Letters ace borders in UAE’s rousing Urdu play Mian Biwi aur Wagah - GulfToday

Letters ace borders in UAE’s rousing Urdu play Mian Biwi aur Wagah

Urdu play 1

A scene from the UAE produced Urdu play Mian Biwi Aur Wagah.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Jashn-e-Rekhta (JeR), world’s largest and perhaps most sought-after Urdu language literary event, will showcase the popular play from the UAE, Mia Biwi Aur Wagah (MBW), in its first-ever virtual Urdu festival in the UK, Sept. 5-6.

The literary event, being held for the first time to celebrate the composite culture of South Asia through Urdu, will create an immersive and interactive platform that echoes JeR’s Delhi festival, since 2016.

This is the first time that an original theatre from the Gulf region has been chosen for screening at a JeR festival. Mia Biwi aur Wagah is based on a series of letters describing the real-life experiences of an Indian husband and his Pakistani wife. All the performers in the play have written their own scripts and verses.

“It is indeed a great honour that an institution like Rekhta recognised our efforts for the love of Urdu,” said Amna Khaishgi, team leader of Goonj, the theatre group that produced Mia Biwi aur Wagah.


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“We feel extremely proud that Mia Biwi aur Wagah will represent the UAE at this prestigious festival and show how this beautiful country has spread love and peace around the world”.

Ehtesham Shahid, who has co-written Mia Biwi aur Wagah and plays the character of Mian, says it is ironic that a play on letter-writing has to find a digital platform for screening. “It’s a sign of things to come, but the human need to express oneself cannot be fulfilled through just one medium, and letters can still create magic if one is willing to pick up pen and paper. It’s a matter of time before we re-discover the joy of something as intimate as writing letters”, he said.

Sanjiv Saraf, Founder, Rekhta Foundation, said Mian Biwi aur Wagah is a unique example of how ordinary experiences of two individuals, narrated through letters, become a piece of literature that is also performed on stage.

“Team MBW reflects the vision of Rekhta where language, art, and literature transcend borders. The simplicity of letters in the play form layers that resonate with the audience”.

Urdu play 2 An actor presents his case in the Urdu play Mian Biwi aur Wagah.

Jashn-e-Rekhta UK is an immersive experience that combines a curated programme of artistic facets of Urdu culture and heritage. It brings together exclusive sessions and a digital archive of art forms, including Poetry (Mushaira), Literature, Storytelling (Dastangoi), Ghazals, Sufi music, Qawwali, Dance and Drama.

JeR presents, for the UK, 32 digital sessions across three stages over the weekend.

Some highlights of the festival, and those made especially for the UK, include:

* Javed Akhtar and Manoj Muntashir, poets and lyricists from two different generations present Cinema — Kal aur Aaj — a conversation around films, lyrics and Urdu poetry

* Dr Azra Raza, highly acclaimed physicist, scientist and author, presents the world of Ghalib in her grand style

* Yawar Abbas relives the golden years of radio with fellow broadcasters Raza Ali Abidi and Pervaiz Alam

* Sania Saeed, renowned Pakistani actor, Tanuja Chandra, Indian film director, and Nasreen Munni Kabir, filmmaker and author, will discuss the contribution of Urdu to the world of cinema and television

* Celebrating the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, another specially curated session of music and poetry will be showcased

* Shilpa Rao, popular Bollywood and Ghazal singer, will talk on Reviving Ghazals for Millennials Mian Biwi Aur Wagah is the UAE’s first and one-of-a-kind Urdu theatre production based on true stories and events. It has been conceptualised, written, directed and performed by a local South Asian group of media professionals, writers and theatre artists.

MBW staged five sold out shows in Dubai in August and October 2017. A large number of Indian and Pakistani theatre enthusiasts gathered to experience its journey full of nostalgia, wit, mirth, festivity, conflict, doubts and a range of themes enveloped in the exchange of letter-writing across the borders and beyond.

The production seeks to revive interest in the nearly-lost tradition of letter-writing, and to reignite the art of storytelling. Steering clear of any form of romanticism or politicisation of literary works, the play engages intimately with personal experiences that all of us can relate to. The production invites one to a memorable homecoming experience for the lovers of Urdu theatre and the tradition of letter-writing.

MBW is an original play, created and produced in the UAE. In the days of telegraphic communication driven by technology, letter-writing can seem hopelessly outdated. Yet it is an art worth reviving, because the writing, receiving and reading of letters, it is acknowledged, will always offer an emotional and heartfelt response that modern technology can never even attempt to reach.

The play’s premise is woven around three central characters — a wife-husband duo, both journalists, from Karachi (Pakistan) and Bihar (India), who are seen and heard writing letters to their kith and kin from all walks of life, set in different cities, and through a range of varied emotions.

At the parallel lies Wagah, the border that separates the two countries, but is essentially the true metaphor and storyteller who weaves intimate memories amidst the unity and dissimilarities of both countries.

Goonj (Echo) is a UAE-based community literary initiative that works towards rekindling and reviving the forgotten tradition and spirit of storytelling.

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