The India International Centre put up the play Chand Roz Aur Meri Jaan recently. Directed by Salima Raza, the play is a dramatised reading of the letters exchanged between Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Pakistan’s poet laureate and one of the most important litterateurs of Urdu language, and his wife Alys, when he was imprisoned in Pakistan between 1951 and 1955.
Combined with recitation and singing of Faiz’s verse, it showed how the letters nurture a partnership that can hold out against oppression. Salima Raza played the role of Alys while Banwari Taneja played Faiz.
The setting of the play was simply a table and a chair placed on either side of the stage, one depicting a home and the other a jail, separated by a huge scroll of Faiz’s poetry in Urdu. The play begins with Alys narrating how one night in 1951, Faiz was arrested without a warrant and wasn’t even allowed to take his clothes with him.
He departed after taking one last look at their daughters. The rest of the play forms a narration of the letters they write to each other over the period that Faiz is in prison. Interspersed with poignant poetry, the letters talk about their private lives, how they lived without each other and their pain in the four years of separation. Sometimes there were moments of laughter and some private jokes but most of the time, they discussed sadness, shortage of money and the long time that lay ahead which reeked of more separation.
But, according to one of his poems, the motto of Faiz’s life was, Naumeed to nahin dil nakaam hi toh hai; lambi hai gham ki shaam par shaam hi toh hai – meaning that the heart is not without hope since the evening too will give way to dawn.
Finally, in one of his letters, Faiz counted that there were 120 weeks before he could return. And that is when he wrote, ‘Chand roz aur meri jaan; Fakht chand hi roz’ — meaning, just few more days, my love. The play ended when they finally met, singing this phrase.
Salima was given the original letters by a friend of hers, who believed she could do something extraordinary with them. When she first got hold of the letters, she only held a reading of the poems. But to paint a complete profile of the poet and his wife, Salima turned it into a play after a lot of editing and translating. “It was first performed at JNU earlier this year and this screening is just in continuation of paying homage to the poet and bringing forth the relationship between him and his wife,” Salima says.