Parvez Ahmed is not happy about the fact that the rehearsals of his play ‘Bol Ke Lab Aazad Hain Tere’ won’t take place at the India International Centre (IIC). He wishes there were arrangements for his crew to do at least one mock performance at the venue. “I should divert my mind. Let’s talk about something else. They (the artistes) know the play well enough to perform it anywhere,” says Ahmed.
Written by Ahmed and produced by Abhigyan Natya Association, the play will be performed at IIC on Sunday, the second day of the Jashn-e-Adab festival.
The play tells the story of the life of Faiz Ahmed Faiz -- widely considered to be one of the most progressive poets of his generation -- through his poems. Apart from his most popular poems, including ‘Bol ke kab azaad hain tere, bol zabaan ab tak teri hai’, Ahmed claims that the audience will discover his lesser known works too. “He wrote on apartheid prevalent in South Africa and human rights violations in Palestine,” says Ahmed.
Born in 1911 in present-day Pakistan, Faiz was a revolutionary poet and a celebrated Urdu writer. He was a member of the Progressive Writers’ Movement, a left-leaning, anti-imperialist writers’ collective. In 1990, the Pakistan Government posthumously honoured him with the nation’s highest civil award, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz. His work remains influential in Indian and Pakistani literature.
Like a lot of his unrevealed couplets, the play also touches upon many aspects of the poet’s life that people may not be so familiar with, says Ahmed. “Many of us would like to believe that we know Faiz. This is not the case,” points out Ahmed. “His life was dramatic. He joined the British Indian Army and went to become a lieutenant colonel. He edited the socialist-English newspaper Pakistan Times but never hesitated to criticise the policies of the government of Pakistan. He was a communist but also a member of the Progressive Writers’ Movement.”
Ahmed, the Delhi bureau chief of Pakistan’s ARY news, hails from Ujjain. He was active in theatre in school and college. In 1979, having finished his M.A. in Urdu and with a degree in Law as well, he enrolled for an M. Phil in Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
He became a journalist and continued to write as a hobby. His novel Mirzawadi traces the impact of Partition on people living in his neighborhood in Ujjain. ‘Ye Dhuan Kahan Se Uthhta Hai’, one of the plays he wrote, is about the affect of Partition on Muslims in India.
Ahmed’s friend from Ujjain, Lokendra Trivedi, started teaching at the National School of Drama and founded Abhigyan Natya Association. Ahmed’s own interest in writing and association with Trivedi ensured that he never left theatre.
In 2012, Delhi’s Ghalib institute asked Ahmed do a play for them. He adapted one his plays ‘Chhoti Deodi Waliyan’ (Women From the Small Mansion) for stage. Abhigyan Natya Association rehearsed the play for more than a week when the secretary of the institute told Ahmed that there was a change in plan; now they had to come up with something on Faiz and perform it within 25 days. “I went to the Sahitya Akademi library and read everything available on Faiz. The artistes rehearsed the play as I wrote it. We were so pressed on time,” recalls Ahmed.
Much has changed, says Ahmed, from the time he started writing plays. “People have scaled the budget down drastically. Recently, someone asked me to perform a play in Bhopal with just two or three artistes. I said it was not possible. I don’t work like that,” he shrugs.
Apart from Ahnmed’s play, the fifth edition of Jashn-e-Adab, a two-day festival to promote Hindustani culture, has quite an appealing lineup. There will be discussion on the status of language vis-à-vis university culture, a poetry recitation by Javed Akhtar, Tom Alter reciting Miza Ghalib’s poetry and Dastangoi (storytelling) by Darain Shahidi and Poonam Girdhani.
What: Poetry festival Jashn-e-Adab
When: December 10-11, 9 am to 9 pm
Where: India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg
Entry is free