Past blues: When written text mattered

‘Likhay Jo Khatt Tujhey – An Ode to Love’ showcased dramatic readings of letters written by Josh, Faiz, and others

Maryam Usman October 25, 2016
Directed by Kanwal Khoosat, the play featured readings by actors Sania Saeed and Tajdar Zaidi and paid homage to the late Aslam Azhar. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

ISLAMABAD: The era of hand-written letters may well be gone but the nostalgia for them still remains. This sentiment was manifested at a performance, Likhay Jo Khatt Tujhey – An Ode to Love, staged at Aiwan-e-Quaid in the Fatima Jinnah Park, Islamabad, on Saturday, attracting a packed audience of all age groups.

Directed by Kanwal Khoosat of Olomopolo Media, the play featured readings by actors Sania Saeed and Tajdar Zaidi and paid homage to the late Aslam Azhar, who is considered to be the father of television in Pakistan.

Making for a layered theatrical experience, the collection comprised original and fictional love letters penned by different eminent writers of Urdu literature, including Majid Amjad, Josh Maleehabadi, Shafiqur Rehman, Safia Jaanisar Akhtar, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Amrita Pritam.

Zaidi opened the performance by rendering Majid’s free verse titled Lahore which set the tone for the evening. This was followed by a comical exchange of letters narrating the highs and lows of a budding romance between two neighbours, reminiscent of the naïve flirtation with a crush during teenage years.

The innocence and spontaneity of the letters was complemented by Josh’s letters to an elderly man, over matters both petty and ludicrous.

Jaanisar’s letters to her husband chronicled her days at Aligarh University, intertwined with love and longing for being with her beloved. Similarly, Faiz’s letter to his wife, Alys, which he wrote while he was imprisoned back in the 1950s, was an ode to his love for his family and the hope to be reunited with them.

Pritam’s final letter to Sahir Ludhianvi after his death was steeped in melancholic tones, an isolation reflective of their worldly divides by society, religion and culture, offset by the communion of the heart. She communicated with him through turbulent times, making her presence felt through emotive writings.

Spanning a plethora of emotions, the readings were accentuated by live classical and contemporary music played by sitarist Wajihul Hussnain Nizami, guitarist Shahdab Younis and tabla player Nabil Iqbal.

The rhythm created a harmony of a delectable mix of emotions, sound and silence and expressions and feelings. From love to longing to mourning, the cycle of life came full circle in the performance, portraying a host of emotional states one experiences through their lifetime.

Both Saeed and Zaidi seamlessly transformed themselves into different characters with each performance, maintaining the tempo. As they played distinct roles, personifying the letters from eminent writers, they exuded both chemistry and control over their craft. While Zaidi was often intense in his expression, he was not to be overpowered by the calm and collected Saeed.

“This was such an emotional roller coaster ride for me,” said Amna Khan in the audience, “I did not know a single performance could do that to you and yet have so much depth or that any letter from the past could be so dramatic and touching.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2016.

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