Play to retell story of Kashmiri poet Habba Khatoun

NEW DELHI: The story of 16th century Kashmiri poet Habba Khatoun will be the central theme of “Zoon Noor Kashmir Ka”, Aadyam’s closing play for its fifth edition.
Written and directed by playwright Purva Naresh, the Hindi musical revolving around the life of Khatoun, the “nightingale of Kashmir”, will be staged here at Kamani auditorium on December 7.
The final production of the fifth season of Aditya Birla Group’s theatre initiative will be a “musically-driven story of romance interspersed with drama, both real and surreal”.
Set in two eras — 16th century and the present day, the play will unravel the love story of the poet, originally named Zoon, and Yousuf Shah Chak, the warrior king of Kashmir, who she eventually marries.
However, Chak, after being imprisoned by Mughal emperor Akbar, never returned, leading Khatoun towards the life of an ascetic.
“Their love, destined to be short lived, is thwarted by a jealous Akbar, the great emperor. Renamed Habba Khatoun, she goes on to become the legendary last poet queen of Kashmir,” organisers said.
Naresh said the journey of putting together this play had been a “difficult” one.
“It’s a difficult play to mount, produce, and put together because it’s a story across centuries and the vision requires some guts to dream, imagine, and bring to life.
“When I was travelling through Kashmir earlier this year, many people asked me to tell this tale. Initially, I saw no reason as to why I should tell this story instead of all the others I could, until one day I was asked what an artist was to do in such tumultuous times,” she said.
The story of this strong-willed poetess of Kashmir, Zoon, “pierced through the darkness like a shaft of moonlight (which also happens to be the meaning of her name),” she added.
The play features live singing, backed by classical musicians, set against beautiful, rich scenery and is acted out by prominent theatre artistes like Ipshita Chakraborty Singh, Nivedita Bhargava, and Harsh Khurana among others.
“I cannot think of anyone better than Purva Naresh to bring to life this lesser known story of Kashmir… of the legendary 16th century poet-queen Zoon and how her legacy resonates with the ordinary Kashmiri women and men of today.
“Purva’s lyrical and poetic language has immense depth and truth. She sees deeply into the soul of women and is the voice of those who are forgotten,” Shernaz Patel, artistic director of Aadyam, said.
The fifth edition of Aadyam saw theatrical adaptations of Aaron Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men”, Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner”, and “Mosambi Narangi”, an Indian adaptation of Marie Jones’ tragicomedy “Stones In His Pockets”.
The final show of “Zoon – Noor Kashmir Ka” will be held on December 8.

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