Special tributes were part of the three-day Faiz Festival
The three-day Faiz Festival, which concluded recently at Alhamra, The Mall, turned out to be a great success, not only because the organisers had managed to follow the schedule strictly, but also because all the events at the festival received large crowds of people — a true mix of people of different age groups and backgrounds.
The festival had been designed to include special tributes to the great people we lost during the past year or so, since the pandemic struck — such as Farooq Qaiser, IA Rehman, Haseena Moin and Lata Mangeshkar. The tributes were paid by their peers, friends, students and fans who touched on these creative souls’ legacy of resistance, resilience and resolve.
The panellists on each session fondly remembered the legends and the timelessness of their work. The tribute to Lata Mangeshkar was paid by a couple of young singers, whose rendition of some of her most memorable film songs had the audience singing along.
At another event, Salima Hashmi, Arshad Mehmood and the Niazi Brothers shared memories of their times spent with the genius humour that Farooq Qaiser was. Floodgates of nostalgia were opened when Javaid and Babar Niazi recreated for the audience the ever-troubled Massi Museebtay and other iconic characters from Uncle Sargam’s classroom.
Haseena Moin empowered women through the characters she wrote for them. Her ladies defied the odds and never felt limited by their gender. Besides, they had a voice and expressed their views fearlessly. The session on the legendary playwright had Shahnaz Sheikh, Simi Raheal and Misbah Ishaq sharing their memories and commenting on Moin’s ability to create characters that would be etched in public memory.
Moin’s sister, Ghazala, also said a few words on the occasion and moved the audience to tears.
The session was moderated by Moneeza Hashmi.
At the tribute to IA Rehman, the panellists included Hussain Naqi, Asha’ar Rehman and Salima Hashmi. In attendance were journalists, educators, members of the literati and many young people who looked eager to listen to the stories being told about the great champion of human rights that Rehman was. His struggle to highlight the human rights crisis in Pakistan, his fearless journalism and his calm and collected personality were dearly remembered by those who knew him from close quarters.
— The writer is a staff member
By Nushmiya Sukhera
One of the sessions at the Faiz Festival seemed somewhat more special than the others, if I may take the liberty to say so. Conversations With My Father, with panellists Moneeza Hashmi, Navid Shahzad and Osama Siddique, delved into the book Hashmi has written about her father and their relationship.
The fact that Faiz’s name was not included as part of the title holds immense importance because that’s exactly what Hashmi’s book, and this session, was all about. The session separated Faiz the poet from Faiz the father, giving the audience a glimpse into who he was with his children — breaking him free from the shackles of what we want and believe him to be.
“When we know great men and women, what we do is we sanitise them to the point of being incapable of making mistakes. We sweep their weaknesses under the carpet where eventually they become invisible to people,” said Navid Shahzad. She added that Faiz was so strongly revered that the entire nation saw him in only one light casting a shadow upon other facets of his personality.
In her book, Hashmi has included letters her father wrote to her at different stages of her life. She writes back to him after 40 years.
Faiz lived in exile in Beirut during a military regime in Pakistan. The central theme of the session was about a daughter talking to and about her father about his absence in her life after his death but also while he was alive. The discussion helped humanise Faiz to the point where everyone saw a different version of him. He was, like all of us, capable of mistakes and had his own shortcomings of sorts. How many of those shortcomings can be blamed on the state is a different discussion altogether. As the panellists read aloud his letters, the mood in Alhamra’s Hall 1 took a sombre turn. Letters, as they do, often lay bare those writing them and those being written to. Faiz’s letters show the pain of a man filled with feelings of failing his family, and provide a glimpse into the heart of an aching father who was condemned to seeing his children grow up only in black and white photographs.
Faiz was human; he made mistakes, led a difficult life, endured much, and left this world with his children still finding the words and ways to talk to him — about his absence — all whilst being a dear father, grandfather and the great poet we know him to be.
The writer is a journalist based in Lahore. She has studied at Mount Holyoke College and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
By Usama Ali
Finding Jinnah: Artists’ Interpretation of the Book, a session with Dr Furqan Ahmed and Dr Ali Raza on the book, titled Finding Jinnah, moderated by Salima Hashmi, was held in Hall III. Hashmi introduced the book as a compilation of contemporary artists’ “interpretation” of Jinnah in the form of portraits.
The portraits could not be shown at the event because of some technical issue, but the discussion on the book was able to stir the imagination of the audience. Dr Ahmed, the author, revealed the reason behind collecting the many paintings of Jinnah. He said that his fascination for Jinnah as well as contemporary art motivated him to do so. The portraits, put together, add to the understanding we have about the founding father of the nation, Dr Ahmed told the audience. He also said that the portraits were “organic interpretations by the artists” which made them even more authentic.
