Amidst the light drizzle and clearing skies, were people lugging in props, the backstage was a flurry of activity with actors going over their lines, making final touches to their makeup, and people shouting directions. Preparations were in full swing for setting up the play “Kahani ki Kahani, Ismat ki Zuabani”, which was performed on September 23rd, in the Law Auditorium, Panjab University.
The play was put up by the Indian People’s Theatre Association and was organized by the Adab Foundation in collaboration with the Department of Indian Theatre, Panjab University. It was based on Ismat Chughtai’s life, a renowned Urdu writer, known for her bold and fearless texts- as described in her autobiography “Kaghazi Hai Pairahan”, and her most discussed stories, “Lihaaf”, “Do Haath”, “Bichhu Phuphi”, “Gharwali”, and “Dozaqi”. The play was written and directed by Noor Zaheer, a well-known writer, researcher, and activist. It also examined the tumultuous relationship Chughtai shared with Saadat Hasan Manto, who is considered one of the greatest and most controversial writers of short stories in Urdu history.
The event was delayed by an hour owing to the change in venue because of the unrelenting rain. But that did nothing to dull the enthusiasm of the University students, and theatre enthusiasts who thronged the venue well ahead of time, and settled in for a visual treat. Honorable guest and Chairman of Adab foundation Mr. Mitul Dixit, delivered a speech, followed by Shaayeda from Adab Foundation who introduced Noor.
The play opened with a conversation between Ismat (played by the magnificent Noor herself) and her daughter, as they discussed her decision to write an autobiography.
“I’m not afraid of writing the truth. I’m afraid of NOT being able to write the truth,” she said poignantly. The performance followed her life, from her struggles to convince her father to let her study, to her stormy relationship with husband Shaheed Latif- who introduced her to Manto. The dynamic between the two most controversial writers in Urdu history was the focal point of the theatrical performance. They were both tried twice for obscenity in the Lahore court- Chughtai for “Lihaaf”, and Manto, for his work “Bu”. After partition Ismat was one of the few Muslim writers to stay in India, while Manto migrated to Pakistan.
“Every issue has two sides. Without knowing both, you do not write literature. You write propaganda,” she explained, to an appreciative applause from the audience.
The performance ended with a song as the entire cast took the stage and sung along with the audience clapping to the beats. They brought down the house and took a bow to a lot of hoots and a standing ovation from everyone present. Noor then walked on to the stage and humbly accepted the appreciation with joined hands and a bow.
“It was wonderful being in this city, and with these people.I loved seeing so many young people in the audience, and I hope to perform here again sometime,” she said, beaming. The audience lined up backstage to have a word with the cast, who happily answered questions and mingled with the crowd. “I fumbled badly on stage once, but I’ve been told no one noticed so it’s all good,” laughed the actor who played ‘Mirza’ from one of Ismat’s stories.
The event was a success, gauged by the happy and awed faces of the people as they left the theatre. The performances were described as amazing and breathtaking, by all. The cast and organizers were served snacks later, after which they left for their hotels. The play was part of a series of events leading up to the Chandigarh Literature Festival, scheduled to be held in November. Literature loves are sure to stay tuned for further events that are to follow, promising to satiate their thirst for knowledge.
About the Author:
As you reap, so shall you sow-there’s no fairer judge in the universe than karma.
Hi,I’m Vrinda Gupta,avoracious reader and an avidwriter. Writing, to me, is a way to give wings to your voice, a voice which must not be constrained by conventions,
Or bogged down by have-to’s. There is
No substitute for hardwork; every ounce of effort one puts in, will eventually pay off someday. A
Considerate attitude and an open mind are key mantras to a successful and fulfilling life, and
These are beliefs that I live by.
About the Photographer:
Rhea Vaibhawi (Dept of Mass Communication, PU Campus)