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Love for humanity, Love for art, Love for language, Love for the sake of Love. This World Theatre Day, presenting before you a tale of ‘living letters’ which encapsulate love in most variegated forms. 

Why ‘Tumhari Amrita’? 

In times, when Bertolt Brecht and Jean Paul Sartre; Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett become so relevant in a geopolitical and existential crisis, where and entire human populace is at halt, what makes an epistolary play about two ‘simple’ lovers so special? The answer might not be substantiated by the mere witnessing of this modern play, that initially even made its makers skeptical about its reception and future but would actually require a study in entirety surpassing the actual stage. 

When acclaimed Indian Playwright and director Feroz Abbas Khan got hold of American writer A. R. Gurney’s Pulitzer Nominated Love Letters, he thought of developing something akin and approached veteran screenwriter Javed Siddiqui, who re-narrativised the play in an Indian context and etched the greatest Indian Play of modern times. 

Two people reading out letters on a stage amidst an audience that has never seen something like this before seemed very experimental and interesting, especially when the only two actors comprised of legends like Shabana Azmi and Farooq Sheikh. 

Love for Language

Perhaps, Love has no language and can never be explained through words and utterances but if there is any known colloquial diction that can provide this emotion a script, it lies in this expression by Khushwant Singh, “Agar Aap Urdu Seekhna Chahte hai toh Ishq Kar Lijiye, aur agar Ishq karna chahte hai toh Urdu Seekh Lijiye.”

When Khan modelled the Indianised version of the Love Letters he believed Urdu to be the only medium that could ‘move the audience emotionally’ and ‘paint word pictures’, the language was popular both among the theater practitioners and viewers equally, he fused Urdu with a touch of Hindustani and hence the ‘jazbaats‘ were draped in these ‘khutoots‘. Moments of silence sometimes speak more and give us the language of love. 

Love for Humanity

Amrita Nigam and Zulfikar Haider are attached with nothing but the string of love which has shreds of passion, understanding and respect; despite belonging to different religions and culture, the shared emotion transcends a timeline of thirty five years from a period before independence and then attaining it with partition following till emergency. 

The play has not only been humanitarian in act but also in approach with more than thirty percent of the entire screening done for charity, the play has traveled the entire globe and has raised money for victims of Earthquakes in Lathur and Pakistan, the Kashmiri Pandits and a special drive at the United Nations. 

Love for Art

The play was an experiment in Indian theatre and has brought the stalwarts Khan, Siddiqui, Azmi and Sheikh together to create the longest running modern play in Indian History, the journey that began in 1992 lasted upto Shaikh’s death in 2013. Over the years, the play has brought immense honor to the art and to the country, with acclaim and emotional offerings the makers received and is still registered on the memories of the audience. 

Love for the sake of Love

In today’s world, envy and jealousy has rigged the human system, the low means and harsh actions are resultant of the lost love and compassion that can only be filled back by something like ‘Tumhari Amrita’, Zulfi and America’s love for each other was propotianate to their respective emotions that resonated in their actions while arguing and getting back. 

It cannot be mere coincidence that this epic tale of love had it’s final screening at the Taj Nature Walk, against the backdrop of Taj Mahal. The fortunate will always remember the departed Farooq Shaikh and living legends – Shabana Azmi, Javed Sahab and Feroz Abbas Khan. 

Image Credits: The Caravan Magazine

Faizan Salik

[email protected]

 

On the 18th death anniversary of noted poet Amrita Pritam on 31st October 2018, we take a look at her love affair with words.

Amrita Pritam ruled the world of Hindi
and Punjabi poetry in the 20th century.
Her words called out to people from various backgrounds: lovers, travellers,
women trapped in abusive marriages,
Partition refugees. With a literary repertoire of twenty eight novels,
fifteen prose anthologies, five short
stories, and sixteen miscellaneous prose
volumes, Amrita Pritam remains one of
the most haunting voices of the Indian
subcontinent.
Her work such as Pinjar and Ajj Akhaan
Waris Shah nu (I ask Waris Shah Today)
shot her into literary fame. People came
to look towards her words not just for love, comfort, and solace, but for the hint of rebellion. The tragedies that she faced in her life—migrating from Pakistan as a Partition refugee, early death of her mother, and subsequent loneliness, divorce from her husband, the unrequited love she had for Sahir Ludhianvi, another famous Hindi poet—made Amrita’s words shine stark against the pantheon of vernacular literature.

Born in 1919 in Gujranwala in what is Pakistan’s Punjab today, Amrita Kaur was an only child of Raj Bibi, a school teacher and Kartar Singh Hitkari, a poet. She published her first set of poems entitled Amrit Lehran in 1936 at the age of sixteen. In the same year, she married Pritam Singh, an editor and childhood friend. She then changed her name from Amrita Kaur to Amrita Pritam.

After Independence and her subsequent
migration to India from Lahore, she got
involved in social activism and a part of the e Progressive Writers’ Movement, a
defiant collective of writers like Syed
Sajjad Zahir, Rashid Jahan, Ahmed Ali,
Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Hameed Akhtar, and
Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi. She helped in the
establishment of the first Janta Library in
Delhi.

Her early poems published between 1936
and 1945 were filled with romanticism, a
prose that spun wildfire through exotic
images. Later, her work became grittier as Partition changed her both as a poet and as a social activist. These poems clearly reflected the trauma Partition had had on her.
Amrita Pritam, Sahir Ludhianvi and
Imroz’s love affair is probably one of the
most famous love stories memorialised
in prose, poetry, drama and other art forms. A play called Yeh Kahani Nahi
was performed by Miranda House’s
Hindi Dramatic Society Anukriti on the
same. The play, based on Amrita’s life
and directed by Shilpi Marwaha, was
brilliantly executed by the students and
left the jam-packed audience moved. In
many ways, Amrita’s words and her life in her words thus live on around us. Thus, in many ways, it was her tryst with words and the sonorous lines that poured from her pen that gave her true immortality. In one of her poems, Amrita wrote with a hint of melancholy:
A little smoke floats up,
and my ‘me’ dies like an eighth-month
child.
Will my ‘me’ one day be my contemporary?

Amrita Pritam passed away in her sleep on 31st October 2005, at the age of 86 in her residence in New Delhi, leaving a heartbroken lover in Imroz and an even more devastated audience. Unsurprisingly, her words refuse to die down and persist as our glorious contemporary truth.

Feature Image Credits: The Hindustan Times

Sara Sohail
[email protected]