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Jashn E Rekhta 2017 Brought Poetry to Social Issues Currently Faced by India

The underlying theme at Jashn e Rekhta has always been to emphasize on the ‘Indiannes’ of Urdu, its inclusivity and the various forms in which they have been richly explored.

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Updated:December 10, 2017, 6:46 PM IST
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Jashn E Rekhta 2017 Brought Poetry to Social Issues Currently Faced by India
Saif Mahmood on stage (Image courtesy: Dr Uzma Azhar)
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By Dr. Uzma Azhar Ali

“Sar chadh kar bolta hai Urdu zuban ka jadoo….”

These words of Jashn e Rekhta’s theme song perfectly sum up the spirit at the festival. As you enter the gates at National Stadium and one of the 16 e-rickshaws drop you at the main venue inside, the friendly faces and presence of old and young, men and women from all backgrounds strike you.

The 4th edition of Jashn e Rekhta kicked off at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, India Gate, on a cold 8th December evening warmed by Sanjeev Saraf’s (founder of Rekhta) welcome address, Pandit Jasraj and Waheeda Rehman’s speeches inaugurating the festival and musical performance by Ustad Rashid Khan. When lights went out for few minutes during his performance, Ustad Rashid sahib did not stop singing, and the audience did not panic or became restless, but switched on the lights on their phones. It was quite symbolic of the love that the festival has received from people of Delhi. The festival started at IIC in 2015 then IGNCA hosted Rekhta festival twice and this year’s choice of National stadium shows the manifold increase of the audience in thousands over the years. Participants and public from outside Delhi visiting the festival have also gone up. For the first day, many felt the crowd was very good this year.

The festival of ‘Urdu’ or ‘Rekhta’ as the language was referred earlier, stresses on the composite culture through which the language emerged with both Hindus and Muslims as its speakers. Rekhta sessions are a balanced mix of music, poetry, serious literary discussions to sessions hosted by Bollywood film personalities. Films and their Urdu connection is explored in detail in every Jashn e Rekhta.

The food section curated by Anubhav Sapra (Delhi Food Walks) offers diverse food choices from Bihar, Rampur, Odisha, Lucknow, Shahjahanabad and Afghanistan (women refugee’ group now in food catering) as well, apart from Delhi snack options like Cheela from Karol Bagh, Omlette from Dwarka, Daulat ki chaat and sweets from Sheeren Bhawan, Old Delhi,. Rampuri kebabs and Afghani food were specially recommended for the food lovers at Jashn e Rekhta.

Apart from the main sessions and events the space at National stadium is aesthetically decorated and dotted with various cut outs of famous Urdu poets and their celebrated couplets. Rekhta bazaar has stalls of Khwab Tanha, Arty Kite, SHURUA(R)T, ear rings, Khadi products, calligraphic posters and a working calligraphy artist, book publications, etc. First day evening is usually spent in walking around and discovering the space.

On Saturday, 9th Dec. second day of the festival morning sessions started with Sadaa e Faqeer, melodious soulful Sufi Tasawwuf renditions by Madan Gopal Singh and Chaar Yaar. The range of Urdu language beautifully captured with various performances in different musical formats. The afternoon session saw Shubha Mudgal singing poetry of protest and dissent of Faiz, Kaifi Azmi and others, narrated by Sohail Hashmi.

The Courtesan Project was enacted early evening by Manjari Chaturvedi and Neelesh Misra who brought Mirza Ghalib and Nawabjan’s story on stage interspersed with poetry, music and Kathak dance. Around the same time, Parvaaz, a band from Bangalore, in the open area created a fusion of rock and Urdu for the young audience.

Serious discussions on Urdu literature started with Dakani Urdu and its poetic forms. Prof Gopi Chand Narang talked about mythology’s presence in Urdu poetry in the afternoon session. Medieval India, much in discussion in recent times, its cultural and literary interactions were explored by Prof Harbans Mukhia with Prof Rizwan Qaiser. Urdu ‘afsana’ form was discussed in the late afternoon session. Gulzar Dehalvi , noted Urdu poet and scholar had a session with Farhat Ehsas.

Film personalities from Mumbai had different sessions throughout the day. Imtiaz Ali started with the morning session and spoke about his films and his idea of imagination and reality. Nandita Das and Nawazuddin Siddiqui talked about their film Manto and shared the process of its making. Shabana Azmi, Muzaffar Ali and Waheeda Rehman discussed the Muslim social films and the depiction of Urdu culture in them. All of these sessions saw very large audience as the stars of Bollywood always pull in public.

Radio stars sessions were very well attended as well. RJ Sayema had a session where she read out poetry, and RJ Neelesh Misra had a session with Saif Mahmood where he discussed the role of stories in sensitizing ‘the other’. Misra discussed trying to reach the interiors of India through his Gaon Connection project and his journey as a lyricist in Bollywood. Salman Akhtar’s couplet shared in the session, referred to Ramayan’s characters while talking about the struggles one faces in life, was most appreciated:
Itna kab azaad hai jo chahe kar le jab kaho
Dil ke Dashrath ko mili hain Kaykayi majbooriyan


Poetry-sessions started with Open house in the morning session, then mazahiya (humorous/ witty) poetry, Young poets session in the afternoon, Women poets session in the late afternoon. Dr. Saif Mahmood had a session on satire and humor in Urdu and enthralled his audience with various gems of witty poetry. When there was shortage of meat in Delhi a few years back, Sagar Khayyami wrote:

Ek mahina ho chukka hai bandd hai hum par mutton
Daawaton me kha rahe hain bhindiyan ahl e sukhan
Kha ke ghuiyyan kya dikhlaayein shayari ka baankpan
Ho gaya palak ka patta nazuki se gulbadan
Nafraton ke daur me dekho to kya kya ho gaya
Sabziyan Hindu huin, Bakra Musalman ho gaya


In the present times, when food is being linked to religion, it was appropriately cherished and liked by the audience.

The day ended with well known Urdu poets’ Mushaira, like Shamim Abbas, Shariq Kaifi, Rahat Indori, Javed Akhtar and others.

The underlying theme at Jashn e Rekhta has always been to emphasize on the ‘Indiannes’ of Urdu, its inclusivity and the various forms in which they have been richly explored.

Its efforts like this by Sanjeev Saraf and his Rekhta team that the vicious communal politics of the present era can be dealt with and defeated.

Shamim Abbas’s couplet in the Mushaira met with loud cheers:
Muntazir hum bhi hain us din ke ho Ram ka Raj
Par yeh Ravan ki Jo Lanka hai ye dhaayi jaaye.

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