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Straight from the streets

DIWAN SINGH BAJELI

“Humein Naaz Hai” aptly captured the plight of those who called the streets their home.



SYMBOLIC A scene from the play

Humein Naaz Hai”, presented jointly by Khoj Foundation and Jamghat at New Delhi’s India Habitat Centre to a jam-packed hall recently, depicted the cruel world of those disowned by society. The production was remarkable for its stark realism and sharp satirical edges. A gripping piece of theatre, it pricked the conscience of the audience watching the misery of those living on streets they call their home. The play is written, directed and conceived by Lokesh Jain, an artiste with a passion for bringing to the fore the seamy side of urban life.

“Humein Naaz Hai” is about the true stories of women, children and men living on the streets of the capital’s Jama Masjid area. The script is direct and aimed at capturing lives rotting in miseries. There are 25 characters in the play and each has a pathetic tale to tell and the circumstances that forced them to live lives of social outcastes, by leaving behind their milieu, home and relatives. Now all these memories haunt them as nightmare. Living under the open sky, managing to survive in the midst of crime, sexual exploitation and police highhandedness, they form a kind of fraternity, calling themselves Kangaal – poorest of the poor.

The intensity

The writer had adopted a device which permitted the characters to narrate their stories directly with heart-felt intensity. These characters remind us of Maxim Gorky’s “Lower Depths”, but it was too much to expect of Lokesh to create Gorky’s characters like Luka, a 60-year-old pilgrim, and Satin, the failed actor who delivered unforgettable dialogues such as “…….All things are part of man; all things are for man…. Man is superior to his belly.” However, the lyrics written by Lokesh, set to music score by Babli Srivastava, were inspiring and echoed Satin’s dialogue. “A man should be respected. Not pitied, pity is degrading”. The dramatic action takes place in the open space on a street in front of a tea stall owned by a Jamaalu lovingly called by his clients, chacha. Most of them are not able to pay him. He is a kind-hearted person whose father was a freedom fighter and had lost his property and honour during Partition as a price for his determination to stay in India. During his old age Jamaalu is on the street to fend for himself because his small room is occupied by his son and his family. He is a father figure to the inhabitants of the street. Despite his personal suffering he has not lost his sense of humour. The atmosphere in the production was not altogether gloomy and depressing. They quarrel, which is resolved amicably, cut jokes, sympathise and fall in love. The old film tunes are aptly used to create a fantasy world to provide the characters a few fleeting moment of happiness.

The beats of drum and imaginative lighting by Himanshu Joshi enhanced the power of the production.

The cast, which also included seven street children, gave a commendable performance. Mohammad Aadil Khan as Jamaalu chacha, Vishesh Ravi as Jhabbar, the watchman on night duty, Pawan Sharma as the madman, Lokesh Jain as Fakir Baba Batasha and Anjali Rani as Muniya, who falls in love with Patru and marries him, impressed the audience with their fine performances. Vishesh Ravi’s Jhabbar called out loudly all through the night ‘jaagte raho’ which symbolised the need for the dispossessed to awake and rise. Anjali Rani’s Muniya was full of life and youthful energy, suggesting their life is after all not all depressing.

More shows of the play are slated in the Capital, including shows at the Nehru Memorial Library on November 24 and 25.

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