Of Ghalib’s glory

Vinaya Patil
Thursday, 5 April 2018

Mirza Ghalib — a musical narrative will be held in the city today. Eminent theatre artist Salim Arif and ghazal singer Tauseef Akhtar tell us more about it before their performance

Hazaroñ khvahisheñ aisi ki har khavhish pe dam nikle, bahut nikle mere armaan lekin phir bhi kam nikle’ [Thousands of desires, each worth dying for...many of them I have realised, yet I yearn for more] — this is just one of the more known and heard shayaris of Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib.

Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan — known as Ghalib, was born in Agra to parents of Turkish aristocratic ancestry. Initially known for a writing style that was at once detached, obscure, and pedantic, he soon adopted the fastidious, personal, complexly moral idiom which we now know as his mature style.

The poet’s life and work, which was marked with several large and small events, is being brought to fore yet again through live recitations of his shayaris and ghazals. This is being done by Brand Box Productions in a six-city tour called ‘Mirza Ghalib — a musical narrative’. In the year of his 220th birth anniversary, celebrating the life and writings of Mirza Ghalib, the tour will reach Pune today.

The live recitations of his letters and anecdotes will be interspersed with his ghazals on stage. The script and narration at the event will be done by renowned theatre personality Salim Arif and will be performed by Tauseef Akhtar.

“Farmaaiyen,” says composer Akhtar, as we ask him about the event. “All the 12 of his selected works have been freshly composed by me and beautifully woven together by Arif ji. So the audience is definitely in for a treat,” he says.

Speaking of the the enormous amount of work done by the Urdu poet, Akhtar says that while most of Ghalib’s work is interpreted romantically, “I see a spiritual connect in some of his couplets.” 
This, he says, is the reason why he has done the compositions in a Sufiyana andaaz.

What’s different about this musical narrative? “While Ghalib’s work has been recited and sung n number of times, our main motto was to make it relatable to the youth,” answers Amit Malhotra, producer and director of the show. “It began with my visit to Jashn-e-rekhta, an Urdu language fest in Delhi where I observed the student crowd forming more than half the attendees. The way they appreciated the recitals in the right manner reinforced my belief in taking Ghalib’s work to them,” he says.

The response to the tour so far has been nothing short of amazing, says Akhtar. “The only thing I can tell you is even after the show ended in Delhi and some other cities, the audience wouldn’t get up. They wanted more. I think that’s a compliment,” he adds.

Juxtaposing the life of Ghalib with his poetry, Arif says that he has tried to present his understanding and interpretation of the poet’s work. “I believe that Ghalib could only have happened in India. His poetry is full of Indian colours and his thoughts very close to the Indian philosophy. We can see it in his shayaris,” he explains. What Arif also points to is the fact that Ghalib remains important to us because of the timeless appeal of his work and his own will to succeed and survive that pours out of his writing.
Arif will pre-set the ghazals at the event before they are sung by Akhtar, while also providing translations of some difficult Urdu words. Sourced from the poet’s letters, poetries, references from people who have known Ghalib, and others, the musical narrative is set to present Mirza Ghalib in all its glory.

Mirza Ghalib — a musical narrative will take place at the Poona Club, Bund Garden Road, today (April 6), 7 pm onwards

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