Mit rahi hai yahan zubaan-o-ghazal, aur Ghalib ka jashn jaari hai (the language of ghazal is being wiped out, and the celebration of Ghalib continues) — poet Azhar Inayati had lamented once, directing us towards the idea that Urdu, the once so popular language of the street, was fading away from the popular discourse. In an attempt to eulogise Urdu, Jashn-e-Rekhta will showcase the various colours and nuances of the language, which has been a significant element in the vast repertoire of literature, philosophy and romance since the 12th century.
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For the next three days, beginning today, noted artists, poets, writers and musicians will come together to extol the mellifluousness of Urdu for the third edition of Jashn-e-Rekhta. “The interest of the people hasn’t increased; it has just exploded. This was something I didn’t expect. The last two editions have been heartwarming for the festival that celebrates Urdu; we call it Urdu but for all practical purposes, it’s Hindustani,” says Sanjiv Saraf, director of the festival and the founder of Rekhta. He goes on to add that the marginalised existence in the popular discourse because of the division is surprising despite existence of so many popular films and songs.
Rekhta, a Delhi-based organisation began as rekhta.org, a website that was popular among poets and Urdu enthusiasts for organising small programmes in close circles. The website came up after Saraf couldn’t find any reliable and authentic source for Urdu poetry and literature, especially for people who couldn’t read the script.
This year, the festival will be inaugurated today by popular writer, director and lyricist Gulzar and sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. But the festival’s first session will take place on Saturday between Gulzar and screenwriter Javed Siddiqui, who is remembered for being the dialogue writer for Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi. This will be followed by a discussion on Premchand. The first day will also see a dastangoi session by Aamir Ahmed and Himanshu Rai. MS Sathyu, Nadira Babbar, Salim Arif and Saurabh Shukla will discuss Urdu in the context of theatre in the session “Theatre ke Bhoole Huye Rang”, while popular literary critic and scholar Gopi Chand Narang will discuss mystic Amir Khusro’s contribution in popularising the language. In a session moderated by film critic Bhawna Somaya, Siddiqi, Prem Chopra and Sharmila Tagore will look back at the presence of Urdu in Bollywood in a session titled “Jab Filmein Urdu Bolti Thi”.
The festival is trying to focus on something for all age-groups. So there is Urdu storytelling for children by theatre director Kamal Pruthi. The first day will conclude with a mushaira. The third and final day of the festival will have Prasoon Joshi speak about presence of Urdu lyrics in Bollywood. This year will also feature a women’s poets meet. But one of the more anticipated sessions is the one by actor Annu Kapoor who will be a part of the session “Urdu Suron ka Mausam-e-Bahaar” with Rumi Jaffery. “We are already taking the festival to colleges. Soon, we will be taking smaller versions of the festival to other cities,” says Saraf.
The festival will also host an Urdu Bazaar which will have special stalls offering ittars, artefacts and film posters.
Jashn-e-Rekhta will be held at IGNCA, Delhi. Entry is free, log on jashnerekhta.com