Urdu literature has become synonymous to the works of Sadat Hasan Manto, Munshi Premchand and Ismat Chughtai. These writers became famous due to their literary works, some of which were often considered controversial. Thus, when Tamaasha Theatre decided to host Urdu Readings – a recital of short stories by popular writers – we knew what was coming. But after seven sessions, the readings have veered into a new era of writers, brought to the audience with the help of writer and academic Aslam Parvez. Parvez has handpicked some of the finest works by the best writers, whose stories are narrated through dramatic readings. We managed to catch the last two sessions, which introduced us to the works of Quaratul Ain Haidar, Ahmed Ali, Ghulam Abbas, and Ahmed Nadim Qasmi.
Both the readers had a unique style of narration – Raza using her voice for added effect, and Devasthali, his facial expressions. While Raza is a fast reader, she was impeccably Nachiket Devasthali, while the third was taken up by theatre actor Ayesha Raza Mishra. The first two were narrated by actress Pathjad Ki Awaz, and Photographer, Jila Watan was known for her novels in the era of poetry. Three of her short stories were read at the session – Quaratul Ain HaidarA celebrated Urdu fiction writer, clear. It also worked in their favor that the texts were extremely easy to understand, and the readers did provide explanations for difficult words in Hindi or English. Overall, this was the better of the two sessions, and Haidar’s stories were highly engaging.
The second session included a short story each by Ahmed Ali, Ghulam Abbas, and Ahmed Nadim Qasmi. Priyanka Setia read the stories of Ali and Qasmi, while Abbas’ Anandi (later made into the feature film Mandi by Shyam Benegal) was narrated by Udit Parashar. Ali’s story was simple to read and painted a visual picture in the mind. Setia had the audience captivated with her soft tone and rhythmic pace. Her narration of Qasmi’s letter was beautiful, and the audience couldn’t help but break into applause at the end of it. Abbas’ story was just as mesmerizing, but the language was found to be too difficult for those not fluent in Urdu, and they failed to understand a large portion in the beginning.