Aaj Urdu ka niqaah ho raha hai (Today, Urdu is getting married),” said the emcee at the finale session of the first edition of Jashn-e-Rekhta in the winter of 2015. The light drizzle over chilly January did not deter the spirit of over a thousand, whose “wahs” and “irshads” constantly punctuated the verse of poets who recited lines on a variety of subjects.
The second edition of this popular Urdu festival, which found much attention last year, is all set to celebrate the heritage and mellifluousness of Urdu yet again. 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. This prompted festival director Sanjiv Saraf to organised a festival that celebrated the contours and heritage of the language. “I think Urdu really deserved a better platform. It is one language that lends itself to so many genres and art forms and should be brought to the public consciousness in a better way. Also, this thing that it is too exotic, not a language of India, a foreign language, a language of Muslims — these are the unfortunate misconceptions which still prevail and a festival like this aquires much importance today,” says Saraf about a festival which will bring together over 75 noted poets, filmmakers and authors from India and Pakistan who will descend at Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) in Delhi for the festival. Since last year’s venue (India International Centre) couldn’t accommodate a lot of audience, the venue for this edition has been shifted.
Jashn-e-Rekhta will open with the popular play Kaifi aur Main – the splendid love story of poet Kaifi Azmi and his wife Shaukat – which will play out as an interaction between another couple, their daughter and actor Shabana Azmi and popular writer and lyricist Javed Akhtar. Other plays at the festival include Ghalib ke Khat which will feature Tom Alter and MS Sathyu’s Dara Shikoh, a play based on the life of a fleeting yet important figure in Mughal India. The festival will also feature writer and lyricist Gulzar on his fascination for Urdu in Ye Kaisa Ishq Hai Urdu Ka.
While Azmi along with directors Imtiaz Ali, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Mahesh Bhatt will discuss “Filmon mein Urdu”, a special section will celebrate birth centenaries of legendary Urdu writers writers Ismat Chughtai and Rajinder Singh Bedi. While writers Jeelani Bano, Padma Sachdev and Zaheda Hina will be a part of the discussion “Ismat Chughtai: Voice of the Defiant Woman”, art director and screenplay writer Shama Zaidi will feature in “Rajinder Singh Bedi: Insani rishton ka razdan”. Pakistani poet Zehra Nigah who has championed the cause of poetry by women in Pakistan for over half a century, and remains one of the few female poets to gain prominence in the ’50s, will discuss fiction in the sub-continent on the second day along with popular Indian poet Shamim Hanfi, who was recently chosen for the first Jnangarima Manad Alankaran award, instituted by Bharatiya Jnanpith in 2015. Two popular Indian poets – Intezar Hussain and Nida Fazli – who passed away recently were scheduled to be at the festival this year. “We lost them unexpectedly,” said Sarf.
This year apart from dastangoi, a grand mushaira, qawwali by Sabri Brothers and a plethora of other music and dance performances, the festival turns unique with an Urdu Bazaar which will have special stalls which will have ittars, artefacts and film posters on sale. There is also a food court, that will lay out Pakistani delicacies apart from Awadhi, Kashmiri, Deccani, Sindhiand Mughlai delicacies. To attract children to the festival, the organisers have created a special children’s corner that will feature storytelling, dastangoi, audio installations and calligraphy among others.