‘Tumhari Amrita’: Longest running modern play celebrates Silver Jubilee One of the finest and longest running modern plays in Urdu achieves a milestone today. February 27, 2017 marks 25 years since the start of Farooque Shaikh and Shabana Azmi’s landmark play ‘Tumhari Amrita’. Shaikh Sahab’s passing on December 28, 2013 brought the curtains on the show.
‘Tumhari Amrita’ ran for 21 years worldwide, including faroff countries like Norway. The first performance was held on February 27, 1992 at Prithvi Theatre. The grand performance inside the Taj Mahal on December 14, 2013 became the final one.
Director Feroz Abbas Khan, writer Javed Siddiqi, indeed Shaikh Sahab and Azmi, had believed that this experimental play which was written for Jennifer Kendal’s anniversary would scarcely last six or seven shows. They were pleasantly surprised when it went on to acquire a destiny of its own.
But the shock of Farooque Shaikh’s abrupt passing was too much to bear. After a few months Shabana Azmi did urge Khan to revive the play with a new set of actors. “I cannot imagine myself doing it without Farooque. But we cannot let it die. We owe the legacy of this immortal script to the new generation,” she told TOI.
However, Khan is not attempting a revival. “The emotional wounds of Shaikh’s loss are still raw. Secondly, who will be able to do it? Where are the actors of this calibre?”
A significant 30% of the shows of ‘Tumhari Amrita’ were done for charity. “Particularly, in the final two years. Much of that came from Farooque Shaikh. Each time there was a natural calamity, he said we should perform for the cause. We raised funds for victims of the Latur earthquake, the Pakistan earthquake, for Kashmiri Pandits and performed at the UN,” Khan said.
After Shaikh Sahab, artistes and fans alike wondered why the classic was never recorded for posterity. Actress Nandita Das had tweeted to say, “They did 500 shows of ‘Tumhari Amrita’ but there isn’t a single recording anywhere. And now Farooque (Shaikh) saab is gone.”
However, Feroz Khan does indeed have a recording which he will screen “when the time is right”. “Yes, we have a recording of ‘Amrita’, in fact of the final show held inside the Taj Mahal. It needs a few technical touch-ups but by and large, it is a fine recording. We will prepare a roadmap for its screening.”