Arts and culture

Day One at Zikr-e-Yaar Chale: The Theatre Festival in Remembrance of Shahid Anwar Gets a Rousing Start With Hamare Samay Mein

18 September 2016 | Zikr-e-Yaar Chale, a three days theatre festival in remembrance of the playwright, theatre critic, writer and translator Shahid Anwar was inaugurated today at the Convention Centre with an adaptation of his play Hamare Samay Mein by K. S. Rajendran of Bahroop Arts Group. The event also marks the completion of twenty years of Bahroop, the theatre group which has been actively “entertaining and engaging” the audience since 1996. Shaihd Anwar (1962 – 2016) who was one of the founding members and Creative Director at Bahroop passed away in March this year. He was the editor at Sainik Samachar, Assistant Director, Publications Division of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Broadcasting Officer for DPR Defence.

pjimage (1).jpgHamare Samay Mein, written by Shahid Anwar was earlier performed under the direction of K. S. Rajendran on February 22, 2008 for the Delhi Urdu Academy Drama Festival. He was bestowed with the prestigious Mohan Rakesh Samman by Sahitya Kala Parishad, Delhi for the play. It was one among the many accolades that he received for his substantial contribution towards Urdu and Hindi theatre, not to mention the many stage adaptations and translations of authors such as Dario Fo, Manto, Mahesh Dattani and Indira Parthasrthy. He was also noted for his commitment towards developing the stage as a medium for engaging, reflecting and critiquing the changing social and political conditions.

Bahroop has had an active base in JNU, participating and performing in theatre festivals every year in and around Delhi, with members drawn from various schools of the campus. “He founded his own theatre group ‘Bahroop’ in 1989 to express himself through his creativity by writing and directing plays and devoted his entire life for ‘Bahroop’ mainly comprised with JNU students. He was so much attached to it that he chose his life-partner Poonam from the group itself. Moulding young and fresh minds into civilized citizens of the country was his motto,” wrote R. Chidambaranathan, Assistant Director (M & C), PIB, Chennai on Sainik Samachar after Anwar’s early departure.

pjimage (2).jpgTo continue with his legacy and the ideals that he stood for, the festival intends to initiate “a progressive dialogue with theatre groups from different parts of the country.” Soopna ka Sapna being performed by IPTA (Patna), directed by Tanwir Akhtar and B-Three by IPTA (Raigarh), directed by Ajay Athaley are the two other plays by Shahid Anwar to be staged in the coming days of the theatre fest. Both the plays were high acclaimed by theatre critics when first staged; with Romesh Chander writing about Soopna ka Sapna: “A play with socio-political relevance, it deserves to be repeated….” And regarding B-Three “The play strikes many contemporary parallels and must be taken to colleges” for showing “…how foreign capital ultimately protects and nurtures the transformation of a society into a fascist society.”

Hamare Samay Mein reflects on the lone struggle of Mukul, a young Marxist and an idealist, who has been suspended for allegedly exposing the corruption and bureaucracy in the Public Broadcast company, Ranchi Akashvani. His values have led him to develop an empathetic relation towards the tribals and their needs and concerns, he believes the only way to serve their needs is through constructive dialogue, through informing others about their plight done with their mutual consent. In order to do this and declaim the sham of “urbanization of the tribals” by the government, he performs research in the many tribal areas he is posted. However, he has to pay the price for refusing to compromise with his cherished values and is forced to accede to the demands of a dishonest, rapacious and mercenary bureaucracy in order to save his job.

The multifaceted glimpses of the changing conditions of a society—ridden with the desire for self-appeasement where individuals have silenced their conscience and live for material pleasures is a foil to Mukul and his wife Shalki. His friend Ghawri recognizes the force of his ideals as well as the risk it poses for him as well as others around him, when he tells his wife “uska yeh sochna ki woh sab se alag hai, iss had tak ki woh sabse alag ho jaye…yeh ek beemari hai…uss achchai ka kya kaam jiske samne sab baune lage?” [The way he believes that he is different from the rest of us, so much so that he has completely alienated himself from others…is a kind of a malaise… goodness that belittles others is of no use] To which his wife replies, “tumhe uski galtiyon se chidh nahin, uske vichaaron se darr hain” [You are not angry at him for the mistakes you think he committed, but scared of his thoughts].

The cast consisted of chiefly new faces, who shouldered the heavy responsibility of presenting the complex inner conflicts of the individuals quite well. Though, it can be admitted that the delivery needed a little more refining. Credit must be given to those in charge for set design. The transitions from one scene to the next were smooth. There were plenty of variations in the scenes as well as in the overall design of the play which set a tempo on the stage and the audience for the most time remained riveted to the performance.

pjimage (3).jpgOn approaching with the cast members, Sajid Ali who played the role of the BDO, who is also a PhD scholar at CPS explained that most of the events in the play were based on real life incidents experienced by the playwright. Referring to the changes in the society as a result of the forces of globalization and modifications in the societal structures, he commented “the individual cannot exist alone outside the community, one can acquire individualism only by being a part of a community; however a lot depends on the kind of a society we are talking about…individual space is important…but complete alienation from the society is a detriment…there can only be a revolution when the whole society is able to transform itself from within….”

Chandrabhan Saahir also a PhD scholar, from CHS who managed to convincingly portray the existential angst of the protagonist Mukul explained, “he [Mukul] started with the Public Broadcasting Division which is against the capitalist set-up…it’s probably a celebration of the idea of a public medium;” further he said, “the idea of socialism is that of three people sharing and eating from the same plate while the capitalist idea will be each one their own…the play reflects on the changing structures, relations, values due to capitalism.”

Speaking on the theatre scene in the campus, Sajid commented that free spaces are slowly shrinking in the campus and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find spaces where one can perform and engage through theatre, booking of the auditoriums is also becoming a hassle. The campus should ensure that freedom of speech is maintained he said. He added that Bahroop had earlier performed Gaadi Prajatantra Ki earlier this year in the campus.

The play ran a full house, with many sitting on the steps or along the aisle, and others standing at the back to watch the play. Zikr-e-Yaar Chale has been organized with support from Centre for Indian Languages, SLL & CS, JNU; Sahitya Kala Parishad, GNCTD and Ministry of Culture, GOI.

  • The Informer Correspondent.