab urj hai, saahab, aadaab urj !!!


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