Asghar Wajahat Play on Humanity


Asghar wajahat's Play on Humanity

One must not lose faith in humanity.

Humanity is an ocean. if a few drops of the ocean are dirty.

the ocean does not become dirty.

 

~Mahatma Gandhi~

 

Words of wisdom that highlight the many trials and tribulations that face the characters in ‘Jis Lahore Nai Dekhya O Jamyai Nai’ (One who has not seen Lahore has not lived). That humanity that the Mahatma refers to, is put to the test by Asghar Wajahat and directors

 

Jis Lahore… with its flavorful choice of words in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu, delivers a tapestry of emotions and struggles that few have spoken about, in the years since the partition of 1947.

 

The characters here are flesh and blood in the humor they use to communicate, in their good-hearted gestures and in the venom they spew in the name of hate. The play flies high in versatility and truthfulness, while successfully ponders over what was and what awaits us in our own perceptions of humanity.

 

“Jis Lahore…” tells the tale of a Muslim family (The Mirzas) that migrates from Lucknow to Lahore and is allotted a haveli vacated by a departing Hindu family. As they arrive, they find an elderly Hindu woman (Ratan Ki Maa) living in the haveli, claiming rights and refusing to leave. Through her genuine care and affection, the Mirzas gradually settle in the haveli along with her and drop ideas of pushing her out.

 

All the while, there is constant friction between Pehelwan and fellow Muslims; the elderly Maulvi and Hidayat Hussein over the ways the Mirzas should be treating Ratan Ki Maa, a Hindu living with Muslims in the same haveli. Caught between her desire to live in Lahore and the hatred spewed by the likes of Pehelwan, Ratan Ki Maa, dies a sad and sudden death.

 

The proceedings result in Maulvi, Hidayat Hussein and several others banding together to implement Ratan ki Maa’s last rites. In a shocking turn of events, Pehelwan losing sight of many realities, kills Maulvi to assert himself of being a true Muslim.

 

The Partition of India in 1947, which occurred shortly after India won its independence from the British, saw what is considered the largest mass migration in human history of some 10 million people. Over 1 million died due to the violence and fighting during these turbulent times.

 

A Muslim majority state (Pakistan) and a Hindu majority state (India) was the goal of this partition, but what resulted was the western region of Punjab, war-torn into two.

 

Plagued by their desires to stay and by the mayhem forcing them to move, the brutal violence that followed and its memories have long been forgotten by both Hindus and Muslims. Naatak had other intentions; both via staging this play and through another important display.

 

Jis Lahore nahin dekhya woh jamya hi nahi!….A poignant story of the dark time called partition…. a partition that stood testimony to hatred,intolerance and fanaticism…thousands attacked and hundreds killed.. a generation rendered homeless with a total loss of national identity…

 

The story tried to define what home is..it is a place where you were born and bred… a place which has all your precious memories… a place where you feel at peace.. a place you would never want to give up for anything.

 

Home doesn’t mean living with the people with the same lingual or religious background…infact it has nothing to do with the people around you or your forefathers or your generations to come…it is a place which you would like to call yours…it is a place where you are most comfortable i… it is a place which you feel you belong to… and noone has the right to take that away from you…cos home is where the heart is!

 

Considered by theatre critics as a modern classic in Hindi ‘Jis Lahore Nai Dekhya’ was first directed by the late Habib Tanvir for Shri Ram Centre Repertory and presented on September 27, 1990. The presentation was a great success and it catapulted the play into national fame. It has more than 1000 shows by different directors which were presented in different towns and world cities, including Washington, Sydney and London.

 

Eminent directors like Rajinder Nath, Waman Kendre and Dinesh Thakur staged it with varying success. Adapted in various languages, it is included in the curriculum for B.A. (Hon) by University of Delhi. Anwer Jafri and Seema Kirmani mounted it at the Goethe Centre, Karachi. The production was also staged in Delhi as part of Bharat Rang Mahotsav-2009 which attracted unprecedented crowd, Most critics, however, believe that Tanvir’s production continues to be unsurpassed as a dramatic masterpiece.

 

Set in post-Partition Lahore, the play revolves round an old Hindu woman in a deserted haveli, a relic of past glory which is allotted to a migrant from Lucknow. The story moves forward through the confrontation of three main characters — Maulvi, poet Nasir Kazmi and Pehalwan. Maulvi and the poet represent the forces of religious co-existence and human compassion. Pehalwan, a local goonda, uses religion to achieve his nefarious objective.

 

Maulvi interprets Islam which stands for tolerance towards other religions and protection of the weak. He sacrifices his own life to uphold the humanistic ideals of Islam at the hands of a religious fanatic. Poet Kazmi represents the wounded collective conscience of humanity and he weeps for the slaughter of innocent men, women and children during Partition.

 

He sings in an agonised voice. I continue to wander from one town to another and from one city to city for long. Where have I lost my caravan and where have gone my co-travellers!) In fact, the play is based on a real incident and the character of Nasir Kazmi is also real, who migrated to Pakistan from India in the wake of Partition; his dialogue and the poems in the play are his own.

 

 

 

*REVIEW OF ASGHAR WAJAHAT’S PLAY JIS LAHORE 

 

NOTE : Cath the PLAY JIS LAHORE by Antraal Theater  on 16th August 6:30 PM  at IIT Delhi Seminar Hall.

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