‘क’ से कविता !

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“अकेले बैठ कर कविताएँ पढने और साथियों के साथ पढने में अंतर तो है, और दोनों के अपने सुख भी हैं |’ क से कविता’ एक मौका है साथ पढने-सुनाने का. ‘क’ से कविता के बृहत् परिवार का ज़िक्र केवल शब्दों तक नहीं सिमटा है|इसमें रंग भी बिखरे हैं | यूँ कहें कि रंग केवल बिखरे नहीं, बल्कि समेटे गए हैं शब्दों की परिधि में|” – ‘क’ से कविता-हैदराबाद.

I first participated in the fourth gathering of ‘क’ से कविता held at IIIT Hyderabad in November 2016. It was an evening of reading ghazals and nazms of the famous shayar Makhdoom Mohiuddin, a name I had heard as a teenager, and whose ghazal was one of my favorites from the film ‘Bazar’. My envy, heart warmingly so, knew no bounds when I heard a soulful rendition of the same song, ‘Phir Chidi Raat Baat Phoolon Ki’ from one of the talented participants, Gursharan.

Minakshi Chaudhary, Praveen Pranav and Sudarshan Vig, the trio that came together through mutual love of poetry, first laid the foundation of  ‘क’ से कविता-Hyderabad, dedicated to reading poetry from old classics. That Hindi and Urdu are dying languages is a topic of much debate. This noble initiative revives not just some old poet, poem or ghazal, but nourishes and re-introduces the beauty of these Indian languages to the contemporary generation too. I have enjoyed reciting some poems purely for the joy of pronouncing fine vocabulary from the days of yore 🙂 .

‘क’ से कविता is not just a boring session of reading poems. Each session is meticulously planned by first choosing a poet of the month, followed by extensive research on the life of the Hindi poet or Urdu shayar. Participants then select a composition of their choice from the writers’ collection and recite on the day of the baithak. There is an occasional tussle when we end up choosing the same poem 🙂 . Well, the early bird gets the worm. I recall, Sanyog Thakur once mentioned he was keen to read a poem on ‘farmers’ and I had stolen the golden chance from him 🙂 Sorry Sanyog ji 🙂 , I hope you beat me sometime soon to a lyrical piece.

The highlight of the evening is when the host regales us with interesting anecdotes from the life of the poet. Driven by passion, it is not surprising that they are able to dig out minute details on the life and times of long forgotten writers. In one of the recent sessions, I was enamored by Pakistani Shayara, Parveen Shakir’s life and her enchanting compositions.

‘क’ से कविता-हैदराबाद celebrated its first year anniversary in August 2017 with much pomp and fervor. The idea was strictly to not make it lavish, but spectacular nevertheless. ‘क’ से कविता founding members from Dehradoon and other cities came down for the day long festivities of poetry recital, discussions, song and dance events. Praveen Pranav’s presentation of Sahir Ludhianvi’s ghazal, ‘Rang Aur Noor Ki Baarat Kisey Pesh Karun’ was a colorful festoon of melody that day. His singing was unpretentious and stirring.

Surprise is an element that keeps relations alive and fresh. Here too, we are pampered with a pleasant surprise or two, off and on 🙂 ; “Kuch alag karte hain” (Let’s do something different this time), as Minakshi puts it enthusiastically. At one of our meetings, we were each given a red rose with a small note that contained a poem from the chosen poet of the months’ collections, that we could recite apart from what we chose to share. The upcoming session on 7th Oct looks just as inviting. The plan is to read poet Shri Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s poetry-drama ‘Urvashi’, that explores an ancient narrative between Urvashi, Pururava and other celestial characters. It promises to be an interesting session as each participant gets to choose a character and read specific verses. I’m sure looking forward to it.

The rules of the group are straight forward. The founding idea is to promote literary legacy in Hindi and Urdu of Indian writers. We do not read our own poetry nor promote personal writing in any way.  There’s a strict taboo on all/any discussions on politics, religion or cast. Love for poetry is enough to participate, you don’t have to be a poet or writer. No age barrier, anyone can participate. What strikes me the most is that the event is Free Entry for all, and so it should be. Why or how can one make any kind of profit on reading from other people’s literary work? On the other hand, organised events do require funding. Debatable, huh!

As a high school student, I never really enjoyed Hindi/English poetry classes much. It wasn’t so much the poems that irked me, but the questions that came at the end of the lessons. “What is the poet trying to convey through the poem?” Now, eons ago some dreamer serenaded his or her love on a moonlit night and I had to decipher its meaning and language. Life could not have been more unfair back then.

