Theatre

Simply in a word

Yog Raj Tandon   | Photo Credit: email

“Urdu has a rich heritage of dramaturgy. Notable writers include Ahsan Lucknavi, Narain Prasad Betab, Agha Hashr Kashmiri, Imtiaz Ali Taj and Krishn Chander whose plays were produced by professional theatre companies. There was a time when Urdu dominated theatre, cinema and radio. Now it is passing through a difficult phase but this will not last long. I am optimistic about the future of Urdu,” says Yog Raj Tandon, Urdu playwright, whose collection of Urdu plays broadcast by All India Radio was released recently at the Ghalib Academy, Nizamuddin. Entitled “Rang Awaz Ke”, the collection contains 14 radio plays, of which Doordarshan has also telecast some. The book is a celebration of the magic of the actor's voice with myriad colours and tones.

Born in a small town called Quila Shakhupura near Lahore in 1931, Tandon has been writing plays for the stage, radio and television for the last six decades. In the wake of the Partition, his family migrated to Delhi. “I always wanted to be a writer. In my hometown I simply loved to hear writers and read their stories. After Partition I thought this is the end of my dream of becoming a writer. However, I was fortunate to be able to interactwith great Urdu writers in Delhi who were generous enough to encourage and guide budding writers,” he relates.

“The writers used to meet once a week at the house of Prem Nath Dar in Sita Ram Bazaar where they would read their latest work followed by discussions. I invariably attended these meetings but was too shy to read my stories at the meeting. The notable writers included Devendra Satyarthi, Josh Maliabadi, Arsh Malciani Jagan Nath, Sagar Nizami and Rewati Saran Sharma. Eminent Hindi writers like Vishnu Prabhakar and Janendra Kumar Jain would also join these literary discussions remarkable for their intellectual excitement and insights into the craft of a writer. The writers met under the banner of Halqa-Zauq-e-Arbab-e-Urdu. Later, the venue of the meeting was shifted to Delhi College, Ajmeri Gate.”

Bombay days

As a young aspiring writer, he fancied that only by going to Mumbai he could achieve his ambition. He ran away from home in 1950 and landed in the house of Prithvi Raj Kapoor, his father's bosom friend from school days in Lahore, and worked as his assistant, moving from one town to another with his touring theatre company. While in Mumbai he would find time to attend meetings of the Progressive Writers at the house of Sardar Zafri where he had the opportunity to meet Kaifi Azmi and Rajender Singh Bedi.

As a producer of radio plays he provided an apt perspective to the actors' voice by changing the position of the mike and the sound effects. The listener would visualise the action of the play.

Talking about the golden period of Urdu radio plays, he says writers like Upendra Nath Ashk, Krishn Chander, Saadat Hasan Manto, Rajender Singh Bedi, Sajjad Zahir, Ismat Shahid and Ishrat Rehmani wrote plays for radio. People would listen with rapt attention. Today, All India Radio's Urdu service rarely produces new plays, he laments.

The strength of his plays lies in his keen observation of human life and its social ambience. His characters are recognisable. In the words of Dr. Aqeel, secretary of Ghalib Academy and an Urdu scholar, “In the plays of Tandon the relationship between mother, father, brother sister, husband and wife and their emotional worlds are presented realistically and in an unaffected manner. His language is lucid and simple.”

Recalling his days with Prithvi Raj Kapoor, he says that during that period he wrote four plays, “Bhatti”, “Goonga Saaz”, “Dhnadha” and “Suhaag Ki Bheekh”, to which the veteran listened and offered his suggestions. “He was a great artist and above all a great human being. He encouraged me. I gained under his tutelage not only how to work with actors and the craft of a playwright but also how to be a citizen and a good human being.”

Tandon he retired from Doordarshan in 1989 but continues to write with more vigour. For over a decade now, he has been covering cultural events, especially theatre, for various Urdu papers, including Qaumi Awaz until its closure, without remuneration. “Writing is a labour of love for me — it gives me immense pleasure.”

PLAY TO RULE

Yog Raj Tandon has authored “Theatre Ke Sartaj Prithvi Raj” on the life and work of theatre and cinema legend Prithvi Raj Kapoor. Its Hindi version, translated by the author, has been published by the National School of Drama.

He also has three collections of plays: “Natak To Hoga”, “Rang Zindagi Ke” and “Rang Awaz Ke”.

The books were published with financial assistance from Urdu Academy, Delhi.

A recipient of the Ghalib Institute's Ghalib Award, Tandon retired from Doordarshan in 1989 but continues to write. For over a decade, he has been covering cultural events, especially theatre, for various Urdu papers, including Qaumi Awaz until its closure, without remuneration.


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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 5:43:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Simply-in-a-word/article16214383.ece

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