Celebrating Indian novelist and poet Amrita Pritam on her 16th death anniversary
As a litterateur, she was an important figure in asserting feminism and political thoughts through poetry. October 31 this year is Pritam’s 16th death anniversary
‘Utth dard-mandaan dey dardiyaa tak apna Punjab. Beyley laashaan vichhiyaan, teh lahoo da bharya Chenab’ (Rise! O’ narrator of the grieving; rise! Look at your Punjab today, fields are lined with corpses, and blood fills the Chenab). These lines from Indian novelist and poet Amrita Pritam’s dirge Ajj Akhan Waris Shah Nu (Waris Shah, I Call out to You Today) vividly describes the agony faced during partition. A pertinent voice in Punjabi literature, Pritam is considered one of the initial feminist voices in India and has inspired many. She became the first woman to win the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1956 for her poem Sunehade.
As a litterateur, she was an important figure in asserting feminism and political thoughts through poetry. October 31 this year is Pritam’s 16th death anniversary. To mark this event, Modern Poets—a literature collective from Delhi—will stage ‘Ek Hai Amrita’ as homage to Pritam’s life and work.
A genius of sorts
The play will deploy storytelling, poetry, and theatre to recreate bits from the poet’s life on stage. By tracing her journey from childhood to dotage, the crew plans to bring lesser-known incidents of Pritam’s life to light. Beginning with an introduction about her journey, the tribute will go on to portray Pritam’s affection for lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi. This will be followed by an immersive recital of the letters shared between Pritam and her companion, artist and writer Inderjeet alias Imroz.
Talking about the play, director Mohit Dwivedi mentions that extracts from her poetry and excerpts of her letters will be juxtaposed with Ludhianvi’s nazms (verses of poetry) that he allegedly wrote for Amrita. “We have adapted the play from Amrita’s books, letters, and the literature that is available on her,” says 27-year-old Dwivedi. The South Delhi-based director adds, “People should get to know her work more closely. This play will delve into her life in true detail.” The two-hour long play will also feature Anhad, a band of visually-impaired musicians who will perform a medley of Ludhianvi’s nazms. “When we started, there were challenges, but we were able to tackle them with the team’s help,” says Rajeev (25), the band’s founder.
An ode to Amrita
The idea to stage a play on Pritam’s life was driven by the team’s affection towards the poet [Their first dedication to her on her birth anniversary this year], and the respect they mutually shared for her work.
“Pritam’s name brings a smile to your face; such is her legacy. Considering the work she’s done and the time when she was writing such modern literature, her work is brave and still relatable,” says Diksha Adhikari (27) who will be seen portraying the role of Amrita on stage. “I started reading about Pritam in 2016 and felt an immediate yearning to learn more about her. I also talked to people who personally knew her, watched existing plays on her, and read available literature on her to bring forward an accurate account of her life,” concludes Dwivedi.