Amidst the horrifying stories of the missing persons and the state they were produced in, in front of the Supreme Court, the hate rhetoric spewed out at the DFC jalsa in Karachi and the anguish in Balochistan and so on and so forth, there remain events that take place that become a fleeting oasis of sanity in the present-day Pakistan. They give inspiration not to give up on the ideal and the country it was supposed to be.
Two such happenings have gladdened hearts and provided succour to the spirits of those who attended. One was the two-day Karachi Literary Festival, which gave all those fond of books an opportunity to meet and hear the views of some well known authors from Pakistan as well as other countries. The other was the Faiz Aman Mela in Lahore. The Faiz Foundation Trust, set up by family and fans of Faiz to promote the progressive ideas of humanism, peace, tolerance and love of the arts and literature, were the organisers of the event. As 2011 was the centennial year of the poet’s birth, the whole of last year had seen many tributes to honour his memory worldwide. One would have thought that celebrating Faiz may have reached a saturation point, but the power of his poetry and the creativity of its presentation this year with some added novel touches that were all able to mesmerise and enthral an audience that sat spellbound.
The mehfil-e-ghazal at the Arts Council, Lahore, was the culminating event of the Faiz Aman Mela. The Arts Council is one of the institutions founded by Faiz and they collaborate with the Faiz Foundation Trust for this annual event held on his birthday on February 13, as does Bank Alfalah. This year was the double joy of a Faiz-Iqbal combine as the Urdu translation done by Faiz of Allama Iqbal’s book Payam-e-Mashriq from Persian was re-launched, so the repertoire included some powerful poetry of Iqbal too.
As an opening to the event students from the junior section of the Lahore Grammar School performed and sang live on Dua. They were followed by a choreographed performance by senior students of the same school on what has become a national favourite Hum dekhain gai. And then came the twist. A fusion that combined the narration of Faiz’s poetry and letters written during his years in jail and classical piano. The young performers, Adeel Hashmi and Asad Anees were truly gifted in their act together. Adeel’s delivery full of expression and Asad’s pieces by Chopin, Beethoven and Strauss - a perfect accompaniment.
The contribution of philosophical thought and poetry has remained significant to mankind in all civilisations, including the pre-Islam Arab civilisation. Those who had this gift have been admired and listened to. The verses of the Quran, too, are in perfect rhythm lending to the belief that poetry is an art form relished by the Creator. It also leads one to imagine that all the famous poets and writers of the world, who have had a positive impact, probably, enjoy a special status in the after world. If this is so they may have gathered to listen to Tina Sani, who was the pièce de résistance that evening and who sang both Faiz and Iqbal with verve and aplomb. She was able to bring alive the words of the great poets for the charmed audience.
She did the choicest selection of Faiz’s poetry beginning with a medley of ghazals that recalled some of the masters, who had performed them originally. She sang for over an hour and one felt that time too had frozen to listen. The culmination was Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa. This was written by Iqbal, as a dialogue with God. She sang the verses of the Shikwa, which were interspersed by a narration of the Jawab-e-Shikwa by Adeel Hashmi. It was goose pimplingly good. If only we could convey these sublime messages to our new generation, across the English/Urdu medium divide through such renderings and performances, instead of pure text book form, I’m sure they would register and be understood so much more easily. The space for radicalism of society has to be gained back by such continuous efforts. It is something we owe to the founding leaders and philosopher poets of Pakistan.
Another performing arts venture that is currently being prepared enthusiastically is the Urdu version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. It is a production by Theatre-Walay-Kashf and the Urdu version is called Illaj-e-Zid Dastayab Hai. The team comprising of some of the best stage talent of Lahore and Islamabad, including Nadia Jamil as the shrew, Salman Shahid, Omair Rana and Osman Khalid Butt, is preparing to represent Pakistan in 2012 cultural Olympiad. The upcoming Olympiad will dovetail with a six week Shakespeare festival in London called Globe to Globe, constituting 37 international companies that are poised to perform all of Shakespeare’s 37 plays in different languages. Theatre groups from all over the world will showcase their talent in London’s Globe Theatre. The adapted play being rehearsed currently is still looking for financial assistance to tide over the costs. Surely, somebody or group who is also interested in ensuring that Pakistan is projected in the Western media as different to how it is usually stigmatised, will come forward and help the production in meeting its costs.
The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.