What's a Ghazal? Javed Akhtar Sheds Light at JLF
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Attendees at the Jaipur Literature Festival today were taken on an educational journey on the 'ghazal' by eminent songwriter-poet Javed Akhtar who told them about its real meaning and difference with 'geet' or 'nazm'.

The session "What is a Ghazal? Form, Structure, Spirit" saw Akhtar speaking about the art of ghazal singing and the extensive 'riyaaz' (practice) that goes into it.

He started with the fact that not many people could differentiate between a ghazal and geet or nazm. While a nazm is a poem with one single thought, a ghazal is a compilation of couplets, he said.

"Ghazals are not just written by Urdu writers," he said, adding, "I know a few German writers who write ghazals. Ghazal is by temperament liberal, secular, and even agnostic."

The session included a wider discussion on poetry and language.

"Poetry is the collective dream of a society... Language isn't a script and it isn't vocabulary. Instead it is syntax and grammar," said the veteran lyricist.

He rued that Urdu has been "sacrificed" for socio- political reasons. "Language belongs to a region, not a religion," he emphasised.

Festival co-director Namita Gokhale said it is important for people to know about the ghazal in India because it belongs to this region.

"With this session I'm sure that people here at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival will now know, what is a ghazal," she said.

Ending the session, Akhtar said it is the world's misfortune that it doesn't have access to great Urdu writers. He narrated one of his ghazals, which was met with a round of applause by the audience.

The session was introduced by Canada-based spoken word artist and author Sheniz Janmohamed, whose first book "Bleeding Light" is a collection of poems in ghazal form that traces the steps of a woman's journey through night.

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