Aakhri Shama: The last candle -- Siraj Syed

Aakhri Shama: The last candle -- Siraj Syed



In February 1969, Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) turned the Diwan-e-Aam of Lal Quila (Red Fort), in Delhi, into the stage for Aakhri Shama, a play that recreates the historic mushaira (poets’ gathering, correct spelling being mushairah) of 1857, featuring some of the greatest Urdu poets of India. The ‘last candle’ is a reference to the tradition of a candle being placed before the poet who is called to recite his poems. It goes around, till the last invitee has read out his ‘kalaam’ (work).

Starring Balraj Sahni and A.K. Hangal, with a supporting cast of over 30, It was directed by M.S. Sathyu, who went on to make the unforgettable film, Garam Hawa. I saw the play in Bombay, a little later, at the Tejpal Hall. It continued to be performed, with some gaps, till 1981. A revival came up in 2001. Then there was a nine-year hiatus, only to see another revival in 2011. 

Aakhri Shama is a fictionalised chronicle of a mushaira, whose patron is the last Mughal emperor of India, BahadurShah Zafar, himself a poet of no mean calibre. In the year 1857, when Indians stood up in a mutiny against the British imperialists, the event was on the verge of being called off, till Maulvi (Muslim Priest/Scholar) Karimuddin decided to take it upon himself to attempt the impossible. 

The play is an adaptation of Dilli Ka Yaadgar Mushaira, by Farhatullah Baig, dramatised by Kaifi Azmi. (An English translation, by Akhtar Qamber, titled The Last Mushai’rah of Delhi has been published by Orient Black Swan).
(Reproduced from the IPTAnama web-page, with acknowledgement and thanks. IPTA is the acronym of Indian People’s Theatre Association)

Siraj Syed Siraj is the Consulting Editor of nrizone.com. See profile






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