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Nov 15 2009

Theatrics: Dar-ling liar

Category: Articlesmansoor @ 11:09 am

Set designer and theatrist Tanveer Abbas is all geared up to revive the theatre group he owes his career to —Creative Workshop (CW) — 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 Camoletti’s Boeing Boeing’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 can’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 Jamil’s patience is tested to the hilt until she leaves, his old friend, Rashid Dar from ‘Raawalpendi’ (Saquib Khan) lands in Jamil’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 — 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, Jamil’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 — that is until chaos ensues due to bad weather and reschedules.

The fact that all the actors seem quite niched in their roles —especially seasoned actor Faisal Qureshi who has the flirtatious looks to match Jamil’s lust for life (and a wife) — 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. “He’ll be fine,” said Dr Enver Sajjad at my observation. Did he also notice that as director?

Saquib Khan belongs to the Napa progeny that doesn’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 ‘dumb-blonde’ facet of their characters pretty well. Though smitten by Jamil’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 ‘imposed depression’ 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.

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Oct 25 2009

غیر معیاری اسٹیج ڈراموں کے خلاف قانون سازی کا فیصلہ

Category: Newsmansoor @ 10:29 am

لاہور: حکومت پنجاب نے غیر معیاری اسٹیج ڈراموں کے خلاف قانون سازی کا فیصلہ کرلیا ہے۔اسٹیج ڈراموں کی بہتری کے لیے کمیٹی تشکیل دے دی گئی۔ کمیٹی میں محکمہ پولیس پنجاب آرٹس کونسل ہوم ڈیپارٹمنٹ شامل ہوں گے جبکہ اسٹیج ڈراموں کے معیار کو جلد بہتری کی طرف لانے کے لیے 1976 ء کے ڈرامہ ایکٹ میں بھی ترمیم کی جائے گی۔

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Oct 25 2009

Theatrics: Take a chance on me

Category: Articlesmansoor @ 10:06 am

By Madeeha Syed
Sunday, 18 Oct, 2009

Mamma mia, here I go again
My my, how can I resist you?
Mamma mia, does it show again?
My my, just how much I’ve missed you….

After wowing us with Chicago, Nida Butt and Made for Stage is back with yet another musical, Mamma Mia. It comes under the genre of being a jukebox musical (one which uses previously released songs in its musical score) and was written by Catherine Johnson.

Both the play and the score of the musical are based on the songs of the hugely popular Swedish pop band Abba (active from 1972-1983), and although the story is fictional the title of the play has been borrowed from one of Abba’s 1975 hit songs. When it comes to the original Mamma Mia the musical, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson (band members and main composers in Abba) were involved in its development. One of the female band members, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, had contributed financially. The last band member, Agnetha Fältskog, did not actively contribute to it but was present at its Swedish premiere and final show. According to statistics, Mamma Mia the musical (at least till 2007) had been seen by over 30 million people worldwide.

The story in itself is simple enough. Sophie Sheradon (played by Rachel Viccaji) is about to get married to Skye (Omar Bilal Akhtar) and wants her father to be present at her wedding. The only catch is that she doesn’t know who her father is since her mother, Donna Sheradon (Kiran Arshad Chaudhry), was intimately involved with three different men around the time Sophie was supposed to have been conceived. She chances upon her mom’s private diary and discovering the identity of the three men [Sam Carmichael (Aly Mustansir), Bill Anderson (Saad Rahim Zubair) and Harry Bright (Akbar Merchant)], she invites them to her wedding.

They arrive at the little Greek island where she lives simultaneously and promise Sophie that they won’t tell her mom that they’re here or why (cue song: Thank You for the Music). Donna discovers them anyway and is visibly shaken by their presence. Also attending the wedding are Donna’s old friends one of which is Tanya (Zoe Viccaji), a vivacious, high-maintenance, rich woman who has been married and divorced three times — and seems proud of it. The other is Rosie (Sanam Saeed), a carefree soul, unmarried and with a somewhat kooky sense of humour.

The play centres around Sophie — who has 24 hours before her wedding —trying to find out who her father is, dodging her mother, confessing what she did to her fiancé and getting ready for the wedding. It also focuses on Donna and the emotions she’s going through seeing her three old lovers back after 20 years all at once (cue song:

Mamma Mia), while trying to let go of Sophie as her only daughter is about to enter into the ‘second phase’ of her life (cue song Slipping through my Fingers). Tanya and Rosie are also focused on as the two friends who’re trying to be just that — good friends to Donna, provide her with support, cheer her up and try and adjust to the single bedroom that they’ve been given. They also have their own set of romantic interests, with one Skye’s friends actively making a move on Tanya (she brushes him off, singing Does your Mother Know?) and Rosie discovering that she’s attracted to Bill Anderson and tries to seduce him (Take a Chance on Me).

