Theatre

Know your Ghalib from Danish Iqbal

Evoking nostalgia: Danish Iqbal  

So prevalent and persuasive are his poems that not just literary figures but common man too quotes them frequently. While the issue of belief could elicit “Jab ke tujh bin nahin koi mojud, phir yeh hungama ay Khuda kya hai” (If no one exists except You then God, why do I hear this cacophony); romance prompts “Ishq ne Ghālib nikammā kar diyā, varna ham bhī aadmī the kaam ke.” Yes, that is Delhi’s very own Mirza Ghalib.

Even though popular, not many know about this legendary poet’s life and times, especially the millennials. Stepping in to fill this void is “Dastan-e-Ghalib”, a dastangoi (an Urdu story telling art form) written and directed by Danish Iqbal, featuring Fouzia Dastango and Firoz Khan. It was staged at the Ghalib Academy Auditorium on the occasion of the 51st Foundation Day of the Academy and 151st death anniversary of the poet. “Ghalib’s couplets on diverse issues are quoted so often without even realising that they are his. What makes him special is the fact that his poetry is easy to listen to,” observes Iqbal. He feels the production may trigger an interest in this legendary poet. On choosing the dastan format, Iqbal says: “It doesn’t require a set, lighting, costumes, etc. making it less expensive than staging a play. It needs research, stylised and rhythmic language and poetic flow, the last two being tough.”

Choosing apt incidents from the poet’s life, Iqbal comprehensively etches out this legendary character for the viewers. Written in a biographical format, it showcases Ghalib’s attributes well. Recalling how he lost his father and uncle early in life, it moves on to cover his childhood, youth and the later period. “I wanted to highlight how Ghalib with good tastes of life, struggled throughout due to financial difficulties caused by the suspension of his pension by the British,” says Iqbal.

Varied facets of personality

Doing well to highlight the diverse aspects of Ghalib, the production provides glimpses into the multi-faceted personality. As a philosopher, he turns his attention to life and what it means and goes on to question the concept of heaven as he says “Ham ko maalūm hai jannat kī haqīqat lekin, dil ke ḳhush rakhne ko Ghālib ye ḳhayāl achchhā hai. “Going beyond the set and prescribed norms, boundaries and rules, Ghalib, believed in questioning, reflecting the depth of his intellect,” explains Iqbal.

The story did well to bring out his wit and intelligence. After returning from prison, the poet stayed at Miyan Kale Sahib’s residence. On being congratulated on his release, he said, earlier I was in gore (white) Sahib’s prison, now I am in Kale’s Sahib’s. Likewise, accompanying Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, as part of his entourage, during a walk in the royal garden, Ghalib looked closely at the mangoes. When the King enquired, he promptly said, “Dane dane pe likha hai khane wale ka naam” (every morsel carries the name of the one to eat it). This prompted the Emperor to send him a basket of mangoes.

By including excerpts from the letters written by Ghalib before and after the First War of Independence in 1857, Iqbal underlined the poet’s historical perspective. Besides, expressing his grief, the correspondence also details the casualties, destruction of houses and property, during the upheaval.

Besides Ghalib’s couplets, Iqbal has included tributes paid to him by different old and contemporary poets. “The reason is to emphasise that how well respected and loved Ghalib was, and is, as a person and literary figure,” he explains. Thus one hears satirist Dilawar Figar’s lines, “Woh aadmī thā ḳhatā aadmī kī hai fitrat, ye kyuuñ kaheñ ki vo insāñ nahīñ farishta hai” ((He was a man so was not infallible; why to say he was an angel). Or “Hazar logoñ ne chāhā ki us ke saath chaleñ magar woh pahle bhī tanhā thā ab bhī tanhā hai” (So many people wanted to take the path he traversed; yet none could, so he was alone then as he is still). “Inclusion of poetry in dastan is aesthetic reiteration of what is being stated in the story and ensuring audience engagement,” avers Iqbal.

Both Fouzia and Firoz narrated the story and the poems effectively, bringing out the pathos, humour, wit and finer nuances through the right pauses and stress, facial expression and hand, body and eye movements. With the audience joining them in finishing some of the couplets, made the show interactive. While Fouzia plays an anchor, Firoz, with his facial and eye movements, made the performance energetic. “Having worked for more than five years, we both complement each other,” says Fouzia.

Iqbal feels Ghalib is more relevant today than before. “A product of syncretic society, he was a great humanist, liberal and free thinker. What is worth noting is that the elements were imbibed not through Western education but Indian culture.”

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2021 1:19:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/know-your-ghalib-from-danish-iqbal/article31048681.ece

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