Kaifinama (Sumantra Ghosal) India

Sumantra Ghosal
India. 2019. 90 min

Kaifinama looks at the life and art of the Urdu Progressive poet Kaifi Azmi. Kaifi Azmi was both a poet for social change as well as one of the foremost lyricists in the Hindi film industry. Not content to limit himself to fine writing, he worked ceaselessly throughout his life as a catalyst for change among the disenfranchised.  The film looks at his small-town roots, his commitment to socialism, his wide-ranging body of work and the enormous changes he brought to the life of the village where he was born. This extraordinary journey is documented through extensive interviews with him and his wife Shaukat Kaifi as well as insights from his children – Shabana and Baba Azmi – and reminiscences by his friends and colleagues.  Kaifinama thus is both the definitive film biography of Kaifi Azmi and a history of the times he illuminated with his genius.


Shabana Azmi and Sumantra Ghosal at the screening of Kaifinama at NCPA. Photo courtesy: NCPA.

Sumantra Ghosal spent the better part of his life making advertising films for his companies Cinematix and Equinox.  Now, he makes documentaries. Noteworthy among his several films on the arts are the two feature-length films:  The Speaking Hand
(on the tabla maestro Zakir Hussain) and The Unseen Sequence (on the Bharatanatyam dancer Malavika Sarukkai).
In 2017, Sumantra completed The Space Between The Notes – a documentary on a concert by Zakir Hussain and Niladri Kumar. He also served as creative collaborator with Malavika Sarukkai and wrote the poems for the full-length dance project Thari – The Loom.
His most recent work is Kaifinama – a full-length documentary film to commemorate the birth centenary of the Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi.


Kaifinama entered my life as a surprise.
One day, quite out of the blue, Kaifi Azmi’s daughter -Shabana – asked me whether I would make a film to commemorate her father’s birth centenary. Having agreed without much thought given to the road ahead, I soon found myself in a quandary.
Kaifisaaab led a long and eventful life straddling many worlds and making an indelible mark in each of them.  He belonged to an era and an ethos that was unfamiliar to me. He wrote poetry in a language I couldn’t speak and which I understood with difficulty.
Ironically, I decided to start the journey by translating some of his most seminal poems into English.
That, I thought, would allow me to wrestle not just with the texts of his works but with their subtexts and their contexts as well.




Kaifinama Poster


Sumantra Ghosal :    sumantra@cinematixfilms.com