he recently-concluded Urdu Drama Festival hosted by the Urdu Academy at the Sri Ram Centre was a fiesta of reminiscence and romantic indulgence. In its 23rd year, the event was dedicated to Pakistani poet and intellectual Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911–1984) to commemorate his birth centennial. Five plays selected from a gamut of scripts were staged through the week by various cultural and theatre groups, celebrating the life and works of Faiz.
Wings Cultural Society presented Chand Roz Aur Meri Jaan, a dramatic depiction of letters exchanged between Faiz and his wife Alys while he was in exile. It was enacted by Danish Iqbal and Salima Raza respectively. Mujh Se Pehli Si Mohabbat Na Maang, directed by Ramji Bali and performed by Acme group was an adaptation of his poem to a period of struggle in Faiz's life. Tera Bayaan Ghalib, directed by Dr Hadi Sarmadi and performed by Bahroop Arts Group, was an adaptation of one of his few plays for the radio for the first time on stage. The festival concluded with Jo Dil Pe Guzarti Hai, directed by Dr Saeed Alam and presented by Pierrot's Group and Kuch Ishq Kiya Kuch Kaam by IPTA, written by Danish Iqbal and directed by K.K. Kohli.
Now, with the younger generation preoccupied with materialism, language too is a currency and there is no place in their wallets for anything but English, he says.
A surprise element was the presence of Faiz's daughter Moneeza Hashmi in the audience during the staging of Chand Roz Aur Meri Jaan. An overwhelmed Hashmi said that the world knew Faiz, but did not know Alys who kept their family together. She thanked Raza for depicting the deep love of her parents through letters she had never had the courage to read. "Through all the struggle and separation, they never lost their romantic love for each other, or their sense of humour," Raza says.
"Tera Bayaan Ghalib, written for Rs 15 in desperate times, is not so much drama as rumination. And yet, we had the audience gripped by his narration," points out Dr Sarmadi. The language Urdu, he stressed, did not belong to any one community, it was the language of humanity and of India as a whole. "Communities die out, but languages continue to live." For Raza too, Urdu is a language rooted in Indian soil. "It might be dying as script and increasingly getting associated with romance and nostalgia. But if you look around, it is everywhere, from news channels to daily usage," she points out.
Anis Azmi, Secretary of the Urdu Academy, echoes this sentiment. "After Partition, Urdu became Pakistan's official language and generations of prejudice has meant it is hugely ignored in India," he laments. Now, with the younger generation preoccupied with materialism, language too is a currency and there is no place in their wallets for anything but English, he says.
Created by the state government's Department of Art, Culture and Language in 1981, the academy has been involved in promoting the Urdu language through seminars and workshops. "Twenty three years is a good run. Perhaps, next year, we'll make a tribute to Saadat Hassan Manto," he muses.