It wonâ€™t be wrong to call Sheema Kermani a warrior, for these past thirty years she has been tirelessly fighting not just to promote dance and theatre, but also to create awareness about womenâ€™s rights and their status in society. She defied the suffocating regime of Zia-ul-Haq, when dance and music were frowned upon and discouraged as mediums of expression. Notwithstanding great odds, she continued with her efforts to establish classical dance as an art form and a profound medium of expression and communication.
Sheema started Tehrik-e-Niswan, a cultural action group that creates socially relevant plays, in 1979. In their mission to spread awareness about various social issues, Tehrik has taken their plays to far-flung low-income areas for an audience that cannot come to the cities to watch their plays. The social relevance of these dramas can be judged by the fact that the same plays have been performed abroad as well, and been highly appreciated.
This year marks thirty years of Tehrik-e-Niswanâ€™s creation and to celebrate this feat a theatre and dance festival called â€˜Tlismâ€™ was held at Arts Council Karachi, featuring some of their best plays to date. From the opening ceremony, which started with a dance performance and one of Therikâ€™s most popular plays, â€˜Anjiâ€™, the whole festival was packed with powerful performances. HUMSAY met up with Sheema to talk about â€˜Tlismâ€™ and Tehrik-e-Niswanâ€™s contribution to theatre and dance over the years.
Q — Why the name ‘Tlism’ for the festival?
A — â€˜Tlismâ€™ means a magical spell, so we thought it was just the right name for our Festival – bringing the magic of the performing arts to Karachi! I think the name worked very well and we hope to continue this festival every year.
Q — Did you anticipate the festival would do so well?
A — We worked very hard to make it a success, and yes, I believe we succeeded. Many people attended and appreciated the plays and we had packed halls almost everyday. I am convinced that if the public is given good theatre, they will come to watch.
Q — What have been some of the Tehrikâ€™s significant achievements over the last three decades?
A — The fact that Tehrik-e-Niswan has survived as a theatre group over these 30 years is in itself an achievement. This is the only drama group that has managed to survive, and continues to provide good meaningful theatre that audiences look forward to.
Q — In one of the plays performed at the festival â€“ â€˜Anjiâ€™ – the original cast got together after 1984 to perform. How was the experience of working with them again?
A — I had decided to perform â€˜Anjiâ€™- one of our most popular and loved plays – with its original cast. This was done in the spirit of the festival and the whole cast loved and enjoyed every minute of it.
Q — Festivals like ‘Tlism’ provide the public with much needed entertainment. Why is it that they are so few and far between in Karachi?
A — â€˜Tlismâ€™ is the first drama festival to be held featuring performances by just one theatre group. There are no other theatre groups that have been performing consistently over the years, which is why festivals like â€˜Tlismâ€™ donâ€™t happen.
Courtesy: Humsay magazine June 2009