Fourth edition of Bhendi Bazaar Urdu Festival all set to romance connoisseurs with ghazal, nazm, qawwali | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Fourth edition of Bhendi Bazaar Urdu Festival all set to romance connoisseurs with ghazal, nazm, qawwali

BySabah Virani
Feb 17, 2024 08:16 AM IST

It is with this rich history in mind, buried today under a thin layer of dust that comes with the changing times, the Urdu Markaz started the Bhendi Bazaar Urdu Festival in 2014. On Saturday, February 17, the fourth edition of the three-day festival is all set to romance the connoisseurs with a plethora of events till February 19

Mumbai: Zubair Azmi, director of Urdu Markaz, a literary and cultural organisation promoting Urdu language, calls Bhindi Bazaar “the cultural hub of erstwhile Bombay.” It is where the who’s who of Urdu poets and writers lived, congregated and even rehearsed for the turns of phrase that went on to make the golden age of Indian cinema. “The Wazir Hotel in Nagpada used to be an “adda” for the poets and writers like Kaifi Azmi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi, Aziz Nazan, and more. It has been almost 40 years now since it shut, and is now replaced by Shalimaar,” he said.

Javed Akhtar (L) at the Bhindi Bazar Urdu Festival in 2023. He is scheduled to inaugurate the fourth edition of the festival on Saturday.
Javed Akhtar (L) at the Bhindi Bazar Urdu Festival in 2023. He is scheduled to inaugurate the fourth edition of the festival on Saturday.

It is with this rich history in mind, buried today under a thin layer of dust that comes with the changing times, the Urdu Markaz started the Bhendi Bazaar Urdu Festival in 2014. On Saturday, February 17, the fourth edition of the three-day festival is all set to romance the connoisseurs with a plethora of events till February 19. The festival will be harkened by Javed Akhtar at 6pm at the Imamwada Urdu Municipal School in Dongri, followed by a night full of Sufi qawwali. “Aktar’s father, Jan Nisar Akhtar used to live in the Arcadia building here in Nagpada,” said Azmi. “With the festival, we wanted to celebrate the language and revive the memory of the greats of Urdu poetry and literature that blossomed here and whose work has stitched itself into the fabric of the city.”

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To this end, on day two, the ‘Mohsin-e-Urdu’ award will be bestowed upon those who contributed immensely to keep the language alive and thriving. This year, the award will go to Sachin Pilgaonkar, famed Marathi actor and writer; Burhani College, for continuing to offer Urdu as a subject in the junior and senior college level; and Sanjay Deshpande, director of the Centre for Central Eurasian Studies in the University of Mumbai for introducing Sufism in the research syllabus. Pilgaonkar will harken the Urdu Marathi Sahitya Forum, a quarterly meeting of around 50 Urdu and Marathi writers since 2012. He said, “I owe my connection to Urdu to the legend Meena Kumari ji, who trained me. I’m extremely grateful to be the recipient of this award.”

The writers share translations of momentous texts – Azmi gives the example of Maulana Azad’s speech in Urdu on the steps of the Jamia Millia Islamia during the Partition. “We would like such a forum to bloom in every district of Maharashtra, so an announcement by such a popular Marathi voice will do it good,” said Azmi.

This will be followed by a very Bollywood musical fiesta helmed by writer Sohail Akhtar and songs by Archita Bhattacharya.

“Bollywood songs have borrowed immensely from Urdu language in its poetic and aesthetic forms,” said Suhail Akhtar Warsi, who has written a book ‘Urdu and Bollywood’. “It is the Progressive Writers Group, which included Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who festered in Bhendi Bazaar pre and post-independence that went on to write for Hindustani cinema. As we impart more knowledge about the different Urdu poetic forms, the ghazal, nazm, qawwali, and how they’re embedded into Bollywood, listeners will be able to enjoy them more.”

The third evening features another set of delights; a musical performance of Manto’s two short stories, Toba Tek Singh and Khol Do. Azmi will then give a talk from his eponymous book, ‘Kuch ilmi, kuch filmi, Bhendi Bazaar Se: A Talk on the literary and cultural life of Bhendi Bazaar.’ This will be followed by the inauguration of a new Urdu poetry collection, and readings of short stories by Ismat Chughtai and Javed Siddiqui. All along, the festival also has a show on a photography exhibition of the Urdu poets and writers in their Bhindi Bazaar haunts.

“Even though many Urdu poets have now died, and others have shifted to Mumbra and Mira Road, the soul of Urdu literature still lives here,” added Azmi. “This was the aim to start the Urdu festival. We don’t want Bhindi Bazaar to be known for Chota Shakeel, but the poet Shakeel Badayuni; not by Dawood Ibrahim, but the linguist Dawood Dalvi.”

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