IN this collection of essays covering Urdu poetry, fiction and drama, the compiler tries to present the trends in Urdu literature. In the ancient times, Urdu literary tradition included masnavi, qasida and ghazal, where masnavi was narrative prose based on a romantic theme; qasida was merely confined to the praise of kings and patrons in which Mirza Ghalib achieved artistic perfection; and ghazal’s thematic structures were love and tasavuf (mysticism or Sufism).
Part I on poetry highlights the notable trends with reference to some major writers and important literary movements. Beginning with Asadullah Khan Ghalib’s short life story and his creations, the compiler says that the former came to be known as the greatest Urdu poet by common consent. His intellect penetrated into his own experiences as well as manifestations of the world around him. Thus his verses capture with acute artistry the tragic disintegration of a social and cultural order and its moral decline. Ghalib’s own life was an unending series of misfortunes and disappointments and this is reflected in his poetry with profound sensitivity and fine variations.
Poet Mohammad Iqbal followed Ghalib to make a name for himself in poetry, wherein his social and political consciousness crossed national boundaries to embrace more universal international themes. His sympathies were with the underprivileged and he welcomed the socialist revolution in Russian but was critical of his antagonism to religion. His three concepts – khudi (self), ishq (love) and banda-e-momin (perfect man) were central to his poetic thought.
Under Urdu fiction, the compiler has singled out Munshi Prem Chand for his ‘Maidan-e-Amal’, in which the author compressed all his favourite and significant themes with skill and sensitive perception. It touches upon the evils of the caste system, untouchability, narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy.
The third section on modern Urdu drama mentions plays like ‘Yahudi ki Ladki’, ‘Rustam aur Sohrab’, which paved the way for Urdu dramas like ‘Anarkali’, ‘Karbala’ and writers like Sadat Hasan Manto, Ismat Chughtai, K.A. Abbas, Krishen Chander, Rajinder Singh Bedi, etc. to show their creative skills. While Manto wrote on fallen women, Bedi showed intensity of feeling, awareness of the cruelty and insensitivity ingrained in our society.
Readers interested in Urdu literature but not knowing the Urdu script can get some information of relevance to them.
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