Friday, March 17, 2017

Falling in love with Urdu

Sukhan, a mehfil of Urdu poetry, ghazals and qawwalis, will be staged in the city today. Om Bhutkar and Jaydeep Vaidya explain the concept

Noted Urdu poet and lyricist Gulzar, who was at the Jashn-e-Rekhta festival this week, was quoted as saying, “Urdu is alive the same way it was earlier, with the same old strength. Its energy hasn’t reduced. Maybe its aspect is changing… Urdu is the most alive language and moving ahead with times.”

Exuding similar sentiments was theatre actor Om Bhutkar, when we met him for a chat on Sunday. Bhutkar and his friends have come up with a Urdu ghazal, shayri programme, titled Sukhan.

“My affair or should I say passion for Urdu language began when I was writing the play Mi..Ghalib. My friends and I are equally fond of classical music, ghazals and nazms (verses) and whenever we meet, we keep discussing Urdu shayris and the works of singers and poets. In fact after Mi..Ghalib I had tossed this idea of doing a programme on Urdu ghazals and my friend Nachiket Devasthali kept on reminding me to get cracking on it,” says 25-year-old Bhutkar.

Thus Sukhan was conceptualised. The literal meaning of Sukhan is speech or conversation, and that’s the crux of the programme. Says Bhutkar, “In Sukhan, we establish a direct interaction with the audience in Urdu. Many in the audience fear that they might not be able to comprehend the metaphorical language. So we ask them to concentrate on the sound. Sound is the central element and not the language.”

The three-hour-long programme has seven-eight qawwali and ghazal performances interspersed with recitation of Urdu verses, couplets, narration of short stories and reading out excerpts from letters written by Mirza Ghalib. The team has chosen verses and couplets written by Amir Khusro, Hafeez Jullundhari, Jaun Elia, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mir Taqi Mir and Iqbal.

“Depending on the audience’s understanding and the length of time, we try to introduce new elements in the show. In our show at S M Joshi Auditorium, we plan to pay a tribute to poet Nida Fazli, who passed away recently,” says Bhutkar.

When asked about mastering Urdu diction so quickly, the actor clarifies, “I have learnt to read and write Urdu. But I won’t say I have mastered it. As an actor, I don’t have to master the language like an academician. Nachiket and I, who recite the nazms, can take certain liberties because we are artistes. The thrust of Sukhan is to introduce people to the beauty of language and its literary treasure. Urdu sounds both familiar and exotic at the same time, and that’s the flavour which we want to present before the audience.”

Qawwali is an important component of Sukhan. Bhutkar and Jaydeep Vaidya (who has directed the musical compositions) speak excitedly about it. Says Bhutkar, “Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has a great influence on us. And, so we wanted to include some qawwali compositions.”

“In films, qawwali is shown as an orchestra. We have tried to stick to the traditional pattern of qawwali mehfil using instruments like harmonium, tabla, sarangi and tanpura,” adds Vaidya.

The team of Sukhan comprises young singers, still being trained in Hindustani Classical Music. So, they found it a little challenging to master qawwalis, which requires energetic singing.

“Abhijeet Dhere, Swapnil Kulkani and I sing qawwali. Depending on who is the lead singer, the other two support him. Sanika Kopargaonkar and Divya Chaphadkar sometimes help us with the back vocals for chorus. Usually, girls don’t sing qawwali. Their role is more prominent when we sing ghazal compositions,” explains Vaidya.

“Qawwali is difficult to master. The songs are very spiritual and the references to the lover and his beloved, actually mean the Lord and his devotee or being one with the supreme. You need to feel and bring out the bhakti in your voice,” he adds.

And that’s the beauty of music and the language in which it is sung. “It embraces all and cannot be claimed by one,” the duo exclaim, before signing off.

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