Hashmi commented that Jinnah, despite being everywhere on currency notes and coins, is actually invisible as we have not been fully acquainted with him. The book, thus, does the needful.
Dr Raza, the second speaker at the session, who has contributed an essay, titled Will the Real Mr Jinnah Stand Up? to the book, praised the uniqueness of the book as it enlarges upon the image of Jinnah. He stated that there is a certain political image of Jinnah that is reinforced every year at our national events, which is why the said book stands out, because it breaks the one-dimensional understanding of him.
Among other literary events held at Faiz Festival, noted writer and translator Musharraf Ali Farooqi had a session with Dr Osama Siddique regarding Farooqi’s remarkable compilation of 24 volumes of Tilism-i-Hoshruba, a fantasy story of the adventures of the legendary hero, Amir Hamza, his sons and grandsons. The compilation took four years to come out, Farooqi told the audience.
He also spoke of the great lot of work that went into the translation while retaining the flavor and context of the original book.
In response to a question, Farooqi said that stories were the biggest export of the subcontinent back in the day. The imaginative world of Tilism-i-Hoshruba is sewn in the cultural fabric of the subcontinent, especially that of Awadh. We should be proud of Dastan-i-Amir Hamza, commented Dr Siddique.
The writer has done BS Hons in English literature from the University of the Punjab
By Usama Ali
A tribute was paid to musician Farhad Humayun, who passed away last year at a young age. In an hour-long session, Humayun’s close friends and family remembered him as a visionary artist who pioneered the genre of underground music in Pakistan. The session was moderated by Navid Shahzad, Humayun’s mother.
Shahzad recalled how right after his brain surgery, when Humayun woke up in the hospital bed, he made a fist and raised it in the air, like Freddy Mercury, announcing that he was back! The audience was deeply touched.
A musician named Umair shared his own experience as a struggling artist, saying that once he randomly sent a demo to Humayun on Facebook. Because he and Humayun had no mutual friends on the social networking app, he didn’t expect his message to be entertained. But, to his utter surprise, Humayun not only replied but also invited him to his house and offered to join his band (Overload). Umair said that he was completely overwhelmed by the kindness of this man who was a celebrity. “He was a true mentor,” Umair remarked.
Later, a documentary on Humayun was shown. It delved deeper into Humayun as a person, his sociable nature, his compassion and love for all kinds of artists, be it the dholwalas (percussionists) or bagpipers. He respected anyone who had any contribution to music and arts.
Faisal Baig, Humayun’s longtime friend, spoke of how Humayun always opted for the best in everything — be it food or physical fitness. Besides, he was a great mentor to new artists.
The session concluded with the announcement that the Farhad Humayun Foundation had been set up to continue his legacy through mentorship programmes, scholarships for art students and collaborative sound art projects.
By Usama Ali
Faiz Festival wasn’t short on music and dance. Mori araj suno, a mesmerising performance by the kathak maestro, Adnan Jahangir, captivated the audience on Day 2 of the festival.
The performance was composed of three segments, with the artist dancing to the sweet music of his ankle bells. The first segment was based on pakhawaj and table and the second on Jhok Ranjhan di. The concluding segment, which was based on Mayen vey teray wekhan nun, was decidedly the most enthralling. It symbolised the human body as a kind of a charkha (spinning wheel) that keeps on spinning through sad and happy times, and is doomed to break one day.
The same evening, Alhamra’s Hall 1 was packed to capacity. The mostly young audience had showed up for the musical performance by LAAL band. They weren’t disappointed, as lead vocalist Taimur Rahman belted out his best-known tracks. All these tracks are songs of resistance. These included Turya ja Farida, Meri baat suno, Zulmat ko zia, and Mein nay uss say yeh kaha. The lyrics as well as the compositions had the audiences swaying and singing along.
Outside, in the open air, Quadram, the popular percussion band, had the spectators in thrall.
On the final day of the festival, Dastaangoi was held. Celebrating the glorious tradition of storytelling in Urdu literature, the event comprised two segments. First of these was the the Dastaan-i-Tilism-i-Hoshruba, which was read out by Nazrul Hassan and Raheel Siddiqui. Both of them told the story with such emotion and expression that they seemed to bring the characters in the tale of Tilism-i-Hoshruba to life before the audiences. They especially narrated the section on the enchanting world of Hoshruba in which Amr Ayyar and his four companions embark on an adventure to save Prince Asad, the Tilism Kusha.
Noted TV and theatre actor Fawwad Khan narrated two dastaans. Tinged with the contemporary political puns, the story of a king wanting to be entertained but not willing to pay anything as a reward was a treat for the audience.