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The Peerzadas from Pak

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Class act Samina, Usman and Qavi Khan
Class act Samina, Usman and Qavi Khan

THEATRE In Hyderabad for the first time, Usman Peerzada is no stranger to India

The City of Nawabs, Hyderabad, played host to Nawab Sahib Qibla, a 60-minute Urdu play that was brought from across the border in Pakistan by Usman Peerzada. The play, the fourth to be staged as part of Qadir Ali Baig Theatre Festival yesterday, got an enthusiastic response.

Nawab Sahib Qibla is a comedy of manners about a decadent nawab, “an economically dying feudal lord” as Usman put it. The play, a classic, was written in the late 1930s by Usman’s father, the legendary Rafi Peer, who is considered father of the modern Urdu drama in the subcontinent. “Rafi Peer’s voice is still alive with the archives of All India Radio. Raj Kapoor, Om Prakash, Kamini Kaushal, Chetan Anand were all his students. Prithviraj Kapoor had handed over Raj to my father for training,” Usman reveals.

The play, which was written to teach playwrights the art of sophisticated comedy, shows a daring role reversal with the debauchee Nawab Sahib losing his fortune to his servant. “It was meant to be a reality check for a degenerating aristocracy, a comment on the declining political and social fabric of society. The sentiments hold good even today,” pipes in the cheerfully pretty Samina Peerzada, Usman’s wife and an actor, producer and director like her husband. “Usman may feel shy talking about his father’s play. There’s meaning after meaning between the lines. The nuances change with the way the lines are rendered. Qavi Sa’ab (Qavi Khan, who has worked in more than 200 movies and performed in countless TV, radio and stage plays) as the nawab brings out the feudal mindset brilliantly,” she adds. The 64-year-old Qavi Khan, who could give a complex to men half his age, smiles.

The Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop may have arrived in Hyderabad for the first time but they are no strangers to India. With Manveen Sandhu’s Punarjyot, they have been holding an annual festival of music and culture, Saanjh, since 2004. The festival, held in two phases in Amritsar and Lahore, is a musical celebration of Indian and Pakistani culture. The Peerzadas are regulars at NSD and other culture hotspots in Delhi.

Enthusiastic about their first visit to Hyderabad, they want to sample Bagare Baingan. Samina wants to buy Hyderabadi bangles. They are staying at Taramati Baradari and the lure of the Taramati-Qutub Shah legend has taken hold of all three of them. The self-confessed romantic Samina, declares, “The cast rehearsed there in the morning. I’m not part of this play but I stood at the Baradari and spoke a few lines to see how far my voice was carried. How melodious Taramati’s voice must have been,” she rhapsodises.

Qavi Khan exults, “Sutan kay kya kaan aur kya baaz jaisi aankhen rahi hongi.”

The guests from Pakistan are flying back today. They have to make arrangements for their annual hoopla in Pakistan, World Performing Arts, a big event where last year 1000 delegates from 40 countries arrived. Music, dance, theatre, puppetry, art house, small budget films are part of the festival. The 10-day event, beginning November 13 this year, will have 150 persons from India and eight to 10 plays.

KOMAL VIJAY SINGH

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