LAHORE - The second day of Alhamra International Literary and Cultural Festival 2015 was attended by large number of people from different walks of life with the overall number going into thousands.

The panel discussions on different topics related to heritage, art and literature were held simultaneously throughout the day in the three halls of Lahore Arts Council and the Adabi Baithak.

First session of the day was about the roots of Urdu language, which was moderated by Dr Fakharul Haq Noon. The panelists were Dr Qasim Baghio, Shamim Hanfi and Dr Tehseen Firaqi. The second session held at the same time was about women fiction writers, which was moderated by Asghar Nadeem Syed. The panelists included Bano Qudsia, Tahira Iqbal, Amna Mufti, Zahida Hina, Neelam Ahmad Bashir, Salma Awan, Bushra Ejaz and Tasneem Manto. The third session also held at the same time was about the world of cartoons. Renowned cartoonists Javaid Iqbal, Rafiq Ahmed Fica and Shaukat Mahmood Maxim joined the gathering.

This session was moderated by Nigar Nazar.

There was also a session about Seraiki literature that was moderated by Abbas Tabish.

Legends including Jamilud Din Aali, John Alia, Perveen Shakir, Dr Wazir Agha, Shafqat Tanveer Mirza, Madam Noor Jehan and Bedil Haideri were also remembered. In conversation at this session were Intezar Hussain, Mobin Mirza, Nahid Qasmi, Aqeel Abbas Jafri, Mushtaq Sufi, Hassan Abbas Raza and Nasir Bashir. There was also a session about the literary heritage of Allama Iqbal, which was moderated by Dr Rafiud Din Hashmi. The panelists were Dr Khurshid Rizvi and Dr Iqbal Shahid.

Tribute to Mehdi Hassan

The 11th session of the day was a simplistic conversation between Dr Umer Adil and Mr Amjad Pervaiz on their personal perceptions of the great legend.

The discussion started off with Dr Umer Adil criticising the media’s role in today’s society. “Our media is misusing its power and playing a negative part, the language and the humour they present on television these days is just unacceptable. I fear for my daughters and the coming generations, because the path they are all headed to is not a decent one,” said Dr Adil.

He further expressed his dismay towards the young generation who are not familiar with the legends Pakistan has produced over the years. Dr Adil stated: “The biggest recycling industry in the country is the music industry; they recycle old beautiful songs without paying any tribute to the original piece.

“It’s a shame to see our youth nodding their heads while listening to these remakes; they’ll never know the true beauty of the original ones.

Dr Amjad Pervez, who is also widely known for his vocals, then took the stage and paid a 15 minute tribute to late Mehdi Hassan. He explained to the audience how the ghazal maestro was truly different, and used to sing from his ragi.

He talked about his uniqueness and thanked him for his contributions to the industry. “Mr Mehdi Hassan was the channel through which the ghazals and writings of famous poets such as Mir and Faiz reached us.”

Bhuuli Bisri, Charaag-e-toor, Dil-e-Nadan Tujhe Hua Kya Hai, and Dil Ki Baat Labon Par Laakar are amongst the most famous ghazals of the renowned singer. He was so prominent in India’s music industry that many notable Indian musicians including Hari Haran and Sonu Nigham tried to copy his style.

“According to the times of India, Mehdi Hassan Sahab was more famous in India than he was in Pakistan; maybe it was because of the hint of “Lucknow’s sangeet” in his style. He was, after all, the student of the great Ismael Khan,” Amjad Pervez added.

The two men further dwelled in to the harsh realities of our society today, where the beautiful art of “ghazal” is deteriorating rapidly. Pakistani government has been paying no attention towards our culture; However India on the other hand has been setting an example because of the efforts being made to conserve theirs.

Umer Adil further went on by saying: “Their vocalists and instrumentalists are surviving today unlike ours, It’s not that we don’t have talent, our talent is brilliant and unmatchable, it’s just that we don’t have enough opportunities here. It’s sad but unfortunately I don’t believe that we’ll be able to produce another Mehdi Hassan in next 20 years.”

The sitting ended on a lighter note with Amjad Pervez sharing his experiences while working with Mehdi Hassan and telling the audience about the friendship between Madam Noor Jahan and Mehdi Hassan. The theatre of past and today

The jam packed audience for this session was impatiently waiting to see the legends they have seen on television for quite some time. Kamal Ahmad Rizvi, Masood Akhtar and Aurangzeb Laghari are well known actors, who are respected in our society for their work, and will always be remembered.

Due to the time factor, the session was cut short to 30 minutes by the moderator Dawar Mehmood who himself is widely known for his plays and acting. The discussion started off with the question of the lack of originality of our today’s theatre, since institutions today teach Shakespeare rather than our unique and innovative Pakistani theatre.

Masood Akhtar, who is renowned for his dramas such as “Waris” talked about his loyalty to the theatre. “We used to work for more than 12 hours a day, and got paid only 50 rupees per drama. Food was never on the producer and all the actors paid for it themselves. Everybody including our female staff used to sit down together to eat after we ordered food from Anarkali or Mall Road. The commitment we had to the public was like no other. If there was any tragedy, we never cancelled our play and still performed. We were there to entertain people.”

Kamal Sahab, when asked about his role in “Alif Noon” and why the social and economic problems depicted in the show weren’t led to any solutions, laughed and said: “I wanted the brains of our Pakistanis to do some exercise so I left them to think for the solutions themselves.”

The session ended with Aurangzaib Laghari recommending the audience to “learn the decent things from the old generation and holding on to them.” He further emphasised on the importance of Islam and the need to promote it through our theatre and dramas.