January 11, 2015

SAHMAT’s Tribute to Safdar Hasmi on 26TH Anniversary of His Martyrdom

Amol Saghar

AS the world welcomed the first day of 2015, Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) organised a day-long event to mark the 26TH anniversary of Safdar Hasmi’s martyrdom. This year also marks his 60TH birthday. The Constitution Club Annexe, New Delhi was the venue of this politically and socially significant event. Artistes from varied walks of life came together on a common platform to remember the sacrifice of a person whose life was cruelly cut short by those who were not comfortable with his outspoken, non-conformist and radical methods. The day was marked by a series of heart-warming performances that left all those present in complete awe. This year’s memorial programme paid tribute to iconic Hindi short-story writer, novelist and playwright Bhisham Sahni. This year marks the birth centenary of the legend. Younger brother of acclaimed actor and social activist Balraj Sahni, Bhisham was born on 8 August 1915 in Rawalpindi, now Pakistan. Bhisham was the general secretary of Progressive Writer’s Association (PWA) and was also the founder chairman of SAHMAT. He is known for his poignant writings on the Partition. Apart from his several novels on this theme, he is popularly known for his heart piercing rendition of the Partition in TV serial Tamas. Bhisham Sahni was awarded the Padma Bhushan for his literary works in 1998. The day-long event was kicked off with a street theatre performance by Bigul. The play staged by the group was based on one of Bhisham Sahni’s short stories, Safai Abhiyan, written over two decades ago. The engaging performance was extremely relevant from the point of view of the current political situation. This was followed by another performance by Haryana Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Rohtak. The theme of this play too was based on a short story penned by Sahni, titled Kapat Muni Ka Kunba. The play’s script was penned by noted Hindi writer Manmohan and it threw light on several aspects of the current political situation. The enthralling performances kept the audience engaged till the end. The plays were followed by classical singing performances by Tanveer Ahmed Khan and Priya Kanungo. Both the classical singers were performing for the first time on a SAHMAT stage. Though very young, the performances of both the singers were flawless and captivating. These were followed by a series of protest songs sung beautifully by Murray Scott. The rendition of these songs by Scott was one of the highlights of the evening. As the evening progressed and grew chilly, performances by stalwarts of music including Vidya Shah, Harpreet, Jasbeer Jassi and Madangopal Singh provided warmth and excitement to the rapt audience. The classical renditions of a variety of folk songs by Vidya Shah and Madangopal Singh were exceptional and were an icing on the cake. Their performances were extremely well-received by the captivated audience. One of the last events of the day was that of the performance by Astad Deboo, an internationally acclaimed exponent of modern dance. The event also saw the release of a calendar and a diary which had some rare photographs depicting Bhisham Sahni’s eventful life and his association with Safar Hashmi and SAHMAT. The limited edition diary designed by Romi Khosla was liked by many. The calendar too was fast disappearing from the sale counter put up at the venue. A film depicting some interesting and significant moments of Bhisham Sahni’s life was also shown during the course of the day. The film was directed by Nandan Kodiyadi. Another highlight of the day was the release of two books pertaining to Bhisham Sahni. While one of the books Veero is a collection of short stories penned by Sahni; the other book Bhisham Sahni-A Mukkamal Rachnakar, edited by Rajendra Sharma, is a critical appraisal of the great author. A very poignant documentary film Safdar was also screened on the occasion. This film directed by Sashi Kumar was made 26 years ago soon after Safdar Hashmi’s assassination. The talent, commitment and the tragic event leading to his death has been depicted very competently in the film. An interesting and eye-catching photo exhibition on Bhisham Sahni was also held at the venue. The colourful exhibition threw light on several interesting aspects of his life. The day was not meant only for cultural events but was also marked by people coming together from varied backgrounds and socialising and thereby making a political statement. In times when political and social harmony is in danger of being ripped apart and communalism becoming the order of the day, such events are crucial for the very survival of secularism and rationality. The coming together of a vast section of people goes to show that the labours of organisations such as SAHMAT are not futile and that there is still a sizeable proportion of the population that yearns for such ideologically and culturally sane platforms. (END)