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Galileo published in Urdu

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Galileo published in Urdu
« on: October 28, 2010, 09:07:21 AM »
Galileo published in Urdu
KARACHI: Once settled in Pakistan in the early ‘70s, it wasn’t easy for Mansoor Saeed (who passed away on May 24) to come up with a cultural forum where people’s theatre could be produced or staged. He strove hard, but there was no tradition of such theatrical presentations. The struggle was an arduous one. Then he ran into a bunch of students and was later joined by Aslam Azhar to establish a groundbreaking theatre group — Dastak.

It was in 1984 that Mansoor Saeed translated German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s play Galileo into Urdu. It was no easy picking. He went on to translate some other important texts as well. The same year when Galileo was translated, the drama was performed for the first time in Urdu. In 1986 the play was again staged at a Progressive Writers’ conference.

“It was very difficult in those days because of the Ziaul Haq regime. In fact, doing the play was a huge undertaking, and escaping the clutches of censorship was a pretty ridiculous exercise,” says Sania Saeed, Mansoor Saeed’s daughter and known actor.

“There’s a scene in the drama in which Galileo is talking to his son-in-law about liquor made from grapes. The censor people asked us to edit that bit.

“I used to talk to my father about having no record of the works done by Dastak. The play got lost like the people (student wings, trade unionists, progressive groups, the DSF, Ali Ahmed’s group etc) who were with him got dispersed with the arrival of democracy in the country. Once we found the play we decided to print it, and Iftikhar Arif who had by then become head of the National Language Authority agreed to publish it. After my father’s death I found some pieces of paper on which he had made corrections. I phoned Aslam Azhar and things started to roll. Iftikhar Arif was kind enough to publish it and now it’s in my hands,” says Sania Saeed.

But plays are meant to be staged. Therefore on Nov 1 (Mansoor Saeed’s birthday) the Urdu translation of Galileo will be launched and selected scenes from the play will be enacted at the Arts Council Karachi. The cast members will include some of the original actors who performed in the ‘80s (such as Yasmeen Bizinjo) with a few new performers. Sania herself played the role of a 10-year-old girl in the original version, and she’ll do the same on Nov 1. Kamran Asdar has also been requested to send a piece on the rigorous process that existed in those days for putting up a theatrical production.

Iftikhar Arif says: “Galileo had said that not the sun but the earth moves around the sun, a fact which the clergy didn’t like and he was punished for speaking the truth. German poet and playwright Brecht presented the great scientist as the symbol of truth and set him against the contemporary backdrop. During Gen Ziaul Haq’s martial law Mansoor Saeed translated it into Urdu and Aslam Azhar staged it. The public appreciated the effort and it became the most valid sign of resistance from Pakistan’s theatre persons. So we decided to publish it.”

Sania Saeed maintains that people unjustly moan about a shortage of quality playwrights in the country. She feels a lot has been done in the realm of theatre (adaptations etc) and the reason that there are not enough dramatists (with respect to theatre) is that not an adequate number of plays have been published in book form.Dawn