Set designer and theatrist Tanveer Abbas is all geared up to revive the theatre group he owes his career to â€”Creative Workshop (CW) â€” the brainchild of playwright and sculptor Anjum Ayaz who brought us many memorable plays of Manto back in the 1980s.
With many other interesting plays to be presented with a blend of old and new actors in 2010, Tanveer seems pretty focused on encouraging gate money this time. And he also seems quite confident that his plays will help revive the culture of buying tickets to see theatre.
Marc Camolettiâ€™s Boeing Boeingâ€™s adaptation is a reasonable choice for a start, though die-hard Napa Repertory theatre fans may not be able to take the shift easily. But then diversity is healthier than receding into redundancy.
Acted for the first time in 1960, the French classic, Boeing Boeing, was revived in London at the Comedy Theatre in 2007, also winning the best revival of a play award. The famous French playwright was undeniably known for writing some of the most hilarious farcical plays. Boeing Boeing went on to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for being performed the most around the world. The localised version, Meri Jaan, adapted into Urdu by Dr. Enver Sajjad who is the pioneer of modern Urdu fiction, comes to Pakistan a second time after being performed in Lahore back in 1986.
Though the current ensemble acting at the Karachi Arts Council theatre from Nov 6-20 seems fresh and vivacious, I canâ€™t help imagine the beautiful Bindiya, the handsome Khayyam Sarhadi and the unforgivably comedic Khalid Abbas Dar sending the audience into ripples of laughter.
Funny indeed is the take off of Meri Jaan too, as Jamil (Faisal Qureshi) hovers around the bingeing Zarina (Mahvish Siddiq), waiting impatiently for her to leave for her next scheduled flight. Though Jamilâ€™s patience is tested to the hilt until she leaves, his old friend, Rashid Dar from â€˜Raawalpendiâ€™ (Saquib Khan) lands in Jamilâ€™s seaside apartment to meet his childhood (langotia yaar) friend. The story unfolds.
Jamil fills him in with details on his three-dimensional love life â€” three air hostesses working on three different international airlines; all three of them touching base with him at various time schedules and staying at his apartment. Professing his love to all three of them separately, Jamilâ€™s key to success in steering clear of trouble are the timetable book that he keeps on the scheduled routes and his efficient maid, Buua (Afshan Qureshi) who quite amicably manages to keep the skeletons in the closet â€” that is until chaos ensues due to bad weather and reschedules.
The fact that all the actors seem quite niched in their roles â€”especially seasoned actor Faisal Qureshi who has the flirtatious looks to match Jamilâ€™s lust for life (and a wife) â€” keeps Meri Jaan amusingly sustained. He has returned to stage after a lapse of almost 25 years. Though he seemed a little loud, perhaps he was trying to find the right voice pitch for stage which seems to have gone softer after years of doing television. â€œHeâ€™ll be fine,â€ said Dr Enver Sajjad at my observation. Did he also notice that as director?
Saquib Khan belongs to the Napa progeny that doesnâ€™t fail audience expectations, and looked as paindu as was expected of him. The female characters of Zarina (Mahvish Siddiq), Najma (Zhalay Sarhadi) and Nargis (Aimen Tariq) generate no clear chemistry across, but they seemed to act the â€˜dumb-blondeâ€™ facet of their characters pretty well. Though smitten by Jamilâ€™s charms, one of them eventually serves Jamil right back by dumping him for a millionaire cousin in London, while the other falls for the country cousin.
The backdrop with soft, peach-coloured walls brightened up the modern interiors though the seating arrangement left little space for the actors to move freely during acts. But Afshan Qureshi seemed to move around comfortably in her long white gharara.
Supporting the collective effort on clearing the â€˜imposed depressionâ€™ we all live in today, three nights of the showing were reportedly bought by actor Sajid Hasan to urge more people to watch the play free of charge. That may not come across as a sure-fire way of sustaining theatre on gate money without any sponsors, an effort that the CW claims to be keen on imposing.
My two cents: why not subsidise the theatre ticket with sponsor or investor money to draw more crowds? That will increase the number of theatre goers and boost theatre culture in the city as well. A subsidised ticket will not be hard on their pockets.