On the contrary, life is now beautiful and lyrical with my friends of ‘क’ से कविता.  The tweety bird is chirping. Come, let us join the chorus 🙂 .

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Jee Huzoor: A satire in Hindi by Kissago Theatre.

Nikolai Gogol once said, “It’s the most righteous, which of course is not the same thing as the most profitable.”

Kissago Threatre‘ and ‘Theatre for a Cause‘ staged a satirical play in Hindi, ‘Jee Huzoor’, at Phoenix Arena, Hyderabad, on Friday, 15th September 2017. Part of a month long ‘Theatre for a Cause’ mission organised to support and raise funds for a fellow theatre actor battling Cancer, the proceeds earned from the play would go toward his treatment.

Jee Huzoor‘, meaning, ‘Yes Sir’, is an adaption of Russian writer Nikolai Gogol‘s satirical play ‘The Government Inspector‘ written in 1836.  Sai Paranjpe, acclaimed Director, Screenwriter of award winning films like Katha, Sparsh, Chashme Buddoor and Disha, adapted the play in Hindi.  The core theme of the play is Corruption, a debilitating disease that not only adversely affects the economic growth of a nation, but also cripples the moral foundations of a civilized society.

Set in the mid-1980’s, Director Subhash Gupta’s ambitious play efficiently highlights the infested governing systems of India. Director Gupta himself essayed the role of a corrupt bureaucrat, Jagdamba Prasad, posted in a remote town of Tikamganj. The collector is shaken and stirred when he receives a notification that a government assigned officer has secretly arrived in town to take stock of his reprobate governance and illegal recruitment of officers at government institutions. How he mobilizes his team to search for that officer and bring him under the umbrella of his nefarious activities is the backbone of this play.

In the cast were Kissago Theatre’s formidable actors in memorable roles – the collector’s young third wife and an attractive daughter; a matriculate government school Head-master; a Veterinarian assigned as a Surgeon at a government hospital; a Lawyer running a poultry pen at the local magistrate’s court; a gossiping Postman; two colluding Priests from a local temple, and a penniless ruffian mistaken as a government official.

The script was gripping. Direction and performances were flawless. The humor was far reaching, and dialogues, rib-ticklingly funny. As in most plays that I watch, I had favorite characters here too. Nikhil Jadhav and Avkash Mahanta hit a bulls-eye with their performance in the role of opportunist temple priests.  They had me in splits with their rhythmic comic timing. Abhijeet Deshpande’s character in the mistaken identity of a government officer was a treat to watch as he serenaded both, the collector’s wife and daughter.

Strangely, first written almost two centuries ago, the play continues to draw parallels in corrupt governance between two distinctly different eras. Most of us in the audience felt that the theme was relevant even today.

Although, it was a delightful evening spent in the company of theatre afficionados, we went back with a heavy heart and prayers on our lips for the wealthy boy who, despite the lack of an impressive bank balance, has accumulated precious treasures of the heart that will last several lifetimes. Here’s wishing team Kissago the best in their endeavors to bring their colleague back on stage.

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MASHAAL: You Write. You Recite.

“Creativity is a spark. It can be excruciating when we’re rubbing two rocks together and getting nothing. And it can be intensely satisfying when the flame catches and a new idea sweeps around the world.” – Jonah Lehrer, American Author.

Hyderabad based writer Suhas Bhatnagar has lit one such torch,  MASHAAL: You Write. You Recite,  an innovative platform for writers to share their literary work, and its flame is indeed sweeping through the thriving literary circle of the twin cities of Hyderabad-Secunderabad.

Held twice every month on 2nd and 4th Saturday at the prestigious G.P.Birla Centre, Mashaal encourages writers of all ages and languages to come and share their stories, poems, ghazal, nazm or shayari. Already in its fourth successful month, the event has been graced by many city based writers who have shared poems in Telugu, Hindi, Urdu and English.

The core idea of this event is to “Come and read your mind out. Prose or poetry. Good or bad. Dark or light. Humor of thriller. Story or drama. Be the torch. Be the Mashaal. Age no bar, language no bar.” Suhas insists that all participants should continue to light the flame and come to listen to other writers too.

