Faiz Mujaddid Lahori: Unsung Calligrapher From Lahore Who Became Bollywood Legend - II

Faiz Mujaddid Lahori: Unsung Calligrapher From Lahore Who Became Bollywood Legend - II
Aside from his work in film advertising, Faiz Mujaddid had designed the titles of a number of Urdu dailies and magazines in India, alongside scribing their content itself. They included the monthly Shaa’yr, Subhe-e-Umeed, daily Urdu Times, daily Hindustan, the Mashooq daily, weekly Sarfarosh, weekly Musawwir, Artist, weekly Urdu, weekly Nasheman, etc.

Titles of newspapers and magazines designed by Faiz Mujaddid

There is an interesting story behind how he wrote the title of Nasheman. It is that Mr. Faiz had an interest in betting on horse races at the Banglore Turf Club. Every year he would go there for the grand event. There, he had befriended the noblemen of the city. Once, he was having tea at the club café with his friend when the editor of weekly Nasheman Mr. Usman Asad entered, and was introduced to Faiz sahib. He expressed his desire to Faiz sahib, asking him to write the title of his magazine. The latter apologised that he went there for the races, and didn’t keep a calligrapher’s pen and paper with him. In reply to that, Mr. Asad contemptuously replied that a true artist is not dependent on such little things. His contempt had such an effect on Faiz sahib that he asked the waiter to bring a splinter out of the old cane basket outside. He took out a fountain pen from his pocket and spurted out its ink on the table; took the splinter, dipped it in that ink and wrote “Nasheman” in beautiful Nastaleeq script on a piece of paper for the editor!

Title page of the book Muraqqa-e-Faiz

Apart from his professional life and regular interaction with the actors, directors and producers in Bollywood, Faiz sahib also befriended a number of them. There was an Indian screenwriter Wajahat Mirza who had penned the dialogues of some of the most successful films such as Mughal-e-Azam, Yehudi, Koh-i-Noor and Mother India. He would often spend time at Faiz sahib’s apartment. Dilip Kumar was a fan of Faiz sahib’s art and occasionally visited him.

Cover of the book Ghalib Musawwir

Amrita Pritam, the influential Indian novelist, considered him a brother. Once, Faiz sahib visited her at her place, and somehow the discussion took him to reminisce about the domestic abuse on his mother he witnessed as a child. This gave Amrita the plot for her story, and she later wrote her novelette Dau Awaazain (Two Voices).

Writer and playwright Saadat Hasan Manto was also one of his friends. In the late 1930s, Faiz sahib was showing his mettle with his line drawings in the Musawwir magazine. On the request of the magazine editor Mr. Nazir, Faiz sahib invited Manto from Lahore to join the magazine staff, and he lived at Faiz sahib’s apartment for months.

Illustration from Ghalib Musawwir

One major virtue for which Faiz sahib deserves huge credit was helping the struggling youngsters who came to Bombay to try their luck in various fields. Often people would come to him, and tell the stories of their struggle to him, that melted his heart. He would help them financially and even allowed them to stay at his house as long as they didn’t find one of their own.

One story is that of the great music director Naushad Ali, who left his home in Lucknow, and moved to Bombay to join the film industry. Initially, he did some menial jobs during his struggling phase and stayed at a friend’s house. When he didn’t find a place in the industry, he visited Faiz sahib’s house opposite to J.J. Hospital on Pir Khan Street, with reference to a friend. Faiz sahib offered him to stay at his place and took him to his friend M. Sadiq, who was a widely recognized film director. This led him to his entry in Bollywood. In the later days, Naushad met one the pupils of Faiz sahib, Syed Kifaiyat Hussain and said to him, “Kifaiyat Miyan! Agar Tumhare Ustad Naa Hote, to Aaj Hum Naushad Na Hote” (Mr. Kafaiyat! If your teacher had not help me in the hour of need, then I could not have become what I am today).

Faiz Mujaddid at the launching ceremony of the book Ghalib Musawwir

This student of Faiz sahib, Kifaiyat Hussain, went from Karachi to learn pen drawing from him in 1959. Faiz sahib extended his stay through his own sources, and kept him at his house. He taught him and took care of him every way possible. Later, this young student became a famed film poster painter in India, Pakistan and England.

During his lifetime, two books got published under Faiz Mujaddid’s name. In 1969, on the 100th death anniversary of Mirza Ghalib, together with his friends, he decided to bring out a unique edition of Diwan-i-Ghalib. In that book, he, along with the film poster painter Ram Kumar Sharma, depicted the poetic verses of Ghalib through pictures. Faiz sahib made pictures using line drawing and also scribed the complete text of the diwan, while Ram Kumar Sharma painted the different scenes in oil paints under the directions of Faiz sahib. This book titled “Ghalib Musawwir” was published in 1973 by his student Noor Ud Din Azad. This book was launched at a grand ceremony, where the president of India Fakharuddin Ali Ahmed was the chief guest. He bestowed Faiz sahib with the title “Khattaat-ul-Hind” (The Great Calligrapher of India).

In the early 1980s, another student of Faiz sahib, Aslam Kiratpuri who had learnt calligraphy from him, requested to write a book on the rules and methods of Nastaleeq calligraphy. But Faiz sahib was hesitant as to how he could write such a book in the presence of Muraqqa-i-Zareen written by his teacher Tajuddin Zareen Raqam. But there were repeated requests from his student and he was given the reason that Muraqqa-i-Zareen is not available in India. So, he agreed to write one. Soon, in 1982, the book titled Muraqqa-e-Faiz was brought out in collaboration with Aslam Kiratpuri, that acts as a guide for the Urdu calligraphy students in India even today. Kiratpuri later on became the president of the Urdu Calligraphers’ Association in Bombay. In August 1984, Faiz sahib visited Lahore to meet his relatives. A grand dinner was also held in his honor by the Calligraphers’ Society of Pakistan under its president Mr. Ikraam-ul-Haq. His recently published book was appreciated in that event, and an album comprising the best works of the top Pakistani calligraphers was presented to him.

Faiz Mujaddid and his students - Faiz Mujaddid with Kifaiyat Hussain in 1959 (right) and Aslam Kiratpuri in 1973 (left)

In his last days, he suffered from typhoid. After selling all his belongings and his apartment, he left Bombay to settle in Bangalore with a friend of his. It is rumoured that the money he received after selling his property was donated to a widow. Some people say that the money was given to a poor person, so that he could perform Hajj.

On 20 September 1987, he left this world. He never married and thus had no children.

The legacy of Faiz Mujaddid continues with the efforts that his student Aslam Kiratpuri from Bombay invested in the creation of a computer font called “Faiz Lahori Nastaleeq.” This font was produced after incorporating Faiz sahib’s style of writing Nastaleeq into the core design. Presently, this font is available with In-Page software and is used all around the world for Urdu digital compositions.

The author is pursuing a PhD in Art History from Punjab University