Iqbal Niyazi had a long-standing dream of creating a forum that would showcase Urdu literature from all over India on one platform. “There is so much to Urdu culture. I wanted to showcase this diversity,” he says.
So in 1992, Niyazi, along with a group of 50 others, formed the Kirdaar Academy that now conducts various literary events and seminars. Perhaps it was the popularity of the academy, which led Niyazi to launch the National Urdu Drama Festival, a unique platform for all Urdu theatre lovers, in 2008. “The Kirdaar Academy was hugely popular and I was getting a lot of requests from friends and family to start a festival to showcase Urdu plays,” he recalls.
Every year in March, the festival showcases plays that are carefully selected from all over India. Niyazi explains, “There are a lot of entries but we believe in quality and therefore, it takes us four to five months to select the plays for this festival.”
This year, the subjects of the pieces are quite diverse ranging from Bollywood to politics. For instance, Ek Tanha Chand directed by Roobi Saine is a docu-drama on the life of actress Meena Kumari. The skit intersperses dialogue and poetry through the actress’ lesser-known poems. Another play, Khol Do, directed by JR Sagar, is adapted from Manto’s short story of the same name. Niyazi says, “Even though the story is quite old, it gels with social issues that are relevant even today. It was almost as if Manto was coming to life through his stories and ideals.”
Another play, Khala Kamaal Ki directed by Farrukh Sher Khan is about a woman (khala) whose main objective is to help others. “It’s about selflessness as a virtue that today most people in the world have forgotten. The play is interspersed with comedy but delivers a deep message of overcoming caste and religious barriers, which are still prevalent in our country.”
After the screenings, guests can visit the adjacent Urdu books and magazine exhibition and also take part in a special contest called the ‘Nukkad’. Niyazi explains, “The best play will be awarded on the last day of the festival. With so many interesting productions, it is going to be very difficult for us to choose the best piece.”