Across Dark Landscapes

Across Dark Landscapes

Twenty five years after it began,the Urdu Theatre Festival in Delhi is celebrating with another literary landmark.

Twenty five years after it began,the Urdu Theatre Festival in Delhi is celebrating with another literary landmark — the birth centenary of the prolific Urdu writer Krishan Chander. “Writing around and after Indian Independence,Chander had a secular and progressive outlook that makes his stories relevant even today,” says Anis Azmi,Secretary of the Urdu Academy,organiser of the festival. Chander was also a keen theatre person and a member of the theatre group IPTA,so the stage salute to him is only fitting. The festival will be held from today till October 8.

How progressive was Chander emerges from this evening’s curtain raiser play itself. Three Arts Club’s Paramaatma,adapted by Reoti Saran Sharma,plunges into the quagmire of corruption,crony capitalism,political compromises and communalism that plague India. In the play,the gods Paramatma and Naradmuni arrive in India but,after hard knocks from greedy businessmen,politicians with vested interested and weak law enforcers,even these powerful and divine beings throw up their hands in despair. If humans are bent on destruction,gods can only stand aside and watch.

The other five plays in the festival,based on Chander’s stories,also stride across dark landscapes. Dramatic Art and Design Association’s Halal Khor challenges the futility of honest labour. “The protagonist of the story,Kalu,has toiled all his life,cleaning up and cleaning after the ill and injured at the dispensary where he works but when he dies,he has nothing and nobody. The cops come in and throw away his corpse,” says director Govind Singh Yadav.

Even songs mock at contemporary society in a musical play titled Darwaze Khol Do. Hopeful tenants from “other” communities find themselves battling a problem depicted in this production by Living Theatre. “What happens when a Muslim scientist living in Canada returns to India to help build Nehru’s India? To his shock,he finds it impossible to rent accommodation. At last he takes up a Hindu name,leading to a dramatic moment,” says director Sheikh Khairuddin,a 1989 alumnus from the National School of Drama who has also written lyrics for this play.

The festival will be held from today to October 8 at Shri Ram Centre