Mit rahi hai yahan zubaan-o-ghazal, aur Ghalib ka jashn jaari hai (the language of ghazal is being wiped out, and the celebration of Ghalib continues) — poet Azhar Inayati had lamented once, directing us towards the idea that Urdu, the once so popular language of the street, was fading away from the popular discourse. In an attempt to eulogise Urdu, Jashn-e-Rekhta every year showcases the various colours and nuances of the language, which has been a significant element in the vast repertoire of literature, philosophy and romance since the 12th century.
For three days from Feb 17-19, noted artists, poets, writers and musicians came together to extol the mellifluousness of Urdu for the third edition of Jashn-e-Rekhta. “The interest of the people hasn’t increased; it has just exploded. This was something I didn’t expect. The last two editions have been heartwarming for the festival that celebrates Urdu; we call it Urdu but for all practical purposes, it’s Hindustani,” says Sanjiv Saraf, director of the festival and the founder of Rekhta. He goes on to add that the marginalised existence in the popular discourse because of the division is surprising despite existence of so many popular films and songs.
This year, the festival was inaugurated today by popular writer, director and lyricist Gulzar and sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. The festival’s first session took place on Saturday between Gulzar and screenwriter Javed Siddiqui, who is remembered for being the dialogue writer for Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi. This was followed by a discussion on Premchand. The first day also saw a dastangoi session by Aamir Ahmed and Himanshu Bajpai. MS Sathyu, Nadira Babbar, Salim Arif and Saurabh Shukla discussed Urdu in the context of theatre in the session “Theatre ke Bhoole Huye Rang”, while popular literary critic and scholar Gopi Chand Narang discussed mystic Amir Khusro’s contribution in popularising the language. In a session moderated by film critic Bhawna Somaya, Siddiqi, Prem Chopra and Sharmila Tagore looked back at the presence of Urdu in Bollywood in a session titled “Jab Filmein Urdu Bolti Thi”.
In this year’s festival there was something for all age-groups. There was Urdu storytelling for children by theatre director Kamal Pruthi. The first day concluded with a mushaira. The third and final day of the festival had Prasoon Joshi speak about presence of Urdu lyrics in Bollywood. This year also featured a women’s poets meet. But one of the more anticipated sessions was the one by actor Annu Kapoor who which was a part of the session “Urdu Suron ka Mausam-e-Bahaar” with Rumi Jaffery.
“We are already taking the festival to colleges. Soon, we will be taking smaller versions of the festival to other cities,” says Saraf.
The festival also hosted an Urdu Bazaar which will have special stalls offering ittars, artefacts and film posters.