Urdu festival Jashn-e-Rekhta begins in Delhi
The Urdu festival Jashn-e-Rekhta is back to celebrate the language, its literature and culture in all its richness and variety
In the season of spring and literary festivals, this perhaps is the sweetest offering and the biggest of its kind. The third edition of Urdu festival Jashn-e-Rekhta (JeR) opened this Friday and over the weekend, scholars, writers, poets, singers, artists and admirers of the language will gather at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts in Delhi to celebrate Urdu in all its forms. The roster of the two-and-a-half-day festival includes panel discussions, dastangoi (storytelling) sessions, mushairas, qawwalis, ghazals, baitbaazi, street plays – to be held simultaneously across four venues – as well as a book exhibition, a calligraphy workshop, the Urdu Bazaar (presenting the antiquities and handicrafts of Old Delhi), a food festival, and more.
“This year, we’re trying to revive baitbaazi, which is like antakshari but with Urdu poetry, by showcasing it at the bigger venue, the stage lawn,” explains Sanjiv Saraf, festival director and founder of the Rekhta Foundation. “We’re also having a number of mushairas this year: a grand mushaira, one for women poets, one for the youth and another focusing on humour and satire.”
The festival will host over a 100 eminent speakers from the world of cinema, arts and culture, including lyricist-poet Gulzar, screenwriter and playwright Javed Siddiqui, adman and lyricist Prasoon Joshi, Urdu poet Wasim Barelvi, actor-director Saurabh Shukla, actor Nadira Babbar, journalist Saeed Naqvi, food critic and historian Pushpesh Pant, actor Sharmila Tagore, advocate-littérateur Saif Mahmood, poet-politician Kumar Vishwas and actor-radio host Annu Kapoor.
Delhi history enthusiasts can look forward to the session, ‘Dilli Jo Ek Sheher Tha’, where historian-blogger Rana Safvi will be in conversation with historian Irfan Habib on the language and culture of the city through the ages. “We’ll be talking on the development of the boli in Delhi – by the common people and as well as in the court from the 8th-9th centuries to 1857,” says Safvi.
Also, among the highlights this year are sessions on the legacies of Hindi writer Munshi Premchand and Urdu poets Firaq Gorakhpuri and Jaun Eliya. Premchand’s grandson, professor Alok Rai, who taught English at the Delhi University, will be part of the session that looks at his grandfather’s contribution to Hindi and Urdu literature.
“The subject is surrounded by such clichés that the conversation needs to move to something more interesting than the alleged greatness of the writer,” says Rai, a first-timer at JeR.
Singer-musician Vidya Shah and poet-actor Danish Husain will pay a tribute to the 20th century Progressive Urdu poets like Jigar Moradabadi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Majaz Lakhnawi and Majrooh Sultanpuri by performing some of their poetry. “There will be poetry readings, anecdotes, sharing of the context of their work juxtaposed with singing. I will be singing some of their political works, some poems which celebrate their love for Urdu and some popular film songs,” says Shah.
Food critic and historian Pushpesh Pant, who will be part of the session on the local food heritage on Sunday – Urdu Tahzeeb ka Husn-e-Zaiqa with scholar Ali Khan Mahmudabad, food writer Dipa Bagai and publisher Atiya Zaidi – believes Urdu to be the language of the common man. “It does not only belong to the literate and poets, it belongs to the common man. It started that way in the bazaar. It started with the army cantonments,” he says. “I am quite excited about the session because both food and language are matters that concern the tongue and I think evolution of both Urdu rekhta and the Indian cuisine have certain features which run in parallel.”
Jashn-e-Rekhta, which debuted in 2015 at the India International Centre, found an eager audience from very its inception, says its founder. “We thought the website is something still two-dimensional,” says Saraf about the online repository of Urdu poetry that he launched in 2013. “The idea was to take a smorgasbord of everything Urdu to the public. We had thought if 200-250 people attend the first edition, it would be sufficient,” he says. “But 18,000 people came in the first year.”
Last year, the festival was attended by 85,000 people. “About 70 per cent of our attendees are the youth,” says Saraf. The star-studded lineup each year (last year lyricist Javed Akhtar, actor Tom Alter, director Tigmanshu Dhulia, writer Shamshur Rahman Faruqi were among the speakers) and the ever-growing numbers are a testimony to the popularity of Urdu in the cosmopolitan national capital.
What: Urdu festival Jashn-e-Rekhta
When: On till February 19, 2017
Where: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Gate #1, Janpath, New Delhi
Entry is free after registration. Register at http://jashnerekhta.org/