Aghajani Kashmeri

16 Oct 1908
27 Mar 1998
Film Industry
Offer Flowers
Light a Candle
Pray for the soul
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Syed Wajid Hussain Rizavi (Urdu: سيد واجد حسین رضوی, Hindi: सैय्यद वाजिद हुसैन रिज़वी, (16 October 1908 – 27 March 1998), better known by his Bollywood film name, Aghajani Kashmeri (Urdu: آغاجانی کشمیری, Hindi: आग़ाजानी कश्मीरी) or Kashmiri (Urdu: کشمیری, Hindi: कश्मीरी), also Agha Jani and Aga Jani, was an Indian screenwriter, former actor and Urdu poet.

Kashmeri was born on 16 October 1908, in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. He ran away from home in his late teens to star in an early Bollywood film, Shan e Subha (variously listed as Shan e Subhan and Shane Subhan), which was being shot in Rangoon.In part, he was inspired by his first cousin, Nawab Kashmiri, also of Lucknow, the best-known character actor in early Indian cinema, with hits such as Yahudi ki Ladki (Daughter of the Jew), in which Nawab played an elderly Jew.Subsequently, Aghajani returned to Calcutta, did bit roles and a few lead roles, two of them opposite Begum Akhtar. Two of the movies he acted in were Miss Manorama and Anokhi Ada, both in the 1930s.

Given his literary upbringing in Urdu – he was a pupil of the famous Urdu poet Arzoo Lucknowi and was schooled in Urdu literature – Kashmeri joined the film studio Bombay Talkies, learned screenplay writing with Himansu Rai, and wrote his first movie in the early 1930s. It was directed by German director Franz Osten, who worked in Bombay Talkies at the time. The movie, named Vachan (1938), proved successful and Kashmeri went on to write more than 50 movies

In Bombay (now Mumbai) he and his wife lived with their sons Zuhair Kashmeri and Sarwar Kashmeri.He wrote for Bollywood producer-directors including Subodh Mukherjee, Sashadhar Mukherjee, Sunil Dutt, Mehboob Khan, Himanshu Rai of Bombay Talkies, Franz Osten, Pramod Chakravorty; and actors Ashok Kumar, Veena, Devika Rani, Noor Jehan, Suraiya, Sadhana, Saira Banu, Joy Mukherjee, Shammi Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Nimmi.

Aghajani Kashmeri’s home in Bombay, a fourth floor apartment overlooking the Arabian Sea in a building called Keki Court, was the venue for some of the greatest poets, songwriters and ghazal singers of the time. He wrote an autobiography in 1971, Sahar Hone Tak that was published in both Urdu and Hindi. It is now out of print and the copyright is owned by his sons Zuhair Kashmeri and Sarwar Kashmeri. Sahar Hone Tak has been praised by critics for its candid writing, its colourful description of early Lucknow and its mushairas, descriptions of poets who have faded into obscurity, with their verses as remembered by Aghajani, and descriptions of the very early Indian cinema in Calcutta and in Bombay (Mumbai). It documents the development of early storylines in the Indian cinema, the cultural and social themes that marked post independent India, and how slowly the movies veered towards the formula films of Bollywood today.

Aghajani retired in Toronto, Canada, with his wife Khursheed Kashmeri, who died on 7 May 1996. Aghajani himself died on 27 March 1998. Both are buried at the York Cemetery in Toronto. His life is recounted in a one-hour documentary produced by his son Zuhair Kashmeri with funding from OMNI-TV of Canada.It features a traditionaal poetry session, mushaira, in Lucknow, and lovely shots of the historic monuments and streets of Lucknow; and footage from early films such as Najma, Amar, and later films such as Mujhe Jeene Do, Junglee, Love in Simla and Humsaya, all written by Aghajani Kashmeri.

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