Poetry of pain

Painting society A scene from the play.  

Asghar Wajahat’s “Jis Lahore Nai Dekhya O Janmyai Nai”, presented by SRC Repertory at its auditorium this past week, is a tour de force. The humanity of its protagonist is so deep and sincere that it stirs the audience emotionally, assuring them that humanity exists even in times of religious intolerance, savagery and social chaos.

Imaginatively conceptualised by director Rajinder Nath — a veteran theatre director and recipient of several honours, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1977 for his contribution to contemporary Indian theatre — “Jis Lahore...” caught the attention of discerning theatre audiences and practitioners when it was first directed by the late Habib Tanvir for the SRC Repertory in 1990. Ever since, it continues to be performed by various groups intermittently. It is one of the few contemporary Hindi plays staged in foreign countries, the most memorable production being the one by Khalid Ahmed and Sheema Kirmani and presented at the Goethe Centre, Karachi, in 1992 — which also featured at Bharat Rang Mahotsav-2009.

The basic appeal of this play for directors and theatre goers lies in its theme of universal compassion and indictment of religious fanaticism that is revealed in a manner free from intellectual jargon. The vivid dialogues are expressive of real-life situations. The plot structure is uncomplicated. The character of Nasir Kazmi, a poet who migrated from Ambala to Lahore in the wake of Partition, is drawn from real life; other characters are fictional. The tension keeps mounting until the climax.

The story is set in Lahore of August 1947 against the backdrop of Partition which witnessed unprecedented communal carnage and a tide of refugees, suffering miseries, indignities and death.

The chorus plays a vital role in the production, enriching its content and emotional appeal. Most of the lyrics rendered by the members of the chorus in tuneful voices are written by poet Nasir Kazmi. They are easy to comprehend and profound in their impact. The poet, himself a victim of Partition, portrays the deserted and bloodied human landscape which was once full of life. Nath’s production is remarkable for its slickness and brilliant acting. Some of the scenes deserve mention for their artistry. The scene which shows the transformation of animosity between the family of Sikandar Mirza and Ratan’s mother, a lone Hindu survivor in Lahore, is a blend of mine, movement and drama. The lyrically enacted scene symbolises the falling of the wall of hatred, the old woman becoming part of the Mirza family. A note of conviction runs through it, the conviction that it is compassion that unites humanity.

Similarly, the contrast between the joyous mood of Diwali celebration at Mirza’s haveli to show solidarity with Ratan’s mother and the menacing intrusion of Pehalwan, who throws a brass plate full of lighted diyas to the ground, threatening Mirza with dire consequences for his sympathetic attitude towards the old woman, is intensely gripping.

Symbolic sets

In some of the past productions we have seen heavy sets. Here Nath has conceived symbolic sets that suggest the right ambience and provide enough space for performers to act.

Shobha Sharma in the lead role of Ratan’s old mother delivers a brilliant performance, vividly bringing to the fore the pain, bitter alienation and moral strength of her character. Atul Jassi as Pehalwan, a religious fanatic and a dreaded wrestler, gives a powerful account of himself. His pehalwan has consuming hatred for the mother of Ratan and the maulvi for his humane world outlook. Sameep Singh as Maulvi Sahab, a devout Muslim, and Bhupesh Joshi as poet Nasir Kazmi act with compassion and understanding. Jatin Sama as Sikandar Mirza, a refugee from Lucknow, and Monika Gupta Mirza’s wife create impressive portrayals of their characters.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 3:06:30 PM |

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