Mian Biwi aur Wagah, Dubai’s famous original Urdu play on tradition of letter-writing, to be staged in Delhi

By TwoCircles.net Staff Reporter

Dubai: Following a successful run at its home base in Dubai, “Mian, Biwi aur Wagah”- an original Urdu play based on the lost tradition of letter-writing – is starting its international tour with New Delhi as its first destination. The Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre (IHC), New Delhi, will host three shows of the play – at 7:00 p.m. on 27 January 2018 and two shows on 28 January at 4:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. respectively.

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The play Mian, Biwi aur Wagah is based on a series of letters, narrating a mixed bag of events and slice-of-life stories. These letters encapsulate human experiences and frailties and are a menagerie of tales wrapped in nostalgic exchanges. The duration of the play is 120-minutes with an interval included. The play has been written and produced in Dubai and is seeking to revive the spirit and tradition of letter-writing that is rapidly disappearing under the onslaught of communication technology.

Mian and Biwi are the South Asian husband-wife duo, while Wagah – a border crossing between India and Pakistan – takes a human form to become the narrator and a central viewpoint in the play. Just like a sutradhaar (thread-holder), Wagah symbolically dovetails through the cascade of letters. All letters staged are originally written and inspired by true stories and experiences that remain rooted in history and are yet contemporary in nature. The play is presented in a refreshing light-hearted, jocular, at times poignant and thought-provoking manner.

With five full house shows at the city’s homegrown performing arts venue The Junction, Mian, Biwi aur Wagah was Dubai’s most popular original Urdu play of 2017.

As play’s director Dhruti Shah D’souza recalls, “The audiences were so enthralled by the play, that they have almost devotionally attended each show every time it was staged, and declared it a kind of intimate addiction, they can never get enough of.” The play’s success was attributed to the originality of narrative and intense depth of humanity, thereby establishing a profound connection between the actors, their experiences, and the engaging dynamics with which people could connect.

According to the director, the play has the potential to appeal to avid Urdu-language enthusiasts and frequent theatre aficionados as well as those who enjoy a good wave of storytelling, in a rather simple and easygoing format with Urdu at its forefront. “Handwritten letters carry a sense of quaint longing and hold the innate power of seamlessly merging into evocative storytelling,” said D’souza, adding that the boundary between fact and fiction blurs as a result of narration of these letters.

Dhruti Shah D’souza is a Dubai-based theatre artist, storyteller, writer, and playwright, and has written and directed several experimental plays, challenging the ways in which stage is approached from an audience-actor perspective.

Mian, Biwi aur Wagah beckons a memorable homecoming experience for the lovers of Urdu theatre and the lost tradition of letter-writing. Ehtesham Shahid, co-writer of the play who also plays Mian (husband) says, in the days of telegraphic communication, this virtue can seem hopelessly outdated. “Yet it’s an art worth reviving, not because of a misplaced sense of nostalgia, but perhaps because, the writing, receiving and reading of letters will always offer a surreal and heartfelt feeling that modern technology can never attempt to touch,” says Dubai-based Ehtesham who has worked as a journalist in India and the Gulf region.

“Letters can provide a cathartic experience from everything that influences us – from relationships, family values to cultural belongings and even predicaments,” he says. According to him, the team behind the play saw value in the fact that each letter has a story of its own. “Several letters then fitted into a narrative that could be presented on stage,” he said.

“This historical success of Mian, Biwi Aur Wagah has proved that Urdu is transnational. The beauty and vibrancy of Urdu are such that wherever it goes, it wins hearts and makes it its home,” said Rehan Khan, founder of Bazm-e-Urdu, a community group that works for the promotion of Urdu in the UAE.

“After many successful performances in Dubai, Mian Biwi aur Wagah going back to the country of Urdu’s origin as a message that Urdu has is now travelling to the birthplace of Urdu. I am proud to see Goonj performing in India,” said Khan, who is originally from Lucknow and has been living in Dubai for over five years.

Habitat World, which is hosting the show in New Delhi, says it welcomes the arrival of a Dubai theatre group in India. “We are delighted to welcome Goonj from Dubai. It is heartening to note that an original Urdu Production from UAE enjoyed such rousing reception and critical acclaim back home. We wish them success in their first ever performance in Delhi, “ said Renu Oberoi, Head of Programmes, Habitat World, India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.

Mian, Biwi aur Wagah is co-directed by Sheherzad Kaleem, an award-winning producer and director.