Narrow bylanes teeming with crowds, aromas of kebabs that envelope your senses and locals who go about their usual business -- these are some of the things that one witnesses while walking down Bhendi Bazaar. But what is now a haunt for shoppers and food lovers was once the cultural hub of the most well-known writers of India. Likewise this area that extends from Madanpura to Nagpada and Dongri right till Mohammed Ali Roadwas home to the Bhendi Bazaar Gharana of Hindustani classical music, which was the training ground of India’s nightingale,Lata Mangeshkar.
Urdu Markaz, an organisation that works for the promotion of Urdu, is conducting a three-day cultural festival that will celebrate the rich cultural history of this area. Titled the Bhendi Bazaar Festival, the event will be held from January 10-12. Zubair Azmi, director of Urdu Markaz, says, “Bhendi Bazaar has a rich cultural significance that many people don’t know. For instance,when the Leftist Progressive Writers’ Movement was started in1932 by Sajjad Babbar, Mulk Raj Anand and Munshi Premchand, they would meet at a coffee house in Bhendi Bazaar for brainstorming. Similarly, the Bhendi Bazaar Gharana of Hindustani classical music was founded by three brothers -- Chhajju Khan, Nazir Khan and Khadim Hussain Khan in this area in 1890.”
As a tribute to the ghaz als and literary works of the greats, poetry contests of progressive writers such as Kaifi Azmi and Jan Nisan Akhtar, who lived in the area, will be held. “We will also commemorate Sadat Hassan Manto, one of the world’s most famous short story writers, who lived here. The places where he and Akhtar lived still exist,” said Azmi. Mohammedbhai, a play that Manto had penned based on a local goon of Kamathipura, will also be staged.
The history of historical places such as Mughal Masjid, MinaraMasjid, Zakaria Masjid and Musafirkhana in the area will be chronicled. “The story of the emergence of delicacies like shaami kebabs and biryani will also be explored through photo exhibitions,” says Azmi. Apart from an exhibition of rare photographs of film personalities, the programme titled 100 Years of Urdu Cinema will host talks by Gulzar, Javed Akhtar and Prasoon Joshi among others while panel discussions will feature Waheeda Rehman and Nimmy.
Azmi and his companions have been working on this festival since three years. He says, “We are organising this festival to document the area’s history. We intend to make this an annual affair.”
The Bhendi Bazaar Festival starts from January 10-12. Entry is free for all