A shot from LAC's Manto drama festival
A shot from LAC's Manto drama festival

The Lahore Arts Council will digitise scripts of over 500 plays staged at Alhamra between 1970s and 1990s, besides introducing an e-library featuring 4,000 books in English and Urdu on a host of subjects.

The archives at Alhamra Art Centre consist of rare audio, video, gramophone, script and classical music collections and invitation cards to exhibitions. A gramophone from the early ‘60s on display has been used in several plays since the ‘70s; it was used again in more recent plays as well such as Manto.

A fairly good collection of video cassettes featuring dramas, programmes and musical evenings are also a valuable asset in the archives, which includes plays staged at Alhamra by leading names such as Athar Shah Khan, Munir Raj, Imtiaz Ali Taj, Subhani Bayunus, Kamal Ahmed Rizvi and many others. It also consists of a rare collection of plays such as Mirza Ghalib Bandar Road Par, Khatra 440 Volt, Ulti Seedhi, Anarkali and many other popular plays staged through early ‘70s to late ‘90s. Among them were also English plays such as Julius Caesar, King Lear and Macbeth.

A collection of 1,500 audio cassettes of programmes and plays staged at Alhamra such as Hobson’s Choice, Hansna Mana Hai, Mian Bivi Chor and many more is also part of the archives. They also include memorable musical shows such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s show at Alhamra in 1996, Ustad Salamat Ali Khan’s 1991 musical evening, Abida Parveen’s show in 2000 etc.

There is also a collection of press clippings and articles featuring renowned performing and visual artists as well as invitation cards to different visual art exhibitions such as Lahore Contemporary Painting Exhibition 1971, Kutub Sheikh Exhibition of Paintings 1975.

Also part of the archives is a gramophone collection featuring instrumental and vocal performances of Ustad Ravi Shankar, Naushad Ali, Shamshad Begum, Lata Mangeshkar, Naseem Begum and other leading singers of the era.

Lahore Arts Council Executive Director Athar Ali Khan told Dawn that the council was upgrading its archives with the introduction of an e-library and digitisation of over 500 scripts. He said the council’s archives contained valuable assets that needed to be preserved for the generations to come. “It’s the golden history of Alhamra,” he added.

He further said that soon rare photographs taken on different occasions from the time the council used to be called Pakistan Arts Council would be displayed at an exhibition of grand events of the past at Alhamra.

Originally published in Dawn, June 20th, 2019

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