A scene from Kasumbi no Rang
A scene from Kasumbi no Rang

'Maru Man Mor Bani Thanghaat Kare Re' … Remembering Zaverchand Meghani in his 125th birth anniversary year

Vadodara, August 14, 2022

On August 7-8-9, the air in Vadodara reverberated with the immortal lyrics of Rashtriya Shayar, Zaverchand Meghani, sung, danced and presented through different activities (painting, poem recitation) by more than 750 students of 125 local schools and institutions teaching dance and music.

The occasion was a 3-day festival, The Unsung Hero, a celebration of the 125th birth anniversary year of this well-loved poet of Gujarat and Saurashtra, organized and conceptualised by the Anjali Memorial Committee and funded by the Department of Sports, Youth, and Cultural Activities, Government of Gujarat and the Vadodara Municipal Corporation.

The three-day event was held at Sir Sayaji Nagar Auditorium and open to all. The programme was attended by Pinaki Meghani, the poet’s grandson, Abheysinh Rathod, the popular "Meghani" voice, and Mayank Dave, who specializes in studio recording of folk performance culture, amongst other dignitaries.

Zaverchand Meghani (1896-1947) was a prolific poet, writer and translator. He documented the folklore of Saurashtra and organized it into several compilations. He wrote short stories, novels, plays and travelogues, and was also the editor of Phoolchhab, a popular newspaper published from Rajkot and still read today. Most of his writing was also fired by the zeal of patriotism, nation-building and a call to fight for independence. It was no wonder that Mahatma Gandhi blessed him with the title of Rashtriya Shayar. Meghani unfortunately passed away on March 9, just a few months before Independence.

Says Dr. Parul Shah of the Anjali Memorial Committee, “Our programme was designed to create awareness about the cultural contribution of Zaverchand Meghani and to inculcate an understanding of that contribution in the present school-going generation. Meghani’s literary work is mainly projected through the folklore of Gujarat, but it can be presented by classical and creative performance and through the visual arts as well. That is what this programme demonstrated!”

She was ably assisted in this endeavor by Dr. Divya Patel of Divyanjali Art and Cultural Centre and Mahesh Pandya of Kaustubha Events. The programme elicited an enthusiastic response from schools and they were given a little over three weeks to prepare their presentations.

Poems and other writings by Meghani were identified by the Anjali Memorial Committee and distributed to participating institutions via a lucky draw. Most schools presented dance-dramas and group dances, and it was required that the performers speak or sing the lines themselves, loudly, clearly and in tune; those institutions which taught classical dance and music were required to interpret the Meghani writing in classical style only. It was a challenge, accepted sportingly and interpreted by the children in many imaginative ways!

The Anjali Memorial Committee presented the very famous Chaaran Kanya poem that highlights the brave 14-year old girl of the Chaaran community who wards off a lion attack in the forests of Sasan Gir. Choreographed by Dr. Parul Shah in the free-style creative format that matches the tone and spirit of the poem with duha-style singing, its message is universal – that nobody should give in to a dictatorial power and we should look within ourselves for inner strength to fight back.

This is what was highlighted by Prof Dipak Kannal, sculptor-art historian and theatre enthusiast who has actually penned a play, Jogidas Khuman, a contemporary interpretation of an original Meghani story focusing on his deep understanding of the moral value system embedded in ordinary Indians that can inspire them to do extraordinary things.

“One of the main challenges was posed by the slow tempo of the original Meghani works. Our students are used to much faster-paced performances,” says Dr. Nilesh Parekh, the creative performing arts head at the Navrachana Vidyani Vidyalaya, whose students participated in both the group dance and music categories.

His "lucky dip" pick was the poem, “Koi no ladakvayo …” that celebrates the martyrdom of a soldier for his country. It is actually Meghani’s translation of an original English poem titled, “Somebody’s Darling” written by Marie Revenal de la Coste, who lost her husband in the American Civil War.

“This was a revelation to me personally; I did not know that Meghani was a translator and such a good one at that! I was able to use this occasion to explain to my students not only what a versatile poet Meghani was but also how he was able to access world literature and pick those works for translation that resonated with his thinking!”

Urmi School and Hostel’s presentation of “Man mor bani thanghat kare …” (the song from recent film, Ramleela though few kids know it was penned by Meghani), Shree Kala Kendra’s Bharatanatyam rendition of “Bhete jhule che talwar …”, Kaustubha Events’ presentation of “Kanku kholjo re … rendered in Rajasthani folk format were some of the striking performances.

But while there were a number of good recitals, the most significant takeaway from this programme was the scores of teachers, students and their young parents who were re-introduced to this multi-talented, almost forgotten poet as they attended their children’s performances!

Since the programme was non-competitive, it encouraged students and their teachers to enjoy and research Meghani, his life and work, and interpret it in their own way without the pressure of aiming for the trophy. Each participating institution went home with a small bust of Meghani, a copy of his Radiyali Raat, a comprehensive book of his poems, and a CD of his poems set to music.

(All photos courtesy of Anjali Memorial Committee.)

Sandhya Bordewekar writes on contemporary art, architecture, heritage, food and life in general.

NNN

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