The G.P.Birla Centre that regularly hosts various literary and art events in the city, is situated at a picturesque location that provides a stunning vantage point view of Hyderabad. It houses the famed G.P.Birla observatory, a grand library, classrooms for art or comedy or book reading sessions, theater at the conference hall, muse at the beautiful collection of paintings at Nirmala Birla gallery of modern art etc.

Suhas is a prolific writer with a humble, warm & friendly persona. What is striking about him is that he respects the people he meets, especially women, their achievements notwithstanding. His ability to bond with people of all ages is equally amazing. At most literary events, he does stand out for his distinguished ‘writeresque’ attire 😀 . Perhaps, it is these personality traits that led him to create a selfless, entry-free opportunity for aspiring, budding and established writers to showcase their literary skills.

A noble initiative indeed that furthers the cause of cultivating reading classic, quality literature and writing habits among the younger generation.

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‘Sutradhar’ Celebrates Manto!

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On the 105th birth anniversary of noted Indo-Pakistani writer, Sa’adat Hasan Manto, Hyderabad based theatre group ‘Sutradhar‘ presented ‘Afsaney’, a biographical screening and reading of the colorful life of the acclaimed author. The reading was held on a cool, moonlit Thursday evening at Lamakaan.

Sa’adat Hasan Manto, a much celebrated, unconventional and controversial writer of his time, he was hugely influenced by the turbulent times of India’s independence and partition thereafter. His writings deeply reflected human emotions and stark realities of life. Women characters found prominence in his short stories. ‘Kali Shalwar’ and ‘Baarish’ are two of his haunting tales, among many others, that revolve around the soulful lives of prostitutes. In his short life, he authored short stories, a novel, essays and radio plays. Manto migrated to Pakistan after India’s partition with his wife and three daughters.

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(Pic.Courtesy http://epaper.deccanchronicle.com/articledetailpage.aspx?id=8088943)

Vinay Varma, Founder Director of Sutradhar, read out ‘Pari Chehra Naseem Bano’, a delightful chapter from ‘Manto Dastavej’ that chronicles light and rib-tickling anecdotes from Manto’s stint as a writer in the Hindi film industry in Bombay. The author dedicated an entire chapter to ‘fairy faced’ erstwhile actor Naseem Bano, mother of Hindi film actor Saira Bano. The audience was captivated by Vinay’s narration that brought to life Manto’s infatuation with the beautiful actress and her lifestyle. Fascinating tales and trivia from the pre-independence era enthralled the audience. Language was no impediment as Manto’s sophisticated Urdu was complemented by Vinay’s impeccable narration and translation.

The event was also a successful attempt to introduce a classic Indian writer to contemporary readers. A theatre actor by profession, Vinay stressed on the need to inculcate the habit of ‘Reading from Books’ among the present day generation hooked to Kindle and other digital media. ‘Abhivyakti‘, yet another Sutradhar initiative, held monthly at the G.P. Birla Auditorium in Hyderabad, encourages reading from old Indian classiscs, that in turn abridge the barriers of language & emotions between the bygone and the current.

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Review: Writers’ Bloc Showcase – A specially curated season of original plays by Indian playwrights from Writers’ Bloc.

Theater enthusiasts of Hyderabad witnessed readings of two exceptional plays at the British Council Library in Jubilee Hills on 21st and 22nd January 2017. As part of the Writers’ Bloc Showcase, a specially curated season of original plays by Indian Playwrights from Writers’ Bloc, Farhad Sorabjee and Annie Zaidi presented readings of their plays.

‘Hard Places’, written by Farhad Sorabjee and Directed by Nadir Khan, was a staged, sit-down reading in entirety with brilliant dialogue, expressions and sound effects. Nadir Khan and Faezeh Jalali as siblings, Shernaz Patel as the mother were eloquent and expressive that brought out the chemistry between their characters. The interplay of conversations and emotions between siblings, and mother & children was far-reaching. Farhad’s narrative interventions were interesting and added to the mood of the play.

For a play that first premiered in 2004 in Mumbai and presented multiple times across theaters in India and abroad, the script and narration were gripping and fresh. After 80 minutes of uninterrupted narration, the Playwright and the cast engaged in a q&a round with a much enthralled audience.

