The beauty of language, the reach of poetry, the power of music, and an act that celebrates these aesthetics, make Nadira Babbar’s new play, ‘Jaise Sookhe Huey Phool Kitaabon Mein Milien’, staged on Friday evening at Tagore Theatre, a treat for the senses. It’s a production that’s simple in its concept, but intricate in its treatment and presentation, as Babbar, who has both written and directed the play, takes the audience to a remote forgotten library, where books on literature, philosophy and mythology are discovered and in the process, our cultural and linguistic heritage. As the pages are turned, the audience goes back in time, with the best from Hindi and Urdu literature filling their hearts with words, images, songs and stories that are slowly fading from our lives.
A lover of literature discovers the collection in the library, and it’s here that she meets poets and writers, and lends an ear to their stories and verses, with a dramatic rendition of incidents taking the audience through the years. The verses are sung live, with music given by Amod Bhatt, and so Surdas’ conversation with Krishna, and his immortal poem, ‘Maiya mori, main hi maakhan khayo’, is beautifully woven into the scene, with Yashodha stepping in to demonstrate her love for Krishna. “How can you see me, if you are blind?” the innocent Krishna asks the blind poet, ‘’because I have four eyes of devotion,’’ replies Surdas, whose songs are dedicated to Krishna.
Meerabai’s love for Krishna, and the poetry written in his praise, become part of the play, as Babbar portrays her anguish and grief, of being a royal wife, as in her heart and soul, Meera is wedded to Krishna, as she sings the soulful .’Teri prem diwani’. The stage come alive as Rani Laxmi Bai’s heroic act to save Jhansi is enacted with Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s tribute to her with her poem, ‘Khoob ladi mardani, woh to Jhansi wali rani thi’.
Kalidas, the poet-playwright, whose Shakuntala is an immortal masterpiece, Agha Hashar Kashmiri, Amir Khusrau, Mirza Ghalib, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sahir Ludianvi— the play brings to stage their lives, times and poetry in an evocative way. As for the title, it is from Ahmed Faraz’s immortal poem, ‘Abke hum bichhde to shayad kabhi khwabon mein milein, jaise sookh hue phool kitabon mein milein’.
Poetry comes alive.