Jafar Jabbarly was a renowned Azerbaijani director, screenwriter and playwright. The fact that his plays are still dramatized into stage shows and his stories are adapted into films is the proof of his exemplary work. His passion for bringing out the characters to life helped him create a niche for himself in the theatrical world. However, his interest was not just limited to stage plays. He forayed into screenplay and became the first screenwriter of Azerbaijan. This multi-talented personality went on to excel in three directions of cinema – playwriting, screenwriting, and direction. Since theatre was always his first love, he was equally inclined towards theatre as he was towards cinema, struggling and working to develop both areas of art. Some of his highly acclaimed works include ‘Baku War’, ‘Bride of Fire’, ‘Sevil’, ‘Almaz’, and ‘Shah Hasreddin’, which were appreciated by both viewers and readers, equally. Under his direction, he encouraged and allowed his team to bring out their creative thoughts and infuse them with production of movies. During his short lifetime, he wrote about 20 plays, poems, short stories, and articles, with the most significant plays being ‘Sevil’ and ‘Almaz’, not to forget his Azerbaijani translation of the William Shakespeare’s epic ‘Hamlet’
Childhood & Early Life
Jafar Jabbarly was born as Jafar Gafar oglu Jabbarly on March 20, 1899, in Xizi, Russian Empire (present day Azerbaijan).
After his father’s sudden death in 1902, the family moved to Baku, where he and his three siblings were brought up by their mother.
He completed his schooling in 1915 and went to Baku Polytechnicum to pursue electromechanics.
In 1920, he enrolled in an applied medicine program at the Azerbaijan State University, but changed his course to Oriental studies since he didn’t find medicine interesting.
With a dream to make it big in dramatics, he went to a local theatre for drama lectures, in 1923.
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Since he was inclined towards literature from the start, he began writing poetry as a teenager. His first volume of poems released in 1911 in Hagigat-i Afkar, an Azeri daily.
In 1920, he took up the job of a literary worker and translator in the newspaper ‘Kommunist’. Subsequently, he became the chief of literary section in the National Drama Theatre, in 1929.
He forayed into direction by filming his play ‘Sevil’ in 1929, which was released by the State Cinema of Azerbaijan. It was highly appreciated and well-received, especially by women.
In 1934, he wrote a screenplay for his play ‘Almas’ and began shooting in Dedegunesh village, in Shemakha district. The movie was completed by his friends and colleagues, after his untimely death, and released in 1936.
Apart from ‘Hamlet’, he also translated William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’, Alexander Afinogenov’s ‘Fear’, and Pierre Beaumarchais’s ‘Marriage of Figaro’.
Some of his dramas that were filmed into stage plays include ‘Sevil’, ‘Almas’, Bride of Fire’, ‘Fading Flowers’, and ‘Aydin’.
A couple of his dramas were made into successful films by various producers. Some of them were ‘Yashar’, ‘In 1905’, ‘The Turn’, ‘Sevil’, ‘Aydin’, and Ogtay Eloglu’.
He is said to have authored over 20 plays during his lifetime, along with numerous short stories, poems, essays, and articles. Due to his sudden death, two of his plays – ‘Afqanistan’ and ‘Ince’ were left incomplete.
He pioneered in bringing European dramas to the Azerbaijani stage with his translation of William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ into Azeri in 1925, followed by directing its stage play at the Azerbaijan Drama Theatre in 1926.
As the first screenwriter in Azerbaijan, he wrote the first script for the screen version of ‘Haji Gara’ titled as ‘Sona’, eventually ending up writing almost a new play.
‘Sevil’ and ‘Almaz’ are considered to be his best works, both of them focusing on the oppression and struggles of women to maintain pace with life and eventually fighting for justice and freedom.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was married to Sona Khanim.
Just as he reached the peak of his career, he suffered a heart failure and died on December 31, 1935, in Baku, Soviet Union, at a young age of 35, leaving the entire cinema world in shock. He was interred at the Alley of Honor.
A subway station, a street, and the national film studio, Azerbaijanfilm, are named after him.
His melodrama ‘Sevil’ was adapted into the first film-opera in Azerbaijani cinema’s history in 1970 and became the first ever cinematographic opera in the history of Soviet cinema drawn from a modern theme.
His life and works have served as a storyline for a number of Azerbaijani documentaries made over the years, posthumously, such as the 1979 ‘An Unfading Spring’.
In 1980, a monument of Jafar Jabbarly was constructed on the premises of Azerbaijanfilm studio, in his honor