Likhay Jo Khat Tujhe ~ Readings From Urdu Literature~ Review


I have always read. As a child I remember carrying two books everywhere, one that I was reading at the time and the other a backup, in case the first one finished faster than expected. I grew up reading everything and anything that came my way and every so often patted myself on the back for being so very well read.

P1With time came the realization that reading involved a lot more than the ability to summarize the who, what, when and where of a particular text. Reading, a very dear mentor taught me, is not merely about checking off a box – this popular book and that famous author – it is about actively engaging with the sense and sensibility of the written word.

A skilled reader is one attuned to not only that which is written but also to that which is left unwritten. Deafening silences, exquisite emotions, subtle nuances, implicit undertones – all waiting to be heard and heeded, unveiled as it were, by a connoisseur. Reading out loud and make the text come alive is a whole other art form, one which takes a special kind of performer, and not every dramatic rendition will leave an impact, but magic does happens when an accomplished reader meets a fabulous text.

Weaned on a steady diet of Zia Moheyuddin’s recordings of selections tumhari-amrita-300x200from Urdu literature, over the years I’ve been privileged to see Zia sahab read live and have also attended readings by stalwarts like Shabana Azmi, Farooq Sheikh, Naseeruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapoor, among others. Most recently I had the pleasure of watching Sania Saeed and Tajdar Zaidi perform live in Lahore, and this has to count among my most favorite of the readings I have attended till date.

Organized by Olomopolo Media on occasion of their third anniversary, this exclusive event was directed by Kanwal Khoosat and featured a meticulously curated playlist comprising fictional img_7562and original love letters penned by an eclectic mix of writers, included among them Majid Amjad, Josh Maleehabadi, Shafiq-ur Rehman, Safia Jaanisar, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and Amrita Pritam.

Spanning a whole range of emotions – from the naive flirtation of teenagers, to a young wife’s yearning for her new husband, to the companionable conversations of a couple who’ve seen and survived the vagaries of life, to the gut-wrenching heartbreak of a love lost to the finality of death – the appreciative audience was made privy to the multifarious nature of something so easily described with one word – love. So skillfully 14045529_1154257668001552_4397432390192546200_nwas the sequencing and so fluidly did the pieces flow from one to the other that not once did the arrangement appear anything but organic.

That Sania Saeed is an actor par excellence is not news and neither is the fact that I am an ardent admirer. But to see her perform live, successfully tackle a range of characters – from a teenager to a young bride to a mature  – and do all these women complete justice, with no props, no movement, relying her theater training and expressing emotion solely through her voice, was truly a revelation. Her rendition of Amrita Pritam’s final letter to Sahir Ludhianvi was exceptional. Even if I hadn’t been a fan I would’ve walked away a convert after this masterclass.

Joining Sania from Islamabad, Tajdar Zaidi’s is a name that was new to me then, but after this performance is unknown no more. To perform alongside Sania and hold his own takes a lot of doing, but Tajdar proved himself to be a worthy partner. Hopefully we will continue hearing and seeing more of Tajdar in the days to come (Hello TV people, are you all sleeping?!?). Wajih ull Hussnain’s skillful playing and his judicious selection of accompanying musical pieces went a long way towards providing the necessary ambiance, drawing the audience into the worlds inhabited by these characters, allowing us to peek over their shoulder as they poured out their heart on paper.

Of the readings I have previously attended many may have boasted big names and have had a lot more hoopla 14520436_1190814984345820_3932245443065784810_nsurrounding them, but I have on occasions walked away feeling less than thrilled. I am typically disappointed not on account of the artists, but of the way these tours are organized in order to make them commercially viable. No matter how good an artist might be, after reading the same thing day in and day out for 10-15 days at  stretch there creeps in a mechanical quality to the performance, which detracts from the joy of hearing these literary classics come alive.

In sharp contrast, this was a one off reading, put together especially for this Olomopolo’s anniversary and from what I gathered this was the first time Sania had performed some of these pieces; in many ways, therefore, this playlist was as new for her as it was 14563437_1194001314027187_7113555376023394166_nfor the audience and thus made for a very special experience. Beginning with content selection to the quality of performance, the simple but effective set, the intimate setting, and the overall production values, I have no qualms in saying that this event was as world class as any that I have attended here in the U.S.

I am now back home, from my other home, and looking back cannot help but envy those in Pakistan with the ease of access to such high quality events. I really wish more people in Lahore, as in other cities of Pakistan, would come out in numbers and support such events and register their appreciation for the class and quality of talent right here in our backyards. img_8054And on that note, DRNR readers in Islamabad do not miss out on your chance to attend a retooled version of this performance in your city, to be held on October 22nd. For further details please contact the Olomopolo Facebook page.

