Dard minnatkash-e-dawa na hua, main na achha hua, bura na hua
The above mentioned famous couplet is also a favourite to the most loved Ghalib on stage, Tom Alter. The thespian has played the legendary 18th century poet on stage many times all over the country but this time he will don the lucknowi achkan and Mirza’s iconic topi with his flowing white beard mouthing famous couplets from the Dewan-e-Ghalib only for the Mumbai audience. The Ghalib Festival, organised by Delhi’s Pierrot Troupe and Mumbai’s Kirdaar, comprises three popular plays — Ghalib, Ghalib Ke Khat and Ghalib In New Delhi — written and directed by M Sayeed Alam.
“Urdu, poetry and Ghalib have been my passions for life. For me it is a joy and a great and wonderful challenge to play Ghalib,” says Alter. No doubt, playing the eccentric poet is not easy. Not only one has to pronounce the Farsi-Urdu-Hindustani shayari correctly, the actor also has to inculcate the nuances and idiosyncrasies that the poet was famous for. “I try to bring out the humane side of Ghalib on stage; his way of speaking and style is reflected in his poetry. And his poetry is a great source to act like him,” Alter says.
The Ghalib in me
For Alter, interest in Ghalib is as universally true as the sun rising in the east. “I was always interested in him.” He says that playing the Urdu poet has affected him deeply. “When I think about his life and mine, his art and mine... he makes me more aware of myself,” Alter says adding that he finds many similarities between the two. “We both have no regard for money, we both love our friends dearly, we both believe that humanity is so much greater than any religion,” he adds.
Not an easy task
The legendary poet has been played by many actors and the one name that comes to mind is Naseeruddin Shah. Were there comparisons when he started playing Ghalib after Gulzar’s Mirza Ghalib was telecast on TV? “It is difficult to rate myself — but I do enjoy it,” Alter says cheekily. And though he has been most famously been associated with Ghalib, Alter has done many other tougher roles too. “The most difficult role on stage for me so far has been playing Gandhi in the play Yadi, written by Asghar Wajaahat,” he informs.
“The first play, in the three-day fest, is a vivacious account of the life and times of Mirza Ghalib, punctuated with music, poetry, literary anecdotes and historical episodes that help people know times and situation of India of the 18th century,” informs Alam. Ghalib Ke Khat, on the other hand, has Mirza’s friends, disciples, his wife Umrao Begum and his maid reading and reviewing his letters. In the process, the audience is introduced to not only Ghalib but also to his near and dear ones, including Munshi Har Gopal ‘Taftah’, a long forgotten poet of Persian, played by Alter.
When & Where The fest runs from November 15-17, at 7:30 pm at Rangsharda Auditorium
While, the two plays deal with information on the poet, Ghalib In New Delhi is a comedy dealing with the poet’s re-birth in 21st century New Delhi, highlighting his trials, travails and tribulations — from his second birth at a bus stop in Delhi to staying in a servant quarter with a University student from Bihar to becoming a Page-3 celebrity. Harish Chhabra plays Ghalib in this play.