A life in a play

A life in a play

Musical theatre

A life in a play

Ishq par zor nahin hai ye wo aatish ‘Ghalib’; jo lagaye na lage aur bujhaye na bane’ (We have no control on love, it is such a fire, which cannot be snuffed or kindled at our own desire). This couplet was one among the many that highlighted the literary genius of Mirza Ghalib in Kathputliyaan Theatre Group’s play titled ‘Zikr-e-Ghalib’ which was presented in the city recently.

Directed by Zafer Mohiuddin, it was based on Ghalib’s letters to his friends and family, and his ghazals. Zafer, whose appreciation for the writer was seen through the play, says that he merely compiled the works but the script was entirely by Ghalib, who speaks through his words even now. And to make the writing more accessible, especially to those who don’t understand the nuances of Urdu, Zafer added music and dance components to the play. “I was hoping to get across Ghalib’s works with the help of narration, singing and dancing,” he says.

While Zafer was the narrator, Nandini Mehta, who also choreographed the dances, and Smitha Srinivasan performed the kathak pieces. The director mentions that Nandini had to sit with an Urdu scholar to understand Ghalib as she isn’t familiar with Urdu, but the end result was good as she learnt to transform Ghalib’s words into movement. When they were on stage, each movement looked effortless and graceful, and they seemed to understand his words perfectly. 

Talking about the process and time it took to ready the play, Zafer says, “It took us 4 to 5 months. First, I had to work with Raghupati Jha, a ghazal singer, to get the language and accent right. Then I worked with Ashwini Koushik, the flautist, on the notation. In different sessions, I also sat down with Ajay Kumar Singh, the tabla player, Sarfaraaz Khan, the saarangi artiste and Ankita Kundu, who was on vocals.”

The auditorium of Ravindra Kalakshetra was filled to the brim. “We added an additional 150 seats but even that wasn’t enough,” says Zafer. With this encouragement, he wants to take the play to other cities like Delhi, Lucknow and Hyderabad where Urdu is part of daily life. “That’s not to say Bengaluru doesn’t have an audience. The city is no longer just Malleswaram and Rajajinagar; it is a cosmopolitan city with a diverse group of people, including those who appreciate Urdu poetry,” says the director.  Zafer wants to popularise Ghalib’s work among the youth as he thinks they don’t understand them well enough. He says once you understand his works, you understand life and love much better. “Even today, Ghalib’s works are relevant.”  

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