Bringing stories to life

Through his book Roshandaan, Javed Siddiqui turns the spotlight on some well-known and a few not-so-well-known people. The sketches also give a glimpse into the life of the veteran screenwriter, dialogue writer and playwright

Yeh khaake nahi hain! (These aren't biographies)," Javed Siddiqui reiterates what he has written in his book Roshandaan. "These are the footprints of the people who have left us. But the footprints still sparkle. Vahaan roshni baaki hai," he adds. In his study, surrounded by trophies bearing names of the many films he has been associated with over the years, Siddiqui settles in for an afternoon of nostalgia. Stories roll out one after another and we're glad to be part of his mehfil, captivated by his command on Urdu and his soothing voice.

Siddiqui at his residence in Andheri west. Pic/Rane Ashish

Roshandaan is a collection of short character sketches of the various people who became part of Siddiqui's growing up years. The list includes Habib Tanvir, Niaz Haider, Sultana Jaffrey, Maulana Zahid Shaukat Ali among others. The book also holds stories about four rather unknown people � his grandmother's maid, the Diwan Sahab of Rampur, a brother-in-law and his grandmother's Polio-struck sister � who influenced Siddiqui's life. With each story the senior writer paints a picture of a bygone era, its amity and relationships and the people that populated it.

From his grandmother's maid, and the Diwan sahib of Rampur, Siddiqui saunters through stories and reaches Mumbai. Then begin tales of his days as a sub editor at the newspaper Inquilab (MiD DAY's sister publication), his association with Indian People's Theatre Association (of which he is the national vice president today) and then his first steps into Bollywood.

He talks about each person with unconditional respect, more so for the late Sultana Jaffery, a Communist Party member from 1947 and wife of the late poet Ali Sardar Jaffrey. In the story Mogre Ki Baaliyonwali, he remembers his aapa. "Sultana aapa had seen Fareeda (my wife) with me in those days and insisted that I marry her. I said, 'Aapa, how can I marry her? I don't have money or a house.'

She helped me buy jewellery for the wedding. She even booked a hall for the wedding for February 10. I was puzzled but she said 'February 10 is a very important date. It's the birthday of Bertolt Brecht.' She brought together all the comrades for the wedding and all of them helped us get married. Now you tell me, shouldn't such stories be written?" We promptly nod in agreement.

Siddiqui has written the book with the intention of giving the current generation a chance to peak into the country's contemporary history. Bollywood buffs will particularly love reading about the encounter between Niaz Haider (the Hindustani playwright who resembled Karl Marx) and Haribhai (aka Sanjeev Kumar). "These are stories that will disappear with me, if I don't share them.

Aap ek zamaana dekh sakenge jo aapne pehle nahi dekha hai. These are stories from another world and they will inspire the reader," he tells us. Roshandaan has been published in Urdu and a Hindi and Punjabi translation is in the pipeline. Siddiqui intends to continue the story telling with a second volume, which will feature anecdotes about Satyajit Ray (with whom Siddiqui began his film career), MF Husain (who painted a poster for Siddiqui's play Aapki Soniya), Kaifi Azmi, among others.

"One of the stories I've already penned is about a woman, Akbari Bua, who would go door-to-door selling kebab and dahi phulkia in Rampur. Her story is a fantastic example of human values. She will also be part of the second volume," he says. Roshandaan published by Nayi Kitab Publishing House; Rs 250. The book will be available at select stores that stock Urdu works. The Hindi translation will be in stores by January 2012.

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