At the end of the story, Sophie decides it isn’t important for her to know who her father is after all. All three men are happy being one-third of her father for her. She also decides it isn’t important for her to get married to Skye at that time and Sam Carmichael seizes the opportunity to propose to Donna (cue song: I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do) since both of them are quite not over each other.

The local version of Mamma Mia has its moments. Other than the obvious play on nostalgia by featuring and being entirely focused on Abba’s music, the highlights of the musical are definitely the characters of Tanya and Rosie who invited laughter and applause from the audience for their cleverly delivered antics, and Sanam and Zoe’s chemistry as actors. Kiran Arshad Chaudhry, who has her own band Caramal, debuted in the musical as an actor, was natural in the delivery of her role and seemed to stand out as a vocalist during the singing sections.

Her rendition of the song, The Winner takes it All, was a testament to her powerhouse vocals that were heard loud and clear especially considering that there were numerous technical glitches in the sound on the opening day, with the music often seeming louder than the vocals. Rachel’s role as Sophie was completely different from the femme fatale Velma Kelly she plays in the second installment (and as the Hungarian inmate in the first installment) of Chicago. One can see she’s made a definite effort to try and embody the role of a sweet, innocent 20-year old who realises at times that she’s taken on more than she can handle.

At the end of it, Mamma Mia the musical isn’t the best production that Made for Stage has come out with, especially considering that there isn’t much depth to the story line — not visually as ‘happening’ as their previous showings. The interchangeable set designed by Barry was almost genius but the costumes at times became downright gaudy, perhaps intentionally. Having said that, Mamma Mia still has its moments — though they are few and far between — and will appeal to those who have even a slight interest or knowledge of Abba songs.

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Oct 18 2009

Mamma Mia! Here they go again!

Category: Articles,Telefilms & Teledramasmansoor @ 9:13 am

One year after Chicago, Nida Butt directs and choreographs her second musical extravaganza…

By Muniba Kamal

The Mamma Mia! omnibus is on the road. And it would be safe to say that Nida Butt has launched her second enterprise with all the razzmatazz of the first – Chicago. And while Chicago was in your face, steamy, sexy, darkly comic and murderous, Mamma Mia! is the most palatable, wholesome entertainment imaginable. Relying on nostalgia (read love for Abba) to rope in the audience, the musical centered on their songs has gone down well. So what if you’ve seen the film starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan? Just to see actors singing and dancing on stage bursting into songs like ‘Voulez Vouz’, ‘Money Money Money’ and ‘Super Trouper’ ensures that your paisa is completely vasool.

As for all those who say that the play is completely foreign, it’s not true… Mamma Mia! revolves around a wedding – can you get any more Pakistani? The firangi twist in the tale is that the bride has three potential fathers who are all invited. What follows is a comedy of hilarious proportions as the bride’s mother flips out, her friends console her, the bride-to-be goes through an identity crisis as she bonds with all her potential dads and everyone bursts into Abba songs at the drop of a hat… raucously happy ones when they’re walking on the beach, poignant ones between mother and daughter.

It helps that the audience knows them and sings along, so the audio glitches seem to pale into insignificance. And there are glitches; it’s a part and parcel of what Nida Butt is doing. Her’s is an ambitious, audacious enterprise that rolls ahead on the adrenaline of everyone involved. The glitches of course should be minimized, but one has to commend the infectious energy Nida Butt’s brand of theatre infuses you with as you walk out humming ‘Mamma Mia! Here I go again’ to yourself.

Kiran Chaudhry’s rendition of the song is fabulous. One can see why she was chosen for the title role of Donna Sheridan. Out of everyone in the cast, it is her voice that soars through. She is a trained singer with powerful vocal chords that she uses to devastating affect in Mamma Mia! Those who have attended the posh Club Caramel concerts in Karachi and Lahore will be familiar with the girl who performs Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ with such verve. Abba tunes are as simple as ABC for her and there is joy in watching a trained singer play Donna Sheridan. She lends a poignancy even to the simple tunes. The only things that dampen her performance are the audio glitches and that one can make out that Mamma Mia! is Kiran’s theatrical debut.

In comparison, Rachel Viccaji, who play her daughter Sophie Sheridan is more at home with her character and can carry a tune. She played Velma Kelly in Chicago’s Lahore run and has singing experience as the lead player in the aptly named underground band Rachel’s Plan B. Zoey Viccaji, (Rachel’s sister for real) also fares well in the role of Donna’s friend Tanya, but special mention must be reserved for the actor who plays Rosie – Sanam Saeed.

The girl who won so many hearts as Roxie Hart outclasses everyