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Lecture – Javed Akhtar John’s Hopkins SAIS
Opening Remarks by Ambassador Said T. Jawad

Opening Remarks
April 15, 2011


  • Thank you very much for joining us today. My name is Said Jawad, I am the Diplomat-in-Residence for the South Asia program here at John’s Hopkins SAIS. I would like to welcome you and thank you for your interest.
  • It is my distinct pleasure to introduce to you Mr. Javed Akhtar, a member of the Indian parliament and one of the preeminent poets, screenwriters and lyricists of our time. He is also a true icon of Bollywood.

Mr. Akhtar belongs to a prominent family that can be traced back to seven generations of writers, poets, Sufis and freedom advocates. One of his forefathers is Maulana Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi, who was a well-known philosopher, poet and scholar.


Mr. Akhtar was born as Jadoo Akhtar. He lived in Lucknow, Aligarh and Mumbai. He went to the Aligarh Muslim University, a prominent university that produced some of the best known Indian Muslim political activists.


In the 1960s, and along with his partner Salim, he produced screenplays for major hit films like Hathee Mere Saathi, Zanjeer, Trishul, Andaz, Seeta Aur Geeta, Sholay and Don. As a lyricist, Akhtar wrote songs for today’s best Bollywood movies including, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Veer Zaara, Om Shanti Om, Jodhaa Akbar.


In 1980, he began writing Urdu poetry. His first collection of Nazms and Ghazals, entitled “Tarkash” was released in 1995. It is already in its ninth edition in Hindi and its fifth edition in Urdu.


Mr. Akhtar has received the Padma Shri award by the Government of India. Javed Akhtar has also won the Filmfare Award fourteen times for the categories Best Script and Best Lyrics. In 2001, Akhtar received the National Integration Award from the All India Anti-Terrorist Association.


In recent years, Mr. Akhtar has addressed many prominent universities in the world including Harvard, Columbia, Oxford, Cambridge and other academic institutions on issues pertaining to national integration, women’s rights, social justice, cinema and poetry.


What I admire about Mr. Akhtar most is that he is a founding member of the respected Muslim Intelligensia, a group that has been vocal against all forms of fundamentalism and leads Muslims to concentrate on education and women’s rights. He is an active member of “Citizens for Justice and Peace”, an organization which combats genocide. He is also the President of the Muslims for Secular Democracy.


India Today has recently named Mr. Akhtar one of their 50 Most Powerful People in India.


Mr. Aktar is married to Shabana Azmi, India’s most respected actress, a social activist and former member of Parliament.


Please join me in welcoming Mr. Javed Akhtar.