India Today - - LEISURE - —Suhani Singh

In­spired by the kafis (po­ems) of the 16th cen­tury Pun­jabi Sufi poet Shah Hussain, vo­cal­ist Rad­hika Sood Nayak and das­tango Ankit Chadha be­gan col­lab­o­rat­ing on a mu­si­cal sto­ry­telling piece in 2017. They hoped to premiere it at the Kabir Fes­ti­val in Mum­bai and some­day even take it to Mela Chi­raghan, an an­nual cel­e­bra­tion honour­ing the poet at his shrine in Pak­istan—where he lies next to his up­per-caste Hindu lover, Mad­ho­lal. How­ever, Ankit, one of the bright stars of the sto­ry­telling tra­di­tion, died in a drowning ac­ci­dent in May 2018.

Nayak en­sured that the project lived on. Her ef­forts paid off and Faqeer Ni­maana, ded­i­cated to Ankit, was per­formed at the Kabir Fes­ti­val in Jan­uary. To make it hap­pen, Nayak turned to Kathak dancer San­jukta Wagh, also an award­win­ning theatre ac­tress, who went on to com­pose the melody for some of Hussain’s po­ems. Faqeer Ni­maana is Nayak’s first live col­lab­o­ra­tion with a dancer. “Hussain’s po­ems rad­i­cally break across con­cepts of na­tion, gen­der, caste and class hi­er­ar­chies, and need to be cel­e­brated,” says Wagh. “Poets like him have the abil­ity to lead us to a space which is spir­i­tu­ally con­nected and in­di­vid­u­ally em­pow­er­ing.”

The two roped in gui­tarist Hitesh Dhutia and tabla player Vi­nayak Netke. So­ci­ol­o­gist Gita Chadha came on board to strengthen the script writ­ten by Nayak and Wagh, and Faqeer Ni­maana, mean­ing the ego­less seeker, as au­di­ences will see it now, was born.

Wagh did not want to in­clude un­nec­es­sary or­na­men­ta­tion in the chore­og­ra­phy. “We just worked on the mu­si­cal and sonic space that each kafi cre­ates be­fore I be­gan to in­habit them in my body.” The team’s ap­proach to each of the seven po­ems is var­ied. In some, like in Jeti Jeti Du­nian Ram Ji, Wagh and Nayak sim­ply sit on stage and sing to­gether. In oth­ers, Wagh demon­strates her Kathak skills and her ver­sa­til­ity as she shifts ef­fort­lessly from classical to a more con­tem­po­rary dance style and even does baithak ab­hi­naya. In Faqeer Ni­maana, the four artists show­case a fluid amal­gam of po­etry, mu­sic and dance. How­ever, the big­gest ac­com­plish­ment of the show is Hussain’s mes­sage of unity—the need of the hour.

Po­etic li­cense Hitesh Dhutia and Vi­nayak Netke (top) and San­jukta Wagh in Faqeer Ni­maana ‘FAQEER In NI­MAANA’, four artists come to­gether to cel­e­brate the Sufi works of Pun­jabi poet Shah Hussain

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