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At Mehfil on 13th of January we decided to celebrate the centenary of Hindustani theatre doyen Begum Qudsia Zaidi.

In her lifetime, Begum Qudsia Zaidi had written and translated a number of books for children and even today “Chacha Chakkan ke Draame”, is one of her most loved and performed series of plays for children. She along with Habib Tanvir established the Hindustani Theatre. In 1957-8 Hindustani Theatre went on to become one of the first urban professional theatre companies of independent India.

To celebrate her works and her contribution to theatre we had the company of Javed Siddiqui Saab, Shama Zaidi (Apa) who also happens to be the daughter of Qudsia Zaidi, musician Kuldip Singh who has composed beautiful tracks for one of Qudsia Zaidi’s plays titled “ Safaid Kundli”, Atul Tiwari, Shaili Sathyu, Salim Arif and Lubna Salim. We also had the company of three children Mitarth, Afsana and Vinaica.

The evening started with an introduction welcoming everyone to another session of Mehfil, which was followed by Javed Saab’s introduction of Qudsia Zaidi.  Shama Apa continued the introduction where she spoke about Qudsia Zaidi and the Hindustani theatre connection.

A play reading took place where the three children Mitarth, Afsana and Vinaca read “ Chacha Chakan Ne tasveer Tangi”. After a riveting performance by the three of them, Atul Tiwari gave his experience of working with Qudsia Zaidi’s plays. He spoke about “ Azaar Ka Kwaab” and also touched upon the art of translation. Qudsia Begum’s contribution in translating texts into Urdu has been enormous. She has translated many great works by many great masters including Berthold Brecht. Her skill of translations have made these stories rooted yet keeping the essence of the original text.

Salim Arif and Lubna Salim read the last scene from a play called “ Doll’s House” which was a very interesting story and the scene brought out the apathy of a young married woman who is made to give up her life for her family.

This was followed by Shaili Sathyu who read an excerpt from “Gandhi Baba ki Kahani”.

The evening was drawing to an end but but could not say good bye without celebrating Javed Saab’s birthday. He has been the backbone of the mehfil and his contribution to these sessions has been phenomenal. A cake was cut to a the sound of claps and a standing ovation of the audience.

With a vote of thanks the curtains came down and the audience strolled out into the cool winter of Mumbai.