In the 1930s, the Bhendi Bazaar area of Mumbai (then Bombay) was home to connoisseurs of Urdu poetry and literature, like Kaifi Azmi, Kamal Arohi, Janisar Khan, Sahir Ludhianvi and Majrooh Sultanpuri, among others.
However, over the past few decades, the influence of Urdu has faded. Now Zubair Azmi, director of Urdu Markaz, an organisation that works towards the development of Urdu literacy, has decided to launch an annual event — Bhendi Bazaar Urdu Festival — to help its revival. “With this festival, we aim to connect our present generation to their rich roots.
Also, people perceive Bhendi Bazaar as a hub for underworld activities; we’d like to change that perception,” says Zubair Azmi.
The three-day event will feature several plays, ghazal performances, poetry-reading sessions, panel discussions featuring literary exponents like Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, Waheeda Rehman and Prasoon Joshi, among others.
An interesting exhibition of 300 photographs documenting the lives of literary figures of Bombay from 1903 to the 1980s will also be on.
“In the panel discussion, the history of Urdu literature will be pitted against the present scene. These forums are open to public. The point of celebrating our roots is to highlight the progressive writers’ movement that took place here and to acknowledge how this place gave birth to living legends. Shabana Azmi literally grew up in this scene. Also, a young Javed Akhtar was part of the Bhendi Bazaar Urdu belt. This place has historical importance,” adds Azmi.
The Bhendi Bazaar Urdu Festival will be held from January 10 to 12 at Imamwada Municipal Secondary School Grounds, Dongri, between 6 pm and 10 pm. Entry is free.
1. Staging of Mohammad Bhai. A play by Saadat Hasan Manto, it is based on the real-life account of a man living in Kamathipura.
2. Ghazal performance by Khushboo Khanum, who will sing some of the most popular ghazals of the century.
3. Screening of a documentary on Amir Khusro, which highlights the contributions of the Sufi poet towards Urdu literature and culture.