Likhay Jo Khatt Tujhay – An Ode to Love

Mohammad Rafi’s melodious voice echoed inside the Zia Mohyeddin Theatre at NAPA. The song – Likhay Jo Khatt Tujhay – was also the title of the brilliant evening organised by the Olomopolo Media and left the audience waiting for the show to begin rather eagerly. The surreal, dramatic renditions of letters read by veteran actress Sania Saeed and Qissa Khwaan’s founder/reciter Tajdar Zaidi were accompanied by a three-instrument orchestra featuring sitar player Wajihul Hussnain Nizami, tabla player Irfan Khan and guitarist Shahdab Younis. The evening, indeed, took ones breath away.

Zaidi initiated Likhay Jo Khatt Tujhay – An Ode to Love with the recital of Fikr Taunsvi’s set of love letters. “Pyari Helen! Kal jab tum balcony main kharey apni lambi, kaali, ghani, bheegi zulfain jhatak jhatak kar sukha rahi theen, tou mujhay shaq hai kay tumnay mujh par ek ashiqana nigah dali thi.” The audience in the theatre chuckled after having heard the very first sentence and one instantly knew, there was a lot more to look forward to. Zaidi’s recital carried the old world charm. His deep voice and expressive demeanour was enough to get one hooked. Portraying the feelings of a true romantic, he masterfully delivered words written by the great author of yesteryears. With the aim to keep his identity hidden, the writer of the letter ends his love note stating “Tumhara, BCD.”

Clad in a white shirt and red coloured gharara, the lovely Saeed read her response to BCD, as the love interest ABC. Her quirky demeanour and cheerful tone set the mood for the ongoing exchange of words between the new lovers, longing to see one another. The use of humour in these letters left the audience giggling, while Saeed and Zaidi sat across them all engrossed in their characters. The two delivered the innocent, newfound romance through love notes like lovers of yesteryears would do.

One after another, every letter was a reminder of how beautiful is the language we refer to as Urdu. From long messages written by the big guns of Urdu literature, the likes of wordsmiths such as Josh Malihabadi and Shafiq-ur-Rahman to Amrita Pritam and Sahir Ludhianvi, the written words were rather overwhelming. From humorous to sombre exchanges between lovelorn individuals, the mood of the evening left one wanting for more. A letter – written by the great Faiz Ahmed Faiz, from jail, for his wife Alys Faiz – gave away a lot about the brilliant writer and the charm his words possessed. A witty, fictional letter, titled Tusy Ka Tota, written by Colonel Mohammad Khan left the audience in stitches. Safiya Akhtar’s adoring note to husband Jan Nisar Akhtar, recited by Saeed, was a reflection of genuine love back in the days. Finally, Amrita Pritam’s last letter to Sahir Ludhianvi before his death was the epitome of melancholy that took the evening to its end.

Despite the fact that letters are no more a preferred mode of communication anymore, one cannot deny the beauty of written word on a piece of paper that still carries a lot more substance than any SMS would.

“As much as we benefit with latest technology, the charm of handwritten letters is inimitable,” Saeed said, talking about the letters she recited. “Even though all of the letters at the dramatic readings were classics, my favourite remains the one by Josh Malihabadi, which was beautifully read by Tajdar. All of the letters were unique in their own way. All I did was put myself in the shoes of those who wrote them and convey their feelings to the audience,” she added.

Ziadi, too, felt that such an event is a great step towards serving Urdu. “Dramatic readings would not only bring [together] Urdu lovers on one platform but also help thrive the language among the younger generation. Regardless of whether people still write letters or not, they do feel connected with the past and the brilliant work of yesteryears when shows like this take place.”

It was, indeed, an evening that evoked the feelings of love, longing, wit, and adoration for Urdu, to say the least.