The Fire-breathing Singer
Ali Hashmi
MUGHANNI-E AATISH NAFAS: SAJJAD ZAHEER by Sibte Hasan Maktab-e- Daniyal,, 2011, 111 pp., 150
April 2011, volume 35, No 4

Anyone possessing even a passing familiarity with the Progressive Writers Movement would know Syed Sajjad ZaheerBannay bhai. Zaheer never attained the dizzying heights of fame and acclaim accorded to say, Faiz but that is probably the way he would have preferred it.

Bannay bhai was the driving spirit behind the formation of the All India Progressive Writers Association. He was the one who gave concrete form to the dream of so many writers, artists and intellectuals in the ferment of the preIndependence years. He was one of the authors, along with Ahmad Ali, Mahmooduzzafar and Dr. Rasheed Jahan of Angaray, the seminal collection of short stories published in 1932 that laid the foundation of modern literature in prepartition India, breaking it away decisively both in form and content from the traditional.

Angaray was widely acclaimed and just as widely decried, especially by the conservative Urdu press as heretical and obscene. This was no accident. Ahmad Ali, one of the authors later wrote,we were filled with zeal to change the social order and right the wrongs done to man by man Others described it as aferocious attack on society in modern literature,a declaration of war by the youth of the middle class on the prevailing social, political and religious institutions.

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