FAIZ AHMAD FAIZ Centenary Celebration 2011
SATURDAY JULY 16th, 2011
1590 Oakland Road, Suite B213
San Jose, CA 95131

DEAR HEART (Staged reading)
A Short Play
By Sam Litham & Munib Anwar
Stage Adaption by Saqib Mausoof
Jessica Risco as Alys
Kashif Maqsood as Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Produced by:
Ijaz Syed
Presented by:
Faiz Centenary Celebrations Committee

FAIZ was one of the most acclaimed poets of South Asia, born in Sialkot, Pakistan, writing in Urdu & Punjabi. He allied his poetry and person not only with the aspirations of Pakistanis but also with the international movement for peace and human rights. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

FAIZ’s outspoken condemnation of injustice and inequality led to the charges of high treason and was imprisoned. A romantic revolutionary poet kept writing, conventional theme of love & beauty submerged in larger social & political issues, Dast-e-Saba & Zindan Nama, two collections of modernist poetry blended with classical Urdu & Farsi tradition.

He was friends with Nazim Hikmet and Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Laureate.

FAIZ’s poetry is a message of hope for the people longing for peace and freedom, a source of inspiration for those seeking to build a just society.

ABID MINTO is currently the elected President of National Workers Party (NWP) of Pakistan, Abid Hassan Minto Minto (born 3rd February 1932, Rawalpindi, Pakistan) is a constitutional expert and senior lawyer of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He is also a literary critic and a leftwing civic and political leader. His legal career spans over 50 years during which he was elected member of the Pakistan Bar Council from 1966 up to 1983; President, Lahore High Court Bar Association (1982); Chairman, National Coordination Committee of Lawyers (1981 to 1985) and President, Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBA) (1997 to 1999).

Minto became a member of The Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) in 1949 and remained with it until it was banned in 1954 after the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case along with the Democratic Students Federation (DSF) which was also co-founded by Minto in 1949 while at Gordon College.

For More Information:
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To Faiz from Alys, ‘Dear Heart’ a play by Sam Lathem

Faiz (Sam Lathem) and Alys (Helen Phillips)

Dear Heart, a 25-minute play in English based on the life of Faiz and his wife Alys, and set in the period when he was imprisoned in Pakistan during the early 1950s on treason charges, was staged for the first time on 14 May 2011 in Oxford, England.

The event was organised jointly by Anjuman-e-Adab Oxford, Oxford University Pakistan Society and the Faiz Centenary Celebration Committee UK.

The play was a part of an evening of speeches, performances, and poetry readings celebrating the life and work of Faiz. The play, dramatic and thought provoking was received with rapturous applause and a standing ovation. An imprisoned poet of Punjabi origin writing in the Urdu language of feudal literary sensibility, being visited by Alys, the love of his life, and the mother of their two young daughters – this sort of plot would have risked falling into the trap of sentimentality a la Punjabi/Urdu theatre. But the play steers clear of such a trap and carries the message across in a simple, emotive and subtle way.

The play gives prominence to Alys’ story revealing her courage and power in the Faiz narrative. Her character, played with feeling and expressiveness by Helen Phillips, stands out. Faiz, played by Sam Lathem, displays deftly both the helplessness of a prisoner and steadfastness of a committed poet. The two guards are a pivotal and integral part of the play, particularly when they are required not to speak. The older guard is played with powerful energy and stage presence, by Charanjit Singh. The younger guard is played by Ali Aulia, who manages to reveal a touching transformative journey. In no time the raw intensity of the play takes you to a virtuality, beyond time and space.

Even if one is not familiar with the lives of Faiz and Alys, the play communicates the emotional journey of two people caught in a desperate and traumatic situation who are determined to survive against all odds, the source of their survival – a powerful love for each other. Finally, in the play there are echoes of Faiz’s appeal to a universality in revealing that the guards are also prisoners.

Faiz (Sam Lathem) and prison guards Ali Aulia and Charanjit Singh

Writer/Director Sam Lathem says this about the play
I have been inspired to write Dear Heart with one simple thought – love for the whole world cannot be locked away and forgotten about. Alys Faiz a woman in a new world, armed only with love will fight for all human rights.

I wrote the play, earlier this year, setting it in and around the small cell in which Faiz was imprisoned. This gave me a strong backdrop for the play. Alys had not seen Faiz, for three months, this gave her a strong emotional centre from which I could write. Discovering Faiz, had been tortured by two guards, she first sets about her prison reformation, she then sets about Faiz’s reformation reaffirming his sense of self worth. Faced with a mountain to climb, sorting out the political and personal corruption, she does so armed only with love. The play ends with Alys saying to Faiz that he must be patient, and to keep writing. As she exits, we realize, how strong she has been, and how strong she must be to get her husband released.

Alys has been a footnote in Faiz’s life and at times for far too long. I felt, I needed to shine the light on her, to step out of the shadows of Faiz’s beautiful light and for us to realise there would be no him without her.

Words and images by Amarjit Chandan