Thursday, April 1, 2010

Play 'Sara' - Sara Shagufta by Mahesh Dattani.


Sara is a dramatic enactment of the life and times of Sara Shagufta, one of Pakistan's most controversial poets whose life was troubled with personal conflict, which found expression through her creative outpourings. Largely based on her letters to Amrita Pritam, this dramatization takes us through her struggles and victories as it does try to fathom her innermost yearnings.


A world renowned English Playwright, Mahesh has directed various plays in English but 'Sara' is his first attempt with the Hindustani Language.


Sara Shagufta’s is an important voice because it came from a deeply conservative society of the seventies and early eighties. She flouted the rules laid down by her society and yet deep in her heart she yearned for the very things that a civilized society offers an individual. Love, family and life lived with dignity. Did she acquire these in her short time on earth? Yes and no.


Her poetry is searing and deeply personal. It dazzles with metaphor and compels the reader/listener to try and understand her life better through her words.

The play has been written by Delhi based journalist Shahid Anwar and Seema Azmi (NSD) will portray the role of Sara Shagufta.


Directed by Mahesh Dattani, SARA is an attempt to recognize the contributions of Sara Shagufta and for what she stood. The play, a one-person show by Seema Azmi will be staged at various centres in India, especially in the non metros. Part of the proceeds from the play will be donated in support of Dr. Kiran Bedi?s NGO, Navjyoti India Foundation that campaigns for women empowerment.

Invited audience comprising of the various celebrities such as Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Farooque Sheikh, Waheeda Rehman, Manu Rishi, Suchitra Krishnamurti, Suchitra Pillai, Mohan Kapur, Achint Kaur, Sandip Sickand, Divya Dutta, Sanjana Kapoor, Piyush Mishra, Perizaad Zorabian Irani, and many others.

Poet as a Rebel
by Mahesh Dattani
Source Credit;THE WEEK, March 20th 2010


When playwright Shahid Anwar read out the script of Sara to me, I felt compelled to direct it. I must confess my Urdu is not that hot so it took me a while to understand and appreciate the late Sara Shagufta’s poetry. What first struck me was the remarkable life that she led and the challenges she faced as a woman and a poet in a stiflingly male-dominated society of Pakistan in the 1970s. To quote a male poet of her time and place: “A woman with a pen is a nuisance to society.”

Lest we think we are better off in India or in the 21st century, a friend of mine recalls with some amusement that whenever she travels by taxi and instructs the driver to take her on a particular route, he invariably tells her it’s not a good idea and suggests an alternative route. Once when I took a taxi with her, she asked me to give directions. Not a word out of the driver. She paid the fare, but the change was handed over to me.

Why do we think that women do not have a right to use their brains or to express themselves freely?
Sara, the play, is a dramatic enactment of the life and times of one of Pakistan’s most controversial poets whose life was troubled with personal conflict. Largely based on her letters to Amrita Pritam, this dramatisation takes us through her struggles and victories as it does try to fathom her innermost yearnings. Her poetry is searing and deeply personal. It dazzles with metaphor and compels the reader to try and understand her life better through her words. One gem in translation—Does a woman have any territory beyond her body?

Sara Shagufta’s is an important voice because it came from a deeply conservative society. She flouted the rules laid down by society and yet deep in her heart she yearned for the very things that a civilised society offers an individual. Love, family and life lived with dignity. Did she acquire these in her short time on earth? She did have her moments of victory like when she walks out of a marriage riddled with oppression and humiliation. She fought bitterly for the custody of her children. In court, her ex-husband decided to put a slur on her character to win the case and questioned her fidelity. Sara responded to this by telling the judge that he was absolutely right. She was immoral and unfaithful. That the children were not her husband’s and so he had no right over them. She implored the court to hand over possession of her children, as the man had no right over children that were not his. The court ruled in her favour!

Yet, she failed to gain the acceptance and validation as a poet she longed for in spite of becoming a famous “shayara”. Critics and society continued to pull her down, and she was branded as an indiscriminately sexual woman. Finally, she committed suicide unable to bear the guilt of bringing ruin to her family as a result of her poetry and public appearances in “mushairaas”, the bastion of male privilege.

In my production, I am fortunate to have an actor like Seema Azmi essay the role of Sara. The play deals with the suffocation Sara experienced in the hands of her many husbands and in-laws.

Sara was not a feminist writer by any standards. She rarely questioned gender politics, but when she did, her words stung with their acrid tone. Once when she was divorced from a husband who wrongfully suspected her of infidelity, she wrote with sarcastic intent—“On the streets of fidelity, the dog is considered more faithful than the bitch.”

To me, the play speaks of a search for freedom. All of us, no matter how free we consider ourselves to be, are bound by custom, decorum or good grace to censor our true feelings from being expressed. Sometimes, we allow these constraints to kill our inner voice. Sara felt no such compulsion. She chose death over the indignity of submission.

5 comments:

Pavitra said...

oo wow.. this play was fantasic! had me on the tip of my seat throughout! i am amongst the few on whom any play rarely has an effect.. and Sara definitely did.. even till a few days later..
i was awestruck by the actress for sure.. the different moods.. her.. it was beautiful..
but who IS the actress?? and why isn't her name mentioned anywhere? should she also not get credit for the hardwork she's put in?

ten said...

I am a theatre practitioner in Karachi, Pakistan and was a close friend of Sara. I am organising a Conference on performance art and gender and we have someone presenting a paper on the poet Sara Shagufta. I would very much like to include Mahesh Dattani's play on Sara, perhaps as a reading. Is it possible to put me in touch with Mahesh or to give me his contact so that I could get the script from him? My email contact is: tehrik@gmail.com and website:www.tehrik-e-niswan.org.pk
It would be wonderful to get the script from him.
Thank you
Sheema Kermani

Amjad Miandad said...

Hi dear,

Please tell me how can I get this play in Islamabad Pakistan.

Regards,

Amjad Miandad.

amjadmiandad at gmail dot com

Devi Nangrani said...

Amrita presetam's letters bring to the minds of readers an image that Sara herself has revealed beautifully in her poetry named "ankhein" the sorrow of a woman melts in her own frozen stream of pain... .jab usne apne bête ok doodh n pila pane ki peedha ok jabot karate hue kaha hai "Bacche ki asli Karbala to mere dil mien ban chuki hai"
If dard ki dastaan pedha ki siyahi mein likhi hui.....
Devi nangrani

Devi Nangrani said...

Amrita presetam's letters bring to the minds of readers an image that Sara herself has revealed beautifully in her poetry named "ankhein" the sorrow of a woman melts in her own frozen stream of pain... .jab usne apne bête ok doodh n pila pane ki peedha ok jabot karate hue kaha hai "Bacche ki asli Karbala to mere dil mien ban chuki hai"
If dard ki dastaan pedha ki siyahi mein likhi hui.....
Devi nangrani