I was intrigued by the inclusion of expletives in a staged play and did not hesitate to question the playwright. It was in place to reflect aggression in the character, or so I was told. Not that I objected or had any reservations about the use of those words, I was more interested in understanding the mood of playwright at the time of scripting. On being asked, “if you were to write the play today, would you change anything in the script”, Farhad said, “No. And anyway, the play is already out there and presented several times, so…”

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The actors of ‘Jaal’ (Pic source Vinay Varma)

‘Jaal’, written by Annie Zaidi, Journalist & Author, Directed by acclaimed actor/director, Vinay Varma. The core theme of the play being ‘Displacement for Development’, the story is set in a fishing village called Mohagaon. The villagers are up-in-arms with the governing authorities over the construction of a dam on the river in their village, which serves as a major source of their livelihood.

Annie’s writing has depth and that comes from her empathy for rural population and their critical issues. When asked about its (the Play) impact, Annie said, “The authorities know the issues. The play was written so to reach the urban masses. Dams are built to benefit urban population and deeply impacts the livelihood of rural population.”

Well, for me the impact was huge as I was instantly reminded of the turbulent times of Narmada Bachao Andolan and Medha Patkar’s agitations for the inhabitants along the river.

Though, Jaal too was a staged reading with constricted space for movement, the cast of Sutradhar Theater Group gave an outstanding performance. With each character, I could visualize a Chacha, Mama, Kaaki, Gopal or Sangeeta in some distant village, struggling with myriad emotions. My personal favorite of the evening was Prathyusha Madapathi in the pivotal role of Jharna, the fisher woman and romantic interest of the lead protagonist, Gopal. Prathyusha delivered a stellar performance. She lived the character with her costume, diction, expressions, body language and rustic mannerisms.

The Direction of the play was impressive with an eye-for-detail. The pace was steady and engrossing. I had heard a lot about Mr. Vinay Varma from common friends, Director of Sutradhar Casting Agency, but what better way to be introduced than watching him in action.

The theater elite of the city was present in the audience and differed in their opinion pertaining to ‘reading’ of Jaal. Some found it distracting and felt it took away from the play. On the contrary, I felt the actors did a marvelous job and never once floundered; enacting and emoting while reading from a bound script. An aberration perhaps, from the set standards of the theater world.

Efficient management of logistics was by British Council in collaboration with Eventbrite, an events information portal.

Hyderabad is not just about Biryani & Haleem, nor does its magnificence end at the thresholds of Charminar. The twin cities have a rich history seeped in glorious theater & performing arts, and the writers & poets guilds as well, that offer a fantastic communion of art & culture.

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Book Review: The Incubation Chamber

‘The Incubation Chamber’ by Vandana Kumari Jena is an anthology of 24 short stories that span various aspects of human relationships.

Vandana Kumari Jena is an IAS Officer of the 1979 batch Orissa Cadre. Her short stories have been published in over 15 anthologies. Much like her short stories, her first novel ‘The Dance of Death’ too explored the trauma and travails of a young woman dealing with myriad emotions and tragedies of life.

Set in the contemporary era, the collection of stories in ‘The Incubation Chamber’ is a testimony that emotions and sensitivity continue to occupy a significant place in our society. Each character in the stories is etched out from life, those that thrive among us. Each story is an experience someone somewhere has lived through.  From surrogacy to female feticide, blood relations vs. emotional ties, critical dilemmas to decisive actions, the stories are an amalgamation of life in all its dark and light shades.

The cover story, ‘The Incubation Chamber’ treads the delicate ropes of surrogacy. ‘Blood Ties’ explores the turmoil of a woman who embarks on a mission to find her blood-child. ‘Of Dreams & Desires’ breaks the social chains that bind women to morality and chastity. ‘The Testimony’ is a poignant saga of a woman who discovers her son as a rapist and her decisive stand thereafter. The heartbreaking travails of Indian students trying to adapt to a western life in a foreign land is an eye opener in ‘Birds Fly’. That a parent can be vulnerable in times of calamity and trial is a bitter yet shocking revelation in ‘The Aftermath of Tsunami’. Furthermore, AIDS & Autism, infidelity & domestic violence, insecurities & mindful living, all the victories and tragedies of human life are beautifully captured by the author.

If the stories are helmed from the author’s real life experiences, then it can be said that the writer is a keen observer of human behavior and has an emotional outlook towards life. If the stories are simply a work of fiction woven out of profound imagination, then the depth of the author’s thoughts can be determined by the way women of varying social strata are portrayed in all their strengths and weaknesses.

With ‘The Incubation Chamber’, Jena has revolutionized the art of short story writing. In our contemporary world of emotional abyss, this collection plays with the readers’ psyche and promises to awaken and enlighten. A must read for short story lovers.