Theatrics: Sampling life
By Sumera S. Naqvi
Kathaâ€™s director, Shahid Shafaat, is right in saying that the local audiences still bosom some kind of conviction to watching theatre that is funny and carries an aesthetic sense at the same time.
The acclaimed theatre troupe returned to stage after a hiatus of five years recently with Mein Adakara Banoon Gi, and now with Kahanian staged at the Arts Council from November 21-25, Shahid feels that it is this conviction from the audience that leads theatre groups to believe that the show must go on.
Kathaâ€™s Kahanian comprises three stories that expose human follies wrapped in a shell of senseless aplomb â€” these are little stories about you and me that we tend to make small talk with co-workers, relatives, friends, housewives, bus co-commuters, etc. All these stories, however, seem to run a common undercurrent â€” how we all continue to deceive ourselves with our own complex cultural and psychological dispositions that, if mirrored outside us, belittle us no end.
Sampling from the work of 19th century writers: famous American writer Henry James, Russian dramatist Chekov and Spanish brothers Serafin and Joaquin Alvarez Quintero, Shahid Shafaat adapted the interesting trio of plays immersed in a sense of realism that is universal to all kinds of audience. Thank God for adaptations though as original plays seem to be quite far-fetched at this point in time. One wonders why.
Chekovâ€™s Lottery is about a docile housewife (Sania Saeed) and an egotist husband (Saleem Meraj) who win a lottery ticket worth Rs1 crore. As the power of love is suddenly overawed by the power of money, the husband realises that the (im)balance between the husband-wife relationship may be in jeopardy as the prize was in the wifeâ€™s name. Soon a real gain goes in vain as the husband mulls over the fate of the lottery ticket, tearing it up to keep the status quo intact.
Henry Jamesâ€™ Aunty (Kahan Ka Ishq) touches upon the insecurities of Farah (Sania again), an ageing woman who lives in a working womenâ€™s hostel and works for an insurance company. Her new roommate, Rachna (Fizza Zehra), turns out to be her college friend, a divorcee and a simple woman who teaches at a local college. Though the two stand in contrast, there seems to be an â€˜opposites attractâ€™ appeal between them which also tends to work as a controlling latch on each other â€” Farah is obsessed with her curves and her flirty nature but Rachna is the sane factor in her life.
Aik Subha is adapted from a play written by the Spanish brothers, Serafin and Joaquin Alvarez Quintero, which is about elderly people meeting in a park and remembering being in love with each other back in Delhi before Partition. Both try to mislead each other when they both know that they are the ones who were involved. The amusing exchange and the pleasant banter, though prolonged, was finely acted by Ehtashamuddin and Sania Saeed donned in a hunterâ€™s kit and a sari, respectively â€” one not letting old age take over him while the other accepting it as a part of life.
Sania Saeed was seen at her very best as she acted the shades and tones of the characters very well in all of the three plays. She portrays roles that tend to resemble some relative or an acquaintance around us, â€œThe audience tends to find a cousin or a chachi or a khala in me.â€ It may not sound very complimentary but it does imply her tremendous potential as a versatile actor.
One couldnâ€™t help noticing an overspill on her part at times, but Sania was at ease on stage and undisputedly funny. In Lottery, Saleem Meraj commendably drew up a very engaging image of how a dominating husband can continue to befool his wife into worshipping her as the majazi khuda, not letting her ever take the driving seat.
Given the state of the art acoustics of the Arts Council theatre, Saleem Meraj and Ehtashamuddin pitched their voice throw levels appropriately according to the need of the situations.
Katha has a good sponsor in the Rotary as the latter sell tickets through their advantage in networking and philanthropic work. It was a pleasure to see the hall packed to capacity for theatre should not be shown for free. Many theatre activists feel it spoils the sense of commitment of the theatre goer.
Now that theatre groups are receiving more encouragement to revive their work, perhaps they should seriously hire financial managers who could work on the dynamics, especially the selling of the tickets. Katha is working on a new project due in March 2010, and one hopes they will find a sponsor to keep the ticket price reasonably within the reach of the common man. Why donâ€™t corporate social responsibility departments of banks and companies take up the revival of theatre as a viable social issue to support?
Courtesy: Dawn Images