Remembering Begum Qudsia Zaidi


Published on 19 December, 2014 in Mint

The theatre doyenne’s centenary celebrations will include plays and talks

If Begum Qudsia Zaidi were alive, she would have turned 100 this month. To honour the legendary writer and theatre practitioner, Zaidi’s family is organizing the Begum Qudsia Zaidi Centenary Celebrations in the Capital.

Zaidi, who was born on 23 December 1914 in Delhi, established the Hindustani Theatre in 1955 with noted playwright Habib Tanvir. What began as an amateur group went on to become one of independent India’s first urban professional theatre companies. She emerged as a doyen of Delhi’s theatre scene.

Zaidi’s idea of theatre was a blend of classical and national heritage, which retained its individualistic relevance. She employed the rich legacy of Sanskrit classical plays and adapted them to suit the understanding of contemporary audiences.

Begum Qudsia Zaidi

Begum Qudsia Zaidi

Writer and literary historian Rakhshanda Jalil says: “From an early interest in translating stories for children to helping organize the Shankar’s Weekly art competitions, Zaidi’s journey was a revolutionary one. She set up the Hindustani Theatre, which was a first of its kind initiative, among the earliest examples of a professional urban theatre group that encouraged local talent but drew upon larger, universal, almost cosmopolitan concerns.”

Jalil adds: “When you see her oeuvre in its entirety, what strikes me now is its eclecticism. She has done translations of (Bertolt) Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle and Kalidasa’s Shakuntala as well as (Henrik) Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. There are translations/adaptations from Punjabi, Russian and Bengali, making her oeuvre hugely diverse as well as cosmopolitan.”

The Begum Qudsia Zaidi Centenary Celebrations will begin on 23 December with the play Chacha Chakkan Ke Kaarname, presented by Pierrot’s Troupe and directed by Danish Iqbal and M. Sayeed Alam. The following day, Azar Ka Khwab, directed by Atul Tiwari, will be staged. On the third day, M.S. Sathyu’s Mudrarakshas will be presented.

On 24 December, a day-long seminar on Zaidi’s life and writings, the relevance of her work and the language of theatre, will feature eminent speakers such as Shama Zaidi (the Begum’s daughter), Urdu writer Anis Azmi, Sathyu and Tiwari. The centenary celebrations will culminate with a session on “Setting The Stage”, a conversation between Sathyu and artist Anjolie Ela Menon, on 28 December.

The Begum Qudsia Zaidi Centenary Celebrations will be held from 23-28 December, at National School of Drama (NSD), Bahawalpur House, Bhagwandas Road (23389402). The “Setting The Stage” session will be held at May Day Bookstore and Café, New Ranjit Nagar. Timings vary. Passes, available at NSD.

 

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