Reinterpretation of the Ta’ziyeh (Week 5)

Creative Response 3

“The Miracle Play of Hasan and Husain” is an English translation of a typical ta’ziyeh script.  The t a’ziyeh is a dramatic reenactment of Husain’s martyrdom at Karbala and has become a long ingrained ritual in Shiia culture. It is performed every year to allow the audience members to take part in and relive the experiences and grief of losing their religious leader Husain. Though most ta’ziyeh scripts are passed down orally, “The Miracle” is written in English in the style of a Shakespearean play. Personally, I find this esoteric language taxing and hard to understand. It is particularly difficult for to get swept away by the characters and story purely based on the abstruse language. A large part of a traditional ta’ziyeh performance is audience interaction and emotional connection to the story, and if the audience cannot follow the story, or feels removed from the characters because of incomprehensible language, the play cannot succeed in evoking emotions and feelings of loss, grief and piety. Thus, I reinterpreted the play as a modern day movie.

The sample scene I wrote focuses on the part where Husain and the Darwish are talking about Husain’s martyrdom after he and his family have been surrounded and are cut off from water. I updated the language and setting, placing Husain and the Darwish in the visitation room of a jail cell.

I chose this scene to highlight Husain’s untapped powers and abilities as an intercessor. Husain speaks of how he could command unimaginable things to happen because of his direct tie to Allah, drawing attention to his power as a spiritual intercessor. Yet he chooses to die of thirst and allows his family to as well, so they can be martyrs for his people. Thus, I set the scene in a jail to translate the same message. The Darwish and audience believe that Husain has been passively thrown into his fate, yet Husain has chosen to go along with the plan himself. He chooses to be incarcerated. He chooses to die as a selfless act to save others. I use a series of close ups to slowly reveal that Husain is in jail to further emphasize the importance of this choice.

The parenthetical “(O.S.)” that is shown on the side of The Darwish’s lines for the majority of the scene refers to  “Off Screen.” This means the shot is just of Husain, making the audience assume the Darwish in another location, talking to Husain via the phone. Only through the slow reveal is it shown that the Darwish is in fact in the same scene, talking to Husain through the jail phone. However, until this is revealed, the Darwish acts as the audience’s voice and lens. I ultimately used this device to allow for another level of audience interaction in the ta’ziyeh performance. When watching the movie, the audience will feel as if Husain is speaking directly to them, allowing even greater interaction with and emotional attachment to him, allowing the Ta’ziyeh to drive its point home.

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