Halla Bol: The Death and Life of Safdar Hashmi
Book: Halla Bol: The Death and Life of Safdar Hashmi
Written by: Sudhanva Deshpande
Published by: LeftWord, New Delhi, 2020
Halla Bol by Sudhanva Deshpande breaks the conventional mould of biography writing and uses personal and collective memories, interviews, anecdotes, writings from Safdar’s diaries, documents and photographs from the JANAM (Jana Natya Manch) collections, amongst other materials to construct a portrait of theatre-activist, Safdar Hashmi. Deshpande supplements his memories of Hashmi with accounts of many JANAM actors and associates, political activists, trade unionists, academicians and several others who were associated with Hashmi. The book, while dealing with brief snippets from personal life experiences of Safdar Hashmi — childhood, higher education and meeting with Moloyashree Roy or Mala (co-activist/actor, collaborator and his spouse) — locates the artist amidst his work, which is used in understanding his practice, ideology and the life that he led. Instead of focusing on Safdar as an individual, Deshpande focuses on collective work led by Hashmi. The author chronicles the plays that Safdar made, rehearsals, actor training, challenges faced in the process, formation of SAHMAT (Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust), Safdar organizing performances, drawing youth to the movement and Safdar’s writings for children amongst other events. The book can also be read as a socio-political document of the national capital in the 1970s and 1980s, the political tensions around the period of national emergency and the movements led by Left Parties on its streets including the seven day workers’ strike in 1988 during which JANAM performed Halla Bol.
“But Safdar’s life also shows us how an artist can live in this world, not by embracing this or that identitarian cause, but by carrying within themselves a vision of human liberation transcending identities. A vision of liberation so glorious and boundless that it includes all the beings that inhabit this earth.” (pg 233)Halla Bol