Jashn-e-Rekhta, an exuberant celebration of Urdu and the composite culture, showcases the language’s eclecticism as manifested in a smorgasbord of art forms — poetry, music and storytelling. The sixth edition of the three-day festival, organised by Rekhta Foundation, begins at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in Delhi on Friday. “Urdu lends itself to highest number of art forms than any language, not just in the subcontinent but around the world,” says founder Sanjiv Saraf.
On Friday, the festival will be inaugurated by Congress veteran Karan Singh. It will be followed by soulful Sufi renditions by Harshdeep Kaur. The sessions on Saturday will start with performances by singers Pooja Gaitonde and Raman Kapoor. Sachin Pilgaonkar and Shekhar Suman will hold forth on the beauty of the language and how they have embraced it. In another session on Saturday, filmmaker Anubhav Sinha will talk about the liminal space between dream and reality. Popular poets Rahat Indori and Munawwar Rana will take part in a mushaira session. Urdu playwright and screenwriter Javed Siddiqi and filmmaker Muzaffar Ali will dwell on the inextricable link of literature with cinema in a session. In two separate sessions, eminent Urdu scholars Gopi Chand Narang and Shafey Kidwai will elaborate on the poetry of Mir Taqi Mir, while critic and dramatist Shamim Hanfi and author Anisur Rahman will give a glimpse into the unparalleled universe of Allama Iqbal’s poetic landscape, laced with philosophy. The day will also see a session on Mahatma Gandhi with writer Ali Ahmad Fatmi, historian Sohail Hashmi and Gandhi’s great-grandson, Tushar Gandhi. Fouzia Dastango will present Dastan-e-Mahabharat, a presentation of the epic in dastangoi form.
Sunday will see sessions on Mirza Ghalib (with Urdu doyen Shamsur Rahman Faruqi and author Pavan K Varma) and Guru Nanak (with academicians Akhtarul Wasey and Nashir Naqvi, and singer Jaspal Singh). In another session, poet and lyricist Piyush Mishra will talk about finding a voice and acquiring a style. There will be a session on tawaifs as repositories of art. Poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar will outline Sahir Ludhianvi’s poetry in a session. Painter-author Abid Surti will discuss the truth and untruths of stories as part of a three-member panel. The day will also see a performance by sitar maestro Shujaat Khan. Besides, there will be workshops on prose and poetry writing, calligraphy, baitbaazi competitions, masterclasses on pronunciation, performances by indie and fusion bands as well as open mics for budding poets spread over the two days.
Rekhta is working on a project to digitise the texts of Hindi literature. “There are many Indian languages in various stages of disrepair today. The attempts to preserve them have been fractured and nothing has been done to integrate it into a whole and create any ecosystem. That’s where we can play a role,” says Saraf, who is planning to take Jashn-e-Rekhta to other cities and countries. “A language has to reach people; it will die if you don’t give it fresh air,” says Saraf, 56, who will soon be out with English transcreations of 65 ghazals by 10 classical Urdu poets.
For the festival founder, Jashn-e-Rekhta is an add-on. “It’s happenstance. Jashn comes and goes every year, but rekhta.org continues taking the project forward. It’s a resource for posterity,” he says.