Finally as I sign off, here’s a pic that captures the paisa vasool moment of my trip. Talk about checking off item numero uno on my fangirl bucket list!

Written by SZ~

Videos and images courtesy Olomopolo Media. 

13 replies

  1. Since I still have not reactivated FB (talk about Zid!), let me “like” it here via email… brilliantly written as always…. and such a pleasure to meet you, even though a short time we spent, due to my rushing out… hope to meet again soon… and till then, here’s to staying in touch..

    Imran Mahboob

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.


    • @Imran M: thank you for reading – you are always very kind!
      Likewise! It was great to finally meet and hopefully the next time around we will have more time .. 👍


    • @JR: hey! hey! Thank you! It’s good to be back — for a bit there I thought I’d forgotten to write since it took me forever to get this out! In any case now I’m playing catch up and will hopefully start writing up stuff ..
      re: Urdu: yes it’s a lovely language, but till you start reading and writing you could always hear the classics read out .. I know Zia Moheyuddin’s recordings are online and Olomopolo’s also started putting out their recordings of their live shows on yt .. you can find their yt channel under their name .. do check out Sania Saeed and Nadia Jamil’s performance of Lorilie .. brilliant is the only way to describe it .. would love to hear your thoughts once you’ve watched these performances.

      And hoping your trip was a productive one and that you are settled back into a manageable routine again. Xo


      • Hi SZ.
        Thanks for the recommendations. Watched Zia Moheyuddin and also found Anwar Maqsood (I’m a big fan!) in Jashn-e-Rekhta 2016! What a treat! There has been some discussion recently (not in mainstream media of course) about Urdu in India so I’m glad to see these events publicized and seemingly well attended.
        Language politics is alive and well where I’m from in the South and we are loosing so much as political forces seek to homogenize the sociocultural-religious fabric. Check out Sainath’s PARI site that is documenting diversity in language, cultural forms, and faces!

        Watched Lorilie on Youtube. I’ve only seen SS’s performance so far. It is breathtaking! Her ability to maintain that emotional intensity being only one person on stage is testament to her artistry. I would love to visit Lahore for the dynamic theatre(stage) events. I grew up learning through stage performances (as a spectator not performer!) in my little town and it remains a great pleasure whether I am.
        Thanks so much for bringing these events to us.

        PS: Congratulations on new baby!


  2. Oh man.. Wrote a big comment and thanks to wordpress change.. I had to log on through fb before posting and voila my comment disappeared :/ but never mind here it goes again

    Ahhh.. Its been ages since i read any worthy review.. Welcome back SZ .. You were severely and dearly missed!!

    Loveed reading this piece of writing, absolute beauty.. I felt like i was with you and can see everyhing in front of me.. Thank you for sharing vdos as well.. Made this experience more fun and relatable.. Sania Saeed like you said.. Naam hie kafi he.. Nothing less is expected from her.. The naughtiness in her voice while reading that letter was just brilliant and Tajdar Zaidi.. Simply amazing.. Finesse in his voice was superb.. And bg score added too much beauty.. If i enjoyed these 4 minutes i can imagine your level of enjoyment.. 🙂

    And yaar wow you have been listening to all those starlets.. Kuch aur baqi reh gaya ho impress karne k lye to vo bhi batadein 😉

    Keep writing yaar.. This place makes me happy.much love😘


    • @Rehmat: aww!!! Thank you — lots of hugs and love for you. It’s been too long and I have really really missed our regular chit chat.. thank you so much for taking the time to read and go thru the videos .. I tell you it was an absolutely fab event.
      Ab, I am hoping to not disappear again but yaar these dramas!! WTH is going on with TV?!? As I’m trying to play catch up I’m finding it really difficult to sit through the episodes with ffwding..

      What are you watching these days? And most importantly how have you been??


    • @Rehmat: I have fixed the WordPress setting that required you to log in first .. you should be good to comment as you’ve always been doing .. sorry for this!


      • @SZ: wah jeeyo.. Thank you..

        These days dramas are disaster seriously.. I am watching Besharam on n off with ffwd mode.. Nothing new i tell you.. Oh n started watching Bin Roye… And my goodness why everyone is so Ott… :/ looking forward to Banjara.. Looks nice..

        Oh im doing well.. Little one is keeping busy but also gives amaa some time to relax 🙂


        • @Rehmat: Will be looking fwd to your thoughts on Dil Banjaara 🙂

          And, oh yes, a very warm welcome to the youngest member of the DRNR family! Congratulations from all of us on your new baby – lots n lots of best wishes and prayers for both of you! ❤


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