DIWAN SINGH BAJELI
Writer and filmmaker Syed Asghar Wajahat talks about his ensuing visit to Iran and other Central Asian countries.
A MAN OF MANY PARTS Novelist, playwright, filmmaker and scholar Syed Asghar Wajahat.
`Highly sophisticated art forms like ghazal, rubai and qasida, which occupy a significant place in our cultural life, evolved as a result of our contact with Central Asia about 500 years ago. There were movements of scholars and artistes between India and Central Asian countries, especially between Iran, during the Moghul period, but this cultural exchange came to an end abruptly with British rule in India,' says Syed Asghar Wajahat, an eminent Hindi playwright, novelist and independent filmmaker.
Head of the Department of Hindi, Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi, Professor Wajahat is leaving for Iran shortly. "I am going there to study the changes that have taken place in these forms over the years. It is also an attempt to revive our ancient cultural relations on an individual basis."
From Iran he will go to Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan before returning to Iran. During his three-month tour he will discover the common literary and artistic link between India and these countries. "Above all I shall interact with people to know their lifestyle and their views about the fast changing socio-economic and political scenario against the backdrop of American interference in this part of Asia."
Prof. Wajahat has one more reason to visit Iran. It is personal. He calls it a journey to discover his roots. He says that according to official records, his ancestors came to India as a part of Humayun's army in the 16th Century. "It is believed that our ancestor Syed Ikramuddin migrated from a village called Khaaf near Siraz. But there is another village of the same name. I shall manage to find out which one is the village of our ancestors."
Though he approached various agencies, including the Ministry of External Affairs, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and UNESCO, he did not receive any response to his request. However, his university has granted him three months study leave. Apart from collecting material on common heritage and shared views on art, literature, music and craft, he will write a series of articles for Indian publications.
As a young man, he got the opportunity to watch Nautanki in his town. "I was fascinated with this folk form and gradually got attracted to theatre and playwriting," recalls.
So far he has written six full-length plays, and almost all his plays have been staged. His play "Jin Lahore Nai Dekhya" came in for wide notice. It had an all-India premier at New Delhi's Shri Ram Centre under the direction of Habib Tanvir way back in 1989. Since then it has also been staged in some regional languages. It has also been staged in Karachi, Lahore, Sydney, New York and Dubai. At present Dinesh Thakur is rehearsing this play to mount it in Mumbai. According to the playwright, so far it has had more than 1000 performances. Commenting on his play, he says, "There is a clash between three antagonistic forces - religious fanaticism, the common man and the poet, finally asserting human values."
His latest novel titled "Kaisi Aagi Lagai", which runs into 500 pages, has been recently released. It talks about students and the Communist movement against the backdrop of declining feudalism. He has also been engaged in painting. A scholar of many parts, his first love is the novel. "It gives me enough space and freedom to create a fictional world parallel to the real one. I have decided to concentrate on the print media. It is the word that makes a deep thinking and penetrating analysis of the human condition and society possible."
A widely travelled scholar, after his return to India, he will set out on another journey, a journey to his hometown, Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh, where he was born in 1946.
It will be yet another discovery of roots. Accompanied by a group of intellectuals, artistes and writers, the journey, interestingly, will start from Bawani Imali, a place where 52 people who rose in revolt against British imperialism were hanged in 1857.
"The journey will culminate with the preparation of a white paper that will be sent to state and central governments."
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