Javed Akhtar
654,034 views • 10:00

Shah Rukh Khan: The speaker you are about to meet is someone who knows and understands the value of words like no one else does. In his writing career spanning over four decades, this man has chosen words with beauty and versatility, like a flower springing to life ... like Mr. Bachchan’s memorable punches ...


like a best-selling book of Urdu poetry ... like well ... what do I say, only Javed Akhtar Sahab.


Please welcome onstage, the one and only Javed Akhtar Sahab.

(Cheers and applause)

Javed Akhtar: Friends, this topic — the power of words — is an interesting one, and one that's very close to my heart. It’s strange how we often overlook things that are so close to us, near us. How many people question, "Why is air transparent?" Or, "Why is water wet?" How many think about what is it that has passed? Time has passed. What came? What went away? How many of us wonder?

Similarly ... the words that we speak and hear all day, how many times have we really thought, "What exactly are these words?"

Words are a strange thing. You once saw an animal and decided it’s a "cat." But cat is a sound. This cat has nothing to do with the animal. But I have decided it’s a cat. So a cat it is. So I gave the sound the identity of this animal. After that I made a semicircle, a pyramid, cut into half, then a straight line, then another below it, and wrote: "cat." In these criss-crossed lines, I filled a sound and into that sound, a meaning.

Now like with this cat, even with love, anger, a thought, an idea, pain, suffering, happiness, surprise, everything has been linked with a sound. And then sounds were fit into some criss-crossed lines that we call a script. So three things that had nothing in common were joined by us to create a word. A sound that is actually gibberish has been added onto it. And the lines, crooked lines, they formed a word. Incredible!

And I have come to believe that with time, these words have become like human beings. A man is known by the company he keeps. Similarly, with words, what is the company it has been keeping? What are the other words being used with it? For an average noun or an average verb, an average mind can quickly create reference. Where did they hear it? See it? What does it remind them of? What is its connection? When was it last used in conversation? What has been my experience with it? A host of memories appear when you hear a word you remember. And a good writer or orator is one who knows that when he uses a certain word, an average mind will associate it with a certain reference, specific memories will be evoked. Then he can create a world around a word.

What is the power of a word? Be it a mother’s lullaby, a politician’s speech, love letters from your beloved, or a complaint against someone, a protest call ... anger, sadness, happiness, surprise, belonging, alienation anything in the world, any feeling in the world, any emotion, any reaction, until it is expressed in a word, it will not have any meaning for you, forget getting across to anyone else.

Words are not thoughts, just like bricks are not homes. But houses are made with bricks. If you have less bricks, you will make a small house. The more words you have, the clearer your thoughts, and the more clearly you can convey them.

Nowadays I often hear, especially from young ones, “You know what I mean?" No, I don't know what you mean.

(Laughter) “You know what I mean,” is running out of words.

Everything is now moving fast so communication has to be fast as well. But the tragedy is that we have attained this speed at the cost of depth of words. We want to speak faster, so everything is faster, so the language is also faster, hence communication is faster. But this speed has affected depth. Which means that forget about other people, just look at yourself. You are not being able to articulate your own feelings, thoughts or emotions in a detailed manner or clearly. And these words, as long as words exist, they aren’t there just for a meaning. They are also a conveyer belt of language, words. They reflect your culture, your traditions, your inheritance, your cultural wealth accumulated over generations, all of that is carried forward with words. If you cut a man off from some words, you cut him off from a culture, a history. This is exactly what is happening with us today.

So language is a very powerful thing. Words are extremely powerful. But by themselves, they are neither good nor bad. If we start loving words and understand their power, we would realize that everything that happens in the world is because of words. Or there would be nothing between us and the rest of the creatures, the rest of the animals, although we too are animals. The only difference is that we can pass on, through our words, our experience, our learning and our knowledge to the next generation. So we don’t only live on instinct but our slowly accumulated experience and knowledge over generations is passed on to the next. Through what? Through words. And if we didn’t have these words our advantage is gradually over other species would diminish over time.

We advanced only because we have language. And if we didn’t have that we wouldn’t be here. We would be right where we started.

So what does language mean? Words! So learn to respect words. Love them. Befriend them. Listen to them attentively. And speak attentively.

Thank you!


SRK: Thanks a lot, Javed Sahab, for coming here today and sharing such wonderful things with us. I have known Javed Sahab since I came to Mumbai about 25 years ago.

JA: I was really young then.


SRK: Yes. You are still very young, Sir.

But I have got a lot of my education, my ideologies and many more things from Javed Sahab. I’ll share a small incident. He got angry with us while working on a film. He sometimes gets angry when unlettered people like us give him suggestions that maybe we could use this word or that instead. So our film was called

"Kuch Kuch Hota Hai."

(Cheers) And he did not like the title at all.

So once when he was really mad at us kids, who are like his kids even now, he retorted: "Now my heart remains neither awake nor rests. What do I do? Oh! I feel something strange. Is that what you want?"

In fact the entire song, all the words, were thrown at us by Javed Sahab in anger. And that song went on to become extremely popular. So even when Javed Sahab throws out words in anger, they turn into golden words. That’s his gift.


JA: Well, the incident that Shah Rukh Sahab shared is indeed true. So on hearing this title, "'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai," I was shocked. I felt it wasn’t dignified enough.


Though to be honest, I regret leaving such a super hit film over its title. So I left the film. Later I also felt a little embarrassed, and he too felt bad. So we decided to let bygones be bygones and work on some other film. Hence, the film "Kal Ho Naa Ho." I told him that everything else is still fine but I owe you two kuchs.

Two kuchs.


So I’ll write a song and return these two to you. I wrote a song specially for this reason called

"Kuch to hua hai, kuch ho gaya hai."

(Cheers and applause)

and he returned his two.


Ladies and gentlemen, big round of applause for Javed Akhtar Sahab.