Although set in the â€™50s, the story-line of â€˜Khwabon Ke Musafirâ€™ is as relevant today as it was in yesteryear says Tazeen Jawed.
Art that can find relevance with its audience will stay alive forever and the truth of this statement was witnessed in NAPA Repertory Theatre’s latest play â€˜Khwabon Ke Musafirâ€™. Though penned by Intezar Hussein a good 52 years ago, the conflicts touched upon in the play, such as modernity versus tradition, science versus religion, and status as opposed to values, are still relevant to the audience today. Perhaps, it is also indicative of the fact that Pakistani society has not made much progress and is still busy debating the importance of science and the value of miracles.
The plot of the story is very simple: Kishwar (Aeman Tariq) is a young girl and her mother, Booji, (Bakhtawar Mazhar) wants her to get married as soon as possible. There are two obvious candidates for her hand in marriage. One is her westernized cousin, Shahid (Ali Shaikh), who is always impeccably dressed, boasts incessantly about his knowledge of English and European literature, and gives job interviews that he claims go brilliantly. The other is a simpleton cousin,
affectionately called Iffo Bhai (Ali Rizvi) by Kishwar, who is financially dependent on Kishwar’s father and is always cooking up one business scheme after another, but who is also in love with Kishwar.
While Booji is constantly fretting about Kishwar’s marriage and trying her level best to court Shahid’s mother, Bari Bua, (Ayesha Khan), her husband Mian Ji is not too keen on his wife’s efforts and does not care much for Shahid whom he deems a wanna-be â€˜goraâ€™. He would rather discuss politics and scientific advancement of the west with his friend, Master Sahib, and his barber who frequently calls on his house to trim his beard and cut his hair. Kishwar, on the other hand, is shown chatting with a caged parrot that never speaks, symolising in a way, her own life where her opinion is never sought.
If at one end, the play mocks the extremely anglicized Shahid who does not wish to marry a â€˜purdahâ€™ clad girl, at the other, it also makes us wonder about the plight of people like Master Sahib who have to deal with parochialism, provincialism and regressive behaviours. There is also the character of Mian Ji who shuns every thing progressive because it is western, without weighing their pros and cons. Booji dreams of finding a perfect son-in-law who has a government job and a not-too threatening mother. Iffo dreams of one scheme after another to strike it rich but is not enterprising enough to follow through. Bari Bua dreams of spending her son’s future income and lording over a docile daughter-in-law. In addition, there is Bandu, the barber who has the strangest opinion on everything, from kite-flying to international politics.