Referencing the magical properties of Amar Ayyar’s bag that yielded boundless possibilities, the word Zambeel seemed appropriate to suggest not just its infinite nature, but also its relationship to the tradition of storytelling.
OUR HISTORY – Well so far, at least….
(Chronicle from September 2011 to December 2012)
With a shared background in theatre we came upon this venture after Mahvash’s sister Maliha Ahmed requested us to read Ismat Chughtai’s story Ghoonghat at her alumni association event in January this year. The 15 minute performance, read by Mahvash and Asma was more than well received and we soon got requests to extend the project for another event. Given the task to construct a more comprehensive work, we set about researching for more texts to integrate with Ghoonghat. The result, Ismat Chughtai Kay Saath Aik Shaam was an encouraging success. The performance included another story Bacchho Phuppi along with extracts from Sa’adat Hasan Manto’s essay on Ismat, which was read by Saife Hasan. The response was so encouraging that we decided to take it to a more public forum and performed it at the T2F in Karachi soon after.
Thus began our journey into Urdu literature and the possibilities of integrating works into reading as performance.
The next project to follow was a short story by Quratul Ain Hyder, Nazaara Darmiyaan Hai. The challenges were very different here and this work used sound as a tool to suggest ambiance and environment. We were lucky enough to find support in friends like Musadiq Sanwal who composed and sang the doha “Kaaga Sub Tun Khaaeeyo” for the story, which became an integral signature for this work throughout. We are also grateful to Raza Rumi for writing an introductory text for this performance “Sanam Khaanay ki Awaaz” which was read by Mahvash Faruqi before the reading.
In November 2011 we performed Shigaaf consisting of two stories, Tishnagi by Masood Mufti and The Body by Afsan Chowdhry. Both stories were thematically relevant to the VASL and CAP led project on 1971 and were performed as part of the opening of the CAP show at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. We considered the selection of both stories by authors from both sides of the divide. The Body, an originally Bangla story was translated into English by Sabreena Ahmed and was also performed in English, thus opening up new possibilities for Zambeel Dramatic Readings.
Shigaaf was later performed again at our favourite venue T2F in January 2012 and we remain ever so grateful to Sabeen Mahmud for her generous support and encouragement.
In February 2012, we performedSips from a Broken Teacup , a series of extracts from the book by Raihana Hasan. The reading was part of the showcasing of the book at T2F and was accompanied by a discussion with the author and Nuzhat Kidwai, moderated by Dr Ishrat Lindblad.
Aao Manto Sunein was the first of two projects planned for this year as a tribute to Saadat Hasan Manto in the year of his birth centenary. Specifically written for radio in 1940, these plays present a lighter side of the celebrated author who is without doubt one of the greatest literary figures of the subcontinent. Performed in May 2012, Zambeel Dramatic Readings added a guest reader to this project; Mohammad Ehteshamuddin, an old theatre colleague and dear friend, with whom the narratives of Aao were further enriched.
Taqseem, the second of this year’s projects on Manto included Siyaah Haashiay and Gurmukh Singh ki Vasiyat. It was performed at the T2F on Saturday 8 September and at the Centre of Biomedical Ethics and Culture SIUT on Saturday 15 September to a gradually growing and supportive audience.
September also concluded one year of work for Zambeel Dramatic Readings. To celebrate, we revisited one of our initial works, Quratulain Hyder’s Nazaara Darmiyaan Hai. Performing it almost a year after it was first read at the same venue was heartwarming as we saw our audiences grow in number. The reading was preceded by Asif Farrukhi’s short introduction to Quratulain Hyder in his talk titled Nazar Say Nazaaray Tak.
The year was also marked by a specially designed logo and bookmark by Naheed Yahya for the occasion.
The year concluded with a reading of Taqseem at the 5th Annual Urdu Conference at the Karachi Arts Council on 8 December 2012. The reading was well received in a gathering of literary figures and brought in a completely new audience for us.
So thank you all, for supporting us, listening to us and looking forward to our new work.
We hope to find your supportive presence in our forthcoming works.