LAHORE: The fourth Faiz International Festival kicked off here at Alhamra Arts Council to packed crowds, as people made their way to celebrate the life, works and beliefs of the late great Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
Day one of the three-day festival began late in the day on account of it being Friday, with the first session of the opening day taking place at four in the afternoon.
Quite fittingly, the short 45-minute first session was a talk between the daughters of two of Urdu’s greatest poets and the most influential ones in the latter half of the 20th century.
Salima Hashmi, the daughter of the man who the festival has been honouring for the past four years was joined by Shabana Azmi, the daughter of Indian Urdu poet of great fame, repute and importance to the Urdu language, Kafi Azmi.
The two daughters, both accomplished women in their own right, talked about their fathers and the importance of their work in a short but invigorating opening session.
Shabana Azmi is joined in Lahore by her poet and film lyricist husband, Javed Akhtar, who will also take part in the festival, and deliver talks alongside other contemporary poets, including Amjad Islam Amjad.
After the session was over, the organisers took a break to set up for the two events that would end the first day’s festivities.
The two talks at the end of the day visitors had to choose between were “An evening with Tahira Syeda”, in which the ghazal and folk singer talked candidly with the audience about her life, struggles and story of success.
On the other hand, the Ajoka Theatre performed their play “Kala Menda Bhes”, which is being performed for the second time at Alhamra in recent months. The play was last performed on September 29 by the Ajoka Theatre during the Madeeha Gauhar festival, which had been arranged to honour the late artist after her recent demise. The performance at the Faiz Festival was also dedicated to Madeeha Gauhar.
“Kala Meda Bhes” is a play about the search for water in south Punjab and the colourful Cholistani culture, presented in a folk style. Set outside of a shrine, the play features a single well controlled by the shrine’s head. A classic Punjabi play, it features the small town politics surrounding something as basic as water. While it may be a stretch, the play’s natural lyricism and moments of songs make it almost a Punjabi musical.
With a beautiful set, the play had the audience in stitches, while managing with equal power to bring across serious social themes.
While the two main events were being set up, an art exhibition featuring old and new artists alike was also held which was greatly enjoyed with a large number of people turning up and being mesmerised by the happenings.
The festival is expected to pick up even more on the weekend, with the festivities starting at 11 am on both Saturday and Sunday morning, and continuing on into the night. Highlighters for the coming days include Zia Mohyeddin, Tina Sani and other performances besides various talks of socio-political nature.