LAHORE - The first day of the fourth Faiz International Festival kicked off yesterday at Alhamra Arts Council, with a session titled ‘Faiz and Kaifi’.

Bollywood veteran actor Shabana Azmi expressed her views along with Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s illustrious daughter Salima Hashmi in the session. Moderated by Adeel Hashmi, the session went quite informal and interesting as with Mira Hashmi’s chit-chat with the panellists.

Earlier, Shabana Azmi along with her husband Javed Akhtar, who is a renowned Indian writer, entered Pakistan via Wagah border.

The couple also met with Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar at the Governor House and reciprocated his message of peace and love. The governor said that Pakistan believes in peace and wishes to establish a peaceful relationship with people across the border.

The three-day festival will continue till November 18, in which all events are free and open for all - except for Tahira Syed, Tina Sani and Zia Mohyeddin’s performances.

Shabana was extremely happy to see the huge number of people waiting outside the hall just to have her glimpse. As she entered the hall, she was received by a thunderous round of applause.

“We have come to Pakistan after seven years but we are here only for a day. I promise, next time we will come for a longer period of time. I have come with a message of peace and I strongly believe that both countries should have peaceful relations,” Shabana said while talking to the media.

Talking about the life of Faiz Ahmed Ahmed, her daughter Salima Hashmi said: “I was wearing a new dress which my father had sent to me from jail on my birthday. At that time I got to know my father wrote a book and there was a launching ceremony of it in a local hotel at The Mall.

“My duty was to distribute that book to everyone sitting in the hall. After reading that book, people got mesmerised and started saying ‘Wah Wah’ and I could also see that some of them had tears in their eyes.

“That day I realised my father is not an ordinary fellow. He is a revolutionary artist who through his book, written in jail, influenced the hearts and minds of people in our country.”

Speaking about her childhood, Shahbana said: “My father Kaifi Azmi was a member of the Communist Party of India. We always had an active social life, and our home was always thriving with people and activities of the communist party. It was not unusual for us to wake up in the morning and find members of the Communist Party sleeping about, from a previous night's communist social that ran late.” She continued: “My childhood was spent in a commune and after some time my family shifted to a semi-commune at Red Flag Hall in Bombay. My father Kaifi Azmi, the member of Communist Party of India (CPI), shared a flat with comrades such as Ali Sardar Jafri and Sawantji.

Each family of us had a room and a balcony converted into a kitchen. For eight years, I grew up amid CPI meetings. He [my father] always used to a carry a flag of red colour. So I always used to think red mean’s party time.”

Speaking about her parents’ love story, Shabana said: “Kaifi Azmi and Shaukat Kaifi had met for the first time at a ‘Mushaira' in Hyderabad in 1947 and the latter was mesmerised by the communist poet, whose poetry she believed was driven by a mission.”

“I am a huge fan of the film songs written by my father. I worked in two or three films in which my father’s songs were recorded. I remember when I was told to act on the song ‘Koi Yeh Bataye’ for Arth film, the lyrics was so deep and simple that I got mesmerised by it and the steps came naturally,” she explained.

“Kaifi Azmi was a rare poet who practised what he preached. After getting a paralytic stroke which rendered his left leg and left arm incapacitated, he gave up the comforts of Mumbai and settled in Mijwan, a village frozen in time.

“In 1993, he founded an NGO titled Mijwan Welfare Society (MWS) that worked for the empowerment of villagers in that small village in Azamgarh, UP, where he was born. He always used to say one thing: if you carry on working with dedication then the change is bound to occur - even if it happens after you,” Shabana said.

The veteran actor ended the session singing the poetry of Faiz which was a treat for the audience. Javed Akhtar also recited his poetry and received a standing ovation. The first day of the festival ended with a play by Ajoka Theatre dedicated to Madeeha Gohar and an exhibition on the life of Faiz Ahmed Faiz.