Faiz International Festival: Audiences throng to rub shoulders with literary, cultural icons

‘Reminiscing about Lahore’

Speaking in soft yet passionate tones, eyes’ glistening at the mention of his beloved city, Pran Nevile was a sight to behold at the 3rd International Faiz Festival.

Born in Lahore and having lived here until the partition, Pran Nevile had already attained his post-graduate degree from the Government College. Even amid that upheaval, he got married in Lahore, though, as he so painstakingly explained in a session at the Festival, his marriage was officiated in Delhi after his migration to India.

At the other side of the border, Nevile made a career in the Indian Foreign Service and had an illustrious journey that took him from a diplomat to United Nations (UN) Consul- General for India.

Having authored well-known books such as ‘Love Stories from the Raj’, ‘Rare Glimpses of the Raj’, ‘Beyond the Veil – Indian Women in the Raj’, among others, Nevile has an impressive literary oeuvre.

But he is best known for his 1992 book ‘Lahore – A Sentimental Journey’ – an ode to Lahore and attempts to capture the grandeur of what the city once was. The book was republished in 2016 by Lahore-based Ilqa Publications, with important additions: Nevile’s experiences at Government College, an epilogue and an afterword.

Pran Nevile was present at the Faiz Festival and in a session exploring the evolution of Lahore, spoke in detail about how the city has changed and yet remained the same.

“People who come back after a long time cannot recognize many of the new developments that have taken place in the city but the essence, that always remains the same,” said he, with a hint of nostalgia.

Speaking exclusively to Pakistan Today, Pran Nevile described the identity of Lahore to be abstract. “Lahore is an eternal city, politics and religion is not what one thinks of when one mentions Lahore, even to people who have never been here. Lahore represents the culture of the subcontinent,” he stated.

When asked about what message he had for young writers who aspired for literary recognition, Pran Nevile shook his head. “Don’t look for recognition, work from your heart and the recognition will follow,” he said.

“Young writers should take up their pens and write with passion. From both sides of the border, the focus should not be on religion or politics or even ideological difference but themes of peace, harmony, and love should be explored,” he advised the upcoming writers.

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The inimitable Zehra Apa

The 3rd International Faiz Festival was a literature lover’s dream come true. Every session had illustrious literary personalities present and even while walking through the crowded halls, sidewalks and open spaces of Alhamra, one was sure to spot a writer, a poet or a mainstream actor.

Zehra Nigah was also present at the festival and in a session discussing the history and voyage of qawwali, she talked about the importance of qawwali and its modern form.

Zehra Nigah stated how over the years qawwali has been the voice that resonates with a human heart. Weaving couplets of Iqbal and Faiz seamlessly into her conversation, Zehra Apa – as this doyen of a cultural icon and writers and poets is lovingly called – unfolded the history of qawwali and how the Sufi saints of yore spread their message through it.

As soon as her session ended, Zehra Nigah was thronged by a multitude, wanting to share a fleeting moment or two in her sparkling presence.

Though it was quite difficult to engage her in conversation, such was the pandemonium around her, yet, ever so gracious, she still spared a couple of minutes to speak to Pakistan Today. Zehra Nigah applauded the turnout at the Festival and despite having been through her session, she displayed keen intent to stay on and attend other sessions throughout the day. “It’s not every day that you see such events happening in Lahore,” she remarked in her signature style.

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Optimism about Pakistani Cinema

Sarmad Khoosat, Samina Peerzada and Samiya Mumtaz were, among others, participants at the Faiz International Festival and in a session centered on the recent revival of cinema discussed theatre, drama and modern film-making of Pakistan.

The session saw a huge turnout by people from all walks of life, especially youngsters who were keen to record moments from the session and have a digital evidence of their close proximity with the stars they had hitherto seen either on TV or cinema screens.

With Sarmad Khoosat moderating the session, the discussion revolved around the most recent releases at the Pakistani box office, including ‘Mein Punjab Nahi Jao Gi’, ‘Namaloom Afrad 2’ and the impact ‘Verna’ is likely to create.

Samina Peerzada and Samiya Mumtaz talked about the women’s roles in the mainstream media of Pakistan and while they were not overjoyed at the repeated roles of a damsel in distress that a woman mostly portrays, they were optimistic about the progressive future of films because these did not shy away from sensitive and controversial themes.

The session ended after a question and answer session where diehard fans, excited at a chance to speak with the celebrities, outpoured their love and affection instead of asking questions pertaining to the session.



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