Sunday, 23 Nov 2014

Dilbar discovers neglected martyr

Author Farhat Ali - Sunday, 05 05 2013 09:43

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Azizan Bai – a great freedom fighter - was never recognized by the nation for the freedom of which she achieved martyrdom. However, renowned Kashmiri film maker Faiyaz Dilbar decided to dive deep in the ocean of India’s history and find the traces of this freedom fighter.

Dilbar is in the process of making a serial for Doordarshan (Urdu) on this freedom fighter who has been neglected by her nation. The talented film maker has dug into the history, though very little is available about Azizan, and is thus introducing this great soul to modern India.

Mixing and mingling history with fiction, Dilbar has innovatively dealt with the subject. Costumes and sets will definitely take the viewers back to 1833. 

It goes without saying that the Indian women have played a very significant role in the freedom movement of India. As documented history goes a good number of women joined the struggle as early as pre-mutiny but their efforts took a concrete shape in 1857 and continued till India achieved freedom in 1947.  Indian women who participated in the freedom struggle are impressive and not restricted to one type of activity. They encouraged their husbands, fathers and sons at home and themselves took all the household responsibilities on their shoulders in the absence of their men folk. They came out of their four walls and travelled from place to place to encourage people to strive for independence.

One such stalwart was Azizan Bai; a “Dheray Wali” courtesan   from Kanpur. Daughter of one of the popular courtesans of those times Hussan Banoo Gowhar; Azizan was born in 1833. Considered to be one of the learned and beautiful females Azizan was knowledgeable and intelligent. She had studied the history and literature.

 She not only used to recite the poetry of legends like Mir Taqi Mir, Ghalib and Momin in her melodious voice but was also famous for interpreting the delicate and philosophical thought content of these heavyweight poets of Urdu language.  As per the historians of the Indian freedom movement Azizan Bai had the urge to do something big for humanity and society from a very tender age; it was her dream to be remembered as a good human being and a patriot. 

The turning point in her life was the day when the great freedom fighter, Dhondu Pant, better known as Nana Sahib, on June 4, 1857, gave a Call urging Hindus and Muslims to get united for the cause of freedom; she left her home and joined the freedom movement. She organized a battalion of women and taught them how to use arms. She collected information about the British and passed it on to the freedom fighters. But, unfortunately one day she was caught and brought in front of British Major-General, Sir General Havelock who offered to forgive her if she confessed all her faults but she rejected the proposal and preferred martyrdom.

Azizan learned the basic discipline of a courtesan’s life and skill from Lucknow’s most famous poetess, singer and courtesan Umrao Jaan Adha and returns to Kanpur to do her business.

   As time passes, Azizan comes in contact with a young Indian soldier Shamas din; a sepoyof the British East India Company's army. The young Shamas din is smitten by Azizan’s beauty and her poetic abilities; Azizan too develops a soft corner for him and eventually proposes to him, which Shamas politely rejects, without furnishing any reason or logic to her. When Azizan fails to know the reason as to why Shamas does not want to be her life partner she provokes him by dubbing as a narrow-minded man who likes to visit a courtesan’s place for pleasure but does not want to be her life partner.

Shamas breaks down and shares this secret with her that though he is a Sepoy of British East India Company's army but actually is a rebellion who wants that his country get liberated from the clutches of the British and for this cause he is secretly associated with revolutionaries like Nana Saheb and Tatya Tope.

On this revelation Azizan too opens her heart to Shamas and discloses that she too wishes to do something for her country and people. She also tells him that she wants to learn the art of warriors so that she can actively participate in the freedom movement.

   So the young and elegant Azizan turns into a real revolutionary and her place becomes a hub of rebellion activities against the British company. With the help of Shamas and his friend Sobhaydhar Teka Ram she learns the art of swordsmanship. Later on she makes a small group of female freedom fighters and trains them in swordsmanship. As the time passes by, Azizan intensifies her activities; she with the help of her few British admirers collects secret information of the Company’s confidential plans against the revolt and passes on that information to the freedom fighters. Shamas din and Sobhaydhar Teka Ram arranges her meeting with Nana Saheb and Tatya Tope; both of these great freedom fighters not only adore her for her role but also take her consultancy on some serious issues and important concerns.             

 As the revolt gains momentum Shams din gets killed near Fathepur in an armed confrontation with British soldiers and becomes martyr. His separation breaks the heart of Azizan but this also increases her hatred of British and she turns more aggressive against them. The top brass of the East India Company starts a massive manhunt for Azizan and finally arrests her. She declines to reveal the names of her associates and is martyred.

Muzaffar Ali’s Umrao Jaan is unforgettable and eternal and so is Dilbar’s Azizan Bai going to be.

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