What is it like smoke, that rises

Sans distress: Parvez Ahmed with his book of plays at the Shri Ram Centre in New Delhi. Photo: V. V. Krishnan  

Parvez Ahmed surveys the stage before the presentation of his play Bol ke Lab Azad Hain Tere, like a villager at his child’s convocation in a big city. The play directed by Lokendra Trivedi was successful in Bhopal. But this is Delhi — where the audience knows all and novelty is relative.

It was this city which lured Ahmed from Ujjain — the city of Kalidasa — to do theatre at a time, “when Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) roamed these streets (of Mandi House) with a cigarette and a swagger.” Ahmed went on to do research theatre at Jawaharlal Nehru University and ended up as a journalist. Today he heads the New Delhi Bureau of Pakistan’s ARY News.

His play, staged on Thursday, was based on the nazms of progressive writer Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Ahmed is conscious of the work inspired by Faiz that the city has seen since his centenary last year. He states his play is different.

“People read Faiz in bits, they rarely read his whole text. I discovered a different Faiz in theatre. There’s always a debate among Urdu scholars on whether the communists hijacked a romantic poet like him. But how could he be a revolutionary without being a die hard romantic?”

The Urdu Academy had asked him to stage his Yeh Dhhuan sa Kahaan Uthhtha Hai, but later on asked him to do Faiz, for a festival last year.

“They suggested a 30-year-old play by Sheela Bhatia. I thought, let’s write one instead. We (AhmEd and Abhigyan Natya Association) did it in six weeks.

The play is based on his popular nazms but also the not too known ones on Africa, Iran and Palestine. This internationalist tendency of AhmEd stems from his understanding of partition and its impact on his home mohalla of Mirzawadi. He has penned a novel of the same name, this year.

One of its main characters commits suicide leaving a wife and three children behind. The wife’s struggle to bring up her children and the rejection of litigation to divide the family estate was Ahmed’s metaphor of rejecting partition and yearning for closure.

“Partition was a generational suicide, especially for Muslims. It left a generation behind widowed and orphaned. I want to dump this historical baggage and move on,” he says.

In a review of his novel in Hindi magazine “Shukrvaar”, Urdu scholar Shamim Hanfi wrote, “The ashes are warm, but the complete distress or angst (khurdurapan) is not found in this novel.”

“That is my objective,” he explains. “To harp upon the fact that Muslims don’t get houses on rent negates the fact that this is a society where caste discrimination exists too. The truth is that despite riots and fanatics the majority of this country is not communal. I don’t want to be bitter. We need to give respect and get respect.”

Increasingly drawn back to theatre, the seductress that dragged him to the Capital, Ahmed says he finds greater intellectual satisfaction in plays than in journalism. “I’ve worked with some of the best journalists and finest human beings — people who were honest to the core. Journalism was more than just a job. Now it isn’t like it used to be. People have left, intellect has diminished and values have deteriorated.”

Here at Mandi House, he is still hopeful, of finding that elusive intellectual satisfaction. At the canteen of Shri Ram Centre, he’s still that boy from Ujjain with a script waiting to be staged.

The play was part of the Modern Theatre Festival organised by Delhi's Sahitya Kala Parishad and the Department of Art, Culture and Languages, Government of Delhi.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 4:55:26 AM |

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