Shakespeare in Hindi Cinema

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Written by Randeep Singh

In the high and palmy state of Bombay, the Bard and Hindi screen did meet … It was the Parsi theatre which brought Shakespeare to Hindi cinema. The Parsi theatre flourished between 1870 and 1940, adapting Shakespeare’s plays into Urdu, the literary lingua franca of northern India. Those plays were in turn screened and adapted to Hindi cinema.

One of the earliest such films was Dil Farosh (1927), a silent film based on the Parsi theatre adaptation of The Merchant of VeniceThe Taming of the Shrew, Antony and Cleopatra and Measure for Measure were adapted respectively in Hathili Dulhan (1932), Kafir-e-Ishq (1936) and Pak Daman(1940). Hamlet meanwhile reigned among tragedies, adapted first into the silent film Khoon-e-Nahak (1928) and later into the “talkies,” Sohrab Modi’s Khoon Ka Khoon (1935) and Kishore Sahu’s Hamlet (1954).

In adapting Shakespeare to India, the dramatists of Parsi theatre recreated his pathos, wit and intrigue in Urdu. With the exception of the drama and opera Inder Sabha (c. 1853), Urdu literature lacked a tradition of drama in the Sanskrit or Elizabethean sense; and yet, the verses of Ghalib and the marsiya of Anis and Dabeer demonstrated that Urdu was capable of dramatic resonance. The Parsi playwrights exploited that potential by making an elaborately rhetorical Urdu the vessel through which Shakespeare was carried to Indian audiences.

Take the following excerpt from Safed Khoon, Agha Hashar Kashmiri’s adaptation of King Lear. The dialogue relates to the first scene between Khakan (Lear) and Zara (Cordelia) where Khakan addresses Zara:


Khakhan: Haan, ab teri gulfishani ka intizaar hai
(Now we await a shower of flower from thy  lips)

Zara: Abba jaan, mai kya arz karoon
Ita’ut mujh se kahti hai ki tu chup rah nahin sakti
Magar mera yeh kahna hai ki mai kuchh kah nahin sakti

(Respected Father, what shall I say –
Obedience tells me that I cannot remain silent
But I have only this to say that I can say nothing)[1]

In the following dialogue, each character speaks half a line to the other, a rising tension building in rhyme:


Khakan: Chhor de yeh zid………Zara: abhi chhooti nahin
(Leave this stubbornness)……….(No, never)

Khakan: Be-adab hai tu…………Zara: Magar jhoothi nahin
(Disrespectful art thou)………(But not a liar)

Khakan: Nuqsaan uthhayegi…………..Zara: era bari ta’ala hai
(You will suffer great loss)…………….(The Creator is supreme)

Khakan: Mai kuchh na doonga tujhko……Zara: Khuda dene wala hai
(I will give thee nothing)……………………  (it is for God to give)[2]

This intensely dramatic Urdu style was well suited not only for adaptations of Shakespeare plays in Parsi theatre but for Hindi cinema as well.

Gulzar’s adaptation of The Comedy of Errors in Angoor (1981) aside, adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays in Hindi cinema petered out after 1960. The influence of Shakespeare though has been felt in the theme, story and dialogue of Hindi cinema whether through the The Taming of The Shrew in Junglee (1966) and Naukar Biwi Ka (1983) or Romeo and Juliet in Mehboob Khan’s Aan (1952) and Mansoor Khan’s Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988).

In more recent years, the bard has travelled to the Bombay underworld, the dusty towns of Uttar Pradesh and Kashmir’s valleys of snow. Shakespeare will continue to evolve and inspire in Hindi cinema as in this monologue from Haider:

Dil kī agar sunooñ to hai
Dimāgh kī to hai nahin 
Jaan looñ ki jaan duñ 
Main rahooñ ki main nahiñ[3]

Exeunt

“Shakespeare in Hindi Cinema,” Rajiv Verma in India’s Shakespeare: Translation, Interpretation and Performance (ed. Poonam Trivedi and Dennis Bartholomeusz), 269-290.

[1] R. Verma, “Shakespeare in Hindi Cinema,” 273.

[2] R. Verma, “Shakespeare in Hindi Cinema,” 274.

[3] The barely sane Haider speaks revolver in hand:
“If I listen to my heart – it’s there
It’s not of my mind 
To kill or to die
To be or not to be

Published in: on February 9, 2015 at 10:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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New Poster from Pakistan Punjabi Adbi Board

New Poster 1

Pakistan Punjabi Adbi Board plans to celebrate
International Mother Language Day by organizing
a day long cultural program and a rally
on Feb, 21, 2015
from Nasir Bagh to Punjab Assembly.

More than ten thousand people
are expected to participate.

The Board ‘appeals to all,
individuals and entities,
concerned with the linguistic and cultural rights of the people,
for financial help and support’.

For details view the Press Release below.
https://uddari.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/mother-language-day-an-appeal/

Contact
Amjad Saleem Minhas (Publisher), Coordinator
0333 4051741, sanjhpk@yahoo.com
Parveen Malik (Author), Secretary
042 36370520
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Mother Language Day: An Appeal

lahorecityofgardensImage: Lahore City of Gardens, Facebook page

Uddari fully supports the initiative taken by Mother Language Day Celebrations Committee in Lahore to present our demands in a forceful way at this year’s International Mother Language Day. Please help out by contributing money and resources to make Saturday 21 February a resounding success.

Press Release

‘February 21st is the International Mother Language Day celebrated every year all over the world with the express purpose of preserving, protecting and promoting the incredible linguistic diversity we humans have. Linguistic diversity is receptacle of human evolution and thus immensely fecund source of irreplaceable intellectual, literary and cultural richness.

‘But sadly we in the Punjab wrongly perceive the multiplicity of languages as a divisive force threatening the ill conceived notion of national unity. That is why the linguistic rights of the people in the Punjab have been denied in the name of ill-conceived linguistic cohesion. Quest for monolithic and exclusive identity has resulted in the denial of diversity and plurality creating pervasive extremism which contradicts the inclusive cultural tradition evolved by Punjab’s saints and poets.

‘Pakistan Punjabi Adbi Board, the oldest independent cultural body, has been at the forefront of struggle to get the linguistic rights of the Punjabi language restored. The Board has to its credit around two hundred publications of classical and contemporary literature. The Board plans to celebrate International Mother Language Day by organizing a day long cultural programme and a big rally on Feb, 21, 2015 from Nasir Bag to the Punjab Assembly with the demand that the mother language/Punjabi be introduced immediately at primary level so that the students get their early education in their mother language as is universally emphasized by the educationists and the UNO.

‘The Board alone cannot organize the event with its meager resources. It therefore appeals to all, individuals and entities, concerned with the linguistic and cultural rights of the people, for financial help and support. More than ten thousand people are expected to participate in the day long programme and the rally. The estimated budget is around Rupee 3 millions. Your support and cooperation will be highly appreciated.’

Amjad Saleem Minhas (Publisher), Coordinator
Parveen Malik (Author), Secretary
Cell: 0300 4117262 & 0322 4830965
Mother Language Day Celebrations Committee
Cell: 0333 4051741
Or
Send an email message to Amjad Saleem Minhas
sanjhpk@yahoo.com
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(Na)Pakistan: The Land of the (Im)Pure

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Written by Saeed Umer Abassi

The case for separation of religion and state in Pakistan has been made by atheists, agnostics and non-believers.

I argue that case, as a believer.

In Islam, God is the supreme authority. His Will creates, sustains and destroys the Universe. He is the ultimate judge of human beings based on their thoughts, words and deeds.

What need has this Almighty God for mortals to legislate in His name? What does it benefit Him whose Law is eternal and universal to have the laws of men perpetrate injustice and cruelty?

The teachings of religion on love, benevolence and justice can better politics; but why otherwise corrupt the sanctity of religion with blood, power and greed? Why further divide humanity “in creation of one essence and soul?”

Why do Pakistanis need a state to save their souls when it does not fill their bellies? What need has Islam or God for the Hudood Ordinance, the Blasphemy Law and the murder of its people in His name? What has sixty-eight years of Pakistan done in the name of Islam and God?

The Persian sage and poet Sadi remarked in the Gulistan:

Oh! Though above all human though supreme,
Above our every word or deed or dream,
Thy service closes and we quit the Mosque
Yet of Thy meaning, scarce have caught a gleam

If the mosque has failed to bring Pakistan closer to Islam or to God, then nor will all of the Islam-pasand politicians, mullahs and mujahideen of the Land of the Pure.
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Sign this petition for a secular Pakistan
Separate Religion from State. Remove Article 2 of the Constitution of Pakistan. Declare Pakistan to be a Secular Democracy
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Published in: on January 23, 2015 at 7:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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Why Criticizing Islam is Not Islamophobia

Hallaj

Written by Randeep Singh

Writing in the wake of Charlie Hebdo in Al-Jazeera, Abdullah Al-Arian argues that Islam has been “unfairly criticized and ridiculed” by the West for centuries. Such a history, he writes, has prejudiced the West into into painting Islam as illiberal and intolerant.

Islamophobia is a reality. So too are problems within Islam and the Muslim world. Islamophobia should be condemned; but not criticizing or questioning Islam or Muslim societies.

If I criticize Islam for engendering patriarchy, the persecution of minority groups and its smug, supremacist view of itself, it’s because I have criticized Christianity for the same reasons. I oppose Christian organizations for their homophobia, without hating Christianity. I criticize Israel without hating Jews. I criticize Islam without hating it. I am not hating or fearing anyone: I am striving for equality, inclusion and justice regardless of who or what we are.

The fight for freedom of expression is not a clash between civilizations. It has been happening within the Muslim world for centuries. Mansur Al-Hallaj (856-922) became a martyr for proclaiming “I am the Truth (God).” Sarmad (1590-1661) too was martyred for his “heretical” views. Bulleh Shah (1680-1757) challenged the mullah for his sectarian views. In modern times, Nazim Hikmat (1902-1963), Saadat Hassan Manto (1912-1955) Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911-1984) and Naghuib Mahfouz (1911-2006) have all been imprisoned, exiled or censured for their art and political views.

Criticism of the Muslim world as illiberal and intolerant today is likewise vindicated. Just ask Raif Badwai, the blogger who recently received 50 lashes in Saudia Arabia. Or ask Aasiya Bibi, the Christian women who languishes in prison on charges of blasphemy in Pakistan. Or how about Salman Rushdie?

Without change, the Muslim world will become progressively more intolerant and creatively barren. Denying any criticism of Islam produces a culture which is afraid to ask questions and unable to find answers.

‘I’m Charlie / I’m Ahmad – Je Suis Charlie / Je Suis Ahmad’ by Fauzia Rafique

jesuischarlie

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.’ ― Noam Chomsky

I am Charlie
In protest and condemnation of the slaughter of 10 unarmed journalists of French magazine Charlie Hebdo, their bodyguard, and a police officer, by a faction of religious extremists who were ‘offended’ by the publication’s cartoon depictions of Prophet Mohammad.
Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws are based on this same thinking where hundreds of non-Muslims and Muslims face brutal lynchings and killings each year from militants claiming their religious sentiments were offended.
The perceived inciting of this ‘religious offence’ is given as a valid reason to shoot, kill, behead, stone, burn, drag- other humans.

I am Charlie
To stand with grieving families and friends now facing trauma of the violent killings of loved ones.

I am Charlie
To strengthen and support progressive movements in France and elsewhere so that this incident is not used to further victimize Muslims, immigrants, People of Color, rights activists and other outspoken or vulnerable groups.

I am Charlie
To show solidarity with Vive Charlie Hebdo! to uphold our right to Freedom of Expression.
charliehebdo-cover

I’m Charlie
To challenge the argument that because Charlie Hebdo is seen to be a ‘racist’ publication (or ‘bad’ journalism) feeding into the systemic racism and Islamophobia of French society, we should not be enthusiastic in condemning the killings or going all out in support of the Freedom of Expression movement. This gives me the chills. It reminds me of some of the ‘reasons’ or ’causes’ of rape given to us that are based on the belief that women cause themselves to be raped by wearing provocative clothes or by staying out late at night or any number of things; Or that a child’s playful behavior invites an adult abuser to sexually abuse them. To say that a racist publication was attacked because it purposefully offended religious sentiments of Muslims in France and elsewhere, is actually saying that the victims of violence caused the violence by offending the sentiments of the attackers. Isn’t this the basis of ‘honor’ killings, blasphemy killings, and other hate crimes against women, minorities and under-privileged people in Pakistan? As well, enough victim blaming and shaming happens against underprivileged population groups in Canada. It’s not about the publication or attacked persons nor it is about placing value on them, but fighting the mindset that wants to or needs to annihilate it’s critics.

I’m Charlie / I’m Ahmad
To honor the Muslim police officer who may or may not have been ‘offended’ by Charlie Hebdo but he gave his life defending the journalists.

I am Charlie
To resist and fight the loud echoes in my ‘progressive’ circles scaring people with ‘Islamophobia’ allegations; and, the convoluted thinking of extreme religious fundamentalists who are silencing people by inflicting death.

I am Charlie
To insist on my right to investigate, describe, satirize, humourize and criticize without fear everything that concerns me.

I may detest what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ —Voltaire

Images and some information from PEN American Center‘s facebook and web pages.
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‘Three Deaths in the Summer of 2014′ by Sana Janjua

zoayspainting-sana

An extraordinary painter
had died in Pakistan
with his mind
split from the agony of
rush-wounding consciousness,

and an Ahmedi woman so ordinary
no one would remember her name
was killed with a child in her womb.

When he was alive,
he was always dying
from the pain of having witnessed
too much of what happened
on ordinary days in Pakistan
in the last two decades.

When she was alive,
she was always singing songs
so that when her son grows older,
he can extraordinarily endure
the withered weather of wrath
unlike the painter.

I don’t remember all of that,
because my doctor says
my memory is suspended
to allow for survival.

I don’t remember that
one day when I was ordered
to convert, to bow down
to a god who will not forgive me
for the sin of having been born
on the wrong side of the fence.

I don’t remember how
I was called an imbecile
on that one evening when my heart
had already sunk below
the canal that weaved the
periphery of my city.

I don’t remember those many
nights when I would wake up
howling because the cage was
smaller than the limits of my
imagination, and I was drowning
in the venom of a decayed love.

But, what I do remember
is how I threw stones at your
martyred memory having
thrown away the last remnant
of my now deceased heart.

Art work by Ahmad Zoay.

A Pakistani Canadian playwright, performer and a poet, Sana Janjua is a co-Founder and the President of Surrey Muse since 2011.

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‘Children of Peshawar’ a poem by Ashok K. Bhargava 

pashawar

Muzzled flowers
Bullet ridden walls
Blood soaked books
Ask us –
What is this barbaric devastation?
We won’t live for it

Dec 18, 2014
..

Sign this petition
candle-lights
Separate Religion from State
Declare Pakistan to be a Secular Democracy

Support this action
awp-logo
Public Meeting in Rawalpindi
Organizing society against the fascist onslaught

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Booha Bandd Karainde’ay . ‘About To Shut The Door’ by Mahmood Awan

A poem in Punjabi and English

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Tainday Naa Di Roz ChambaylRi
Mainday Sukkay Seenay Jaagdi
Tainday Suraj Naal SvailRay
Tainday VehRay KhaiRday VailRay
Nit Holi Holi Kholday
Maindaty SahwaaN Wajji TaakRi

Taindi Neeli Saavi Chunni’aaN
Aa Door Samundar Runni’aaN
Tainday SahwaaN Paani GaiRyaa
Din Aokha AaN SahayRya

Maindi Raat Udaas AkailRi
Mainda Bistar Painday Torda
MaiN Sutta Hor day Hor da

Mainday Pindday Andar Bhaonde’ay
Mainday KhaabaaN day wich Ronde’ay
Nee Boha Bandd Karainde’ay
Mainu ThoRa Hor Udeek
..

بُوہا بند کریندیٔے
محمود اعوان

تینڈے ناں دی روز چنبیلڑی
مینڈے سُکّے سینے جاگدی
تینڈے سورج نال سویلڑے
تینڈے ویڑھے کھیڈدے ویلڑے
نِت ہولی ہولی کھولدے
مینڈے ساہواں وجّی تاکڑی
تینڈی نیلی ساوی چُنیاں
تینڈے ہوٹھیں کِھڑدی چمیاں
آ دور سمندر رُنیاں
تینڈے ساہواں پانی گیڑیا
دِن اوکھا آن سہیڑیا
مینڈی رات اداس اکیلڑی
مینڈا بستر پَینڈے ٹوردا
میں سُتا ہور دے ہور دا
مینڈے پِنڈے اندر بَھوندیٔے
مینڈے خاباں دے وچ روندیٔے
نی بُوہا بند کریندیٔے
مینوں تھوڑا ہور اُڈیک
..


About to Shut the Door
Mahmood Awan

Jasmine of your name each day
awakens in my dry chest
morning rises with your sun
times playing in your back yard
slowly open
my breath-shut window
your blue green scarves
kisses blooming on your lips
Longing to reach across oceans
breath-pulled water of your eyes
begets a tough day
my night sad, alone
distance-tracking bed
transforms me in my sleep
the woman whirling in my body
weeping in my dreams
who is about to shut the door
wait for me a bit more!

Translation: Fauzia Rafique
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‘This Thanksgiving…’ by Fauzia Rafique

"A Hymn of Thanksgiving" sheet music cover - November 26, 1899. From Wikipedia.

“A Hymn of Thanksgiving” sheet music cover – November 26, 1899. From Wikipedia.

Discover me
like Columbus
discovered America

Disregard and overlook
my brand new citizenship card,
esl abilities, my bridging
capabilities. There still are
some Indians (and many
Pakistanis) in me– spoiling
for education, assimilation,
in short, civilization.

Discover me
like Columbus
discovered America

Ignore or obliterate
my multicultured clothes,
urban unriches, my
discomforting art. There still is
a writer (even when
brown) in me– needing
cliches, creative writing courses,
in short, author-ization.

Discover me
like Columbus
discovered America

Exorcise and enslave
my mind, that independent
wave dashing beyond your glitter, an
uncontrolled tongue. There still is
a rebel (even if
feminine) in me– requiring
guidance, tall historic lies,
in short, indoctrination.

Discover me
like Columbus
discovered America
..

From
https://gandholi.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/this-thanksgiving-by-fauzia-rafique/

Like Fauzia’s FB page
https://www.facebook.com/fauzia.r

Contact Fauzia
frafique@gmail.com
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‘New Genres Needed In Punjabi’ by Roop Dhillon

Punjabi Literature has a strong tradition of Sufi poetry and free thought. Over the years many literary movements have been established especially by the progressive writers. However that was almost a century ago, and in many ways the literary landscape seems to have stagnated in Realism and never moved on. This is certainly the case in Eastern Punjab. I cannot speak with any conviction about Western Punjab.

Eastern Punjab has hit a malaise where it refuses to leave the confines of realism and the literary novel, almost to the point where it considers other forms as cheap vulgar entertainment. But in this hypercomputer age this perspective is in danger of making its literary oeuvre unappealing to the modern reader and thus losing the few readers of Punjabi that exist.

In fiction and types of fiction, Punjabi lags behind the rest of the continent let alone the world. Many people are confused for example by my sci-fi stories, thinking them to be a strange thing. In fact this genre has been around for centuries in the west and even for at least 100 years in languages such as Bengali and Japanese. I have labelled this genre Vachitarvaad and definitely encourage Punjabis to try their hand at it. Other genres I see missing from Punjabi appear to be Magic Realism, Crime Fiction and Feminist Fiction. I think it is about time we writing in Punjabi catch up and give our readers more choice, and a whole spectrum of fiction so that it can compete with Cinema, TV and Computers; all modern things that may pose a threat to the habit of reading.

I also think that to achieve this, writers both from Lahnda and Charhda Punjab need to help one another. One way could be through agreeing which of the two scripts is better placed for usage or perhaps print books in both Shahmukhi and Gurmukhi. Another way, especially for Punjabi writers who live abroad, is to set up an independent publishing house or imprint that caters for Punjabi only (maybe aimed at those who live here in the west), and circumnavigates the vile practice of charging the author which exists in our native countries. All these are thoughts and ideas and it would be great to see what people think.

Over the coming weeks, I am likely to post in further detail what I know and think about these topics.

Vachitarvaad is one area I hope Punjabi writers will explore, and also other genres that may or may not have been mentioned here.

Contact Roop
rupinderpal@btinternet.com
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Published in: on November 21, 2014 at 4:06 pm  Comments Off  
Tags:

Roop Dhillon – Author

Welcome Roop Dhillon
as Author/Contributor
at Uddari Weblog!

roop-dhillon

UK Punjabi writer Roop Dhillon has joined Uddari Weblog as an Author/Contributor. He has published three novels from UK titled ‘Neela Noor’, ‘Bharind’ and ‘Samurai’. Talking about why he decided to learn Punjabi and write in it, he says:

‘This particularly occurred because Professor Khushwant Singh commented that Punjabi was a weak language with insufficient words to describe things. This annoyed me, and I went on a mission to create new words to describe my modern urban environment. This led me to write my first Punjabi novel, Neela Noor, written as a western style novel with anglicized Punjabi grammar reflecting my peers’ use of the language. It is the first Punjabi novel published in the UK; and, it is also significant in that it is secular, set in Pakistan, India and Europe’.

He is passionate about Punjabi, literature, story writing, and most of all– pushing some of those boundaries. 

View Roop’s intro here:
ROOP DHILLON

Review of his novel Bharind

Contact Roop at:
rupinderpal@btinternet.com
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Mahmood Awan – Author

Welcome Mahmood Awan
as Author/Contributor
at Uddari Weblog!

m-awan

Mahmood Awan is a Poet, Essayist and Translator. His published works include Raat Samundar Khed (Let’s Play with the Night Sea; 2002) and Veeni Likhia Din (A Day etched on her wrist; 2012).

Veeni Likhia Din received Masud Khaddarposh Award for the best Poetry book of the year 2012, Baba Guru Nanak Award (2012) and MehkaaN Adbi Award (2012).

Born in 1977 in Padhrar (Khushab; Pakistan), Mahmood is an Electrical Engineer who has been involved with the Punjabi language and literary movement since his student days at Engineering University Lahore [1995-2000]. He moved to Dublin (Ireland) in 2007 due to his professional commitments and lives there with his family.

He also writes for Pakistan’s leading English daily ‘The News’ about Punjabi Themes, Identity and Literature. His Author page at The News can be accessed at:
http://tns.thenews.com.pk/writers/mahmood-awan/

His books can be read online at apnaorg.com at the following links
http://www.apnaorg.com/books/shahmukhi/veenee-likhya-din/book.php?fldr=book
http://www.apnaorg.com/books/shahmukhi/raat-samundar-khade/book.php?fldr=book

Mahmood can be reached at:
mahmoodah@gmail.com
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Irfan Malik: A Unique Voice

“Even the language felt dangerous in my mouth” poeticised Stephen Dunn while talking about the wildness of southern Spain. He lamented that he had been riding too long in cars and wished to buy a horse. He loved smell the of oranges and olive oil and the noise of men torn between church and sex. The women captivated him, beautiful, full of public joy with a cross hanging around their necks. He then sells his motorbike and starts a journey to find a quieter place in the crowded world. The same quieter place where he may have found Irfan Malik sitting next to him.

After an equally enthralling experience of a different kind than Dunn, Irfan wrote in his poem Daal-Darr (The Fear): “This very moment our union is so raw and absolute, that it has rendered our presence obsolete. A primeval terror, I fear I may say something in this language of words, shattering the spell.”

Irfan Malik is a poet, short story writer, translator, theatre actor and director. He was born in the old Lahore, the historical walled city. After founding a literary organisation Naya Uffaq (New Horizon) with his fellow comrades in late 1970s and spending his early life as a political and social activist, he moved to Sweden in 1984. He studied Indology in Stockholm University, became a member of the Swedish Writers Association and translated Swedish Poets in Punjabi and short fiction in Urdu.

A decade later he migrated to America. He now works at Harvard University where he also studied acting and direction and is actively involved with SAATH (South Asian American Theatre, Boston) as its Artistic Director. He has published five books, directed and acted in half a dozen plays and is currently busy with his upcoming book of Punjabi Poetry Dooji Aurat(The Other Woman) that is due early next year. His Punjabi poetry collections published so far include Wich Jagratay Sutti Tahngh (In Sleeplessness Sleeps Longing; 1992), Akath(Untold, 1998) and Noon Ghunna (The Silent “N”; 2000). He has also published Punjabi translations of Swedish Poet Gosta Friberg titled Wadhda Hoya Ghaira (An Ever Expanding Circle; 2002) and Ghonghay (Fossils; 1993) that includes Urdu translations of nine Swedish short stories.

Irfan wrote poems in Swedish, English and Urdu but it was Punjabi that opened her arms to his silence, sadness, alienation and aesthetics. He is a poet of languagelessness who thrives while composing silence of the language.

Irfan is a postmodern cosmopolitan poet who claims: “I am not a Punjabi poet but a poet who writes in Punjabi.” He wrote poems in Swedish, English and Urdu but it was Punjabi that opened her arms to his silence, sadness, alienation and aesthetics. He is a poet of languagelessness who thrives while composing silence of the language. Language is his most favoured thematic concern and entirely on this single subject he developed his second book of Poetry Akath(Untold) where he wrote: “All we have are syllables and words but not the language”. It seems, the more the language let him float freer the more betrayed he feels. He believes it’s the poet who betrays the poem and not the other way round: “There is not a single part of a poem which is not a poem, it’s the poet who is inadequate” (Akath; 1998).

In another poem from this series he writes “She, a poem, which could be written by me, is still following me, she wants to unwrite herself, in my words.” Irfan’s poetic philosophy is well summarised in his statement that appeared in a Swedish poetry anthology Poet’s Stage(1991) where he wrote: “Where runs the poetic line between thinking and writing? Hasn’t writing removed me from the poet I really am? To write poetry is to get lost and not being able to find your way back. It is so lonely..so bloody lonely in the wilderness of poetry.”irfanMalik

Every outstanding writer has a grand narrative and Irfan too has one that lies hidden in the treatment of thematic complexities and comprehension of the available lingual space. All his poetry is in free verse that carries its own indigenous lyricism. It’s not lyrical in the traditional metric conventions but the whole charm lies in the inherent contrasting expressions, contemporary vocabulary and poetic sensibility.

He invokes a paradox, plays with contrasts in as fewer lines as possible and relishes this grand spectacle of wonder and brevity. This one liner poem Par Khol Maira SauN Nu Jee Ay (Butterfly: Open your wings, I want to sleep) is from his first book. He has boldly and inventively compiled those forbidden pleasures that were seldom touched in the West Punjabi poetry. He defamiliarises and deconstructs his metaphors and creates dramaturgical twists and turns while keeping the whole poem accessible. His poetry is sensuous, rich and intense.

Here’s the most-celebrated poem from his first book: “Kal raateeN jad main dair naal/ Ohday gharoN aya/ Tay apnay hathãN nu/ Ohday hathãN wich ai bhul aya/ Fajray da Pindday wich ik ajeeb jahi baychaini nay / Phawa keeta ay/ Hath honday taaN/ Cigrat laa kay / Do chaar bharwaiN sah ai khichda” (Last night very late, I left her house, and forgot my hands, in her hands. Since morning I’ve felt a strange tightness in my body, if I had my hands, I’d light a cigarette, and take some deep drags).

He is a born experimentalist. He wrote “Se-Harfi” (33-aplhabet Farsi script Acrostic, a Punjabi Poetic genre pioneered by Sultan Bahu 1632-1692) not in traditional alphabetical order but on phonetical basis. In Akath he reversed the order of the book to justify his theme and printed table of contents and dedication note at the end of the book and not at the beginning. He even left four pages blank in his last poem Kunn conceivably to invite the reader to fill in for himself or write his own poem. He titled his free verse poems as ghazals inNoon Ghunna (2000) where he used other writer’s lines translated into Punjabi as “Free verse Maqtas”.

Irfan’s diction and thematic experimentation may feel westernised but his poetic sensibility is rooted in the Punjab, and the recent emergence of Lahore in his last two books is an indication that whatever influences there may be, he still belongs to where he should in Lahore. Seamus Heaney once said: “I live here in Dublin and Heaney lives there in the countryside and in the memory”. Irfan’s poem An ode to Mall Road (Noon Ghunna; 2000) is a Heanian expression that ends like a lament: “Boston, Cambridge, Arlington/ I am walking on these rich American Streets/ since ages/ Even if I keep on walking for many hours more/ Massachusetts Avenue will not become Mall Road yet again today.”

Most of us, the self-exiled immigrants, experience multifaceted alienations, emotional, political and social but the most brutal of these all is alienation of language. At times we feel that our mother tongue is leaving us. We face an existential threat. It’s only our rootedness in language and native connectivity on conscious and sub conscious levels that carries us through. Every new poem and every next book is a battle and as Irfan is in the process of publishing his latest book after a lapse of fourteen odd years we will see if he has survived the attack and how has he surfaced after this sustained encounter.

“Rfaan Bao” of Haveli Kabli Mal, Dabbi Bazar, Rang Mahal, Lahore, your childhood prayers for immense wealth at Shaam Shahzaday’s shrine during every lunar calendar’s eleventh night seem unanswered.

However, in return you have been blessed with the ever increasing currency of sounds, silences, words, language, life and poetry. So keep sharing your wealth and never stop this charity. Jay Kandh Da Naa Pandh Honda/ Tay Pandh da Pakha/ Pakhay Da Naa Chunni Honda/ Chunni Da Khargosh/ Kee AssiN Fir vi Inj Day Honday / Jinj Day AssiN Ajj HaaN(Akath; 1998); (If wall was called a way/ and way was fan/ if fan was shawl/ and shawl meant rabbit/ would we still be the same?). Believe me we are never the same after reading this incredible poetry so get hold of any copies of Irfan’s poetry and relish this treasure.

[Originally appeared in The News on Sunday : http://tns.thenews.com.pk/unique-voice-of-irfan-malik/#.VGPQ4fmsXgc%5D

Mahmood Awan

The author is a Dublin based Punjabi poet. He may be reached at mahmoodah@gmail.com
Published in: on November 12, 2014 at 9:48 pm  Leave a Comment