Ismail Merchant's feature directorial debut addresses a subject close to his heart: the expressive Urdu language of Northern India, in danger of extinction as political trends and modernization obscure its contributions to Indian culture. Merchant 's treatment is wry and good humored , as his characters - an aging Urdu poet (Shashi Kapoor) and a worshipful young college lecturer - clash despite their shared passion for the beauty of words. Anita Desai adapted her novel with Shahrukh Husain, incorporating poems by Urdu author Faiz Ahmed Faiz. The movie won the President of India Gold Medal for Best Picture in 1994.
Cast: Shashi Kapoor (Nur), Om Puri (Deven), Shabana Azmi (Imtiaz Begum), Neena Gupta (Sarla), Sushma Seth (Safiya Begum), Ajay Sahani (Siddiqui), Tinnu Anand (Murad), Yusef Khurram (First Young Man), Riju Bajaj (Second Young Man), Nayeem Hafizka (Third Young Man), Veerendra Saxena (Fourth Young Man), Munawwar Naqwi (Fifth Young Man), Sanjay Mohan Sagar (Sixth Young Man), Nafisa Sharma (Brothel Madame), Sagar Arya (Chiku), Prayag Raj (Mr. Jain), Sameer Mitha (Manu), Shahid Masood (Dhanu), Maza Bi (Safiya's Attendant), Alakh Nandan (Trivedi), Prashant Khirwadkar (The Registrar), Manxoor Ahtesham (Jayadev), Razzak Siddiqui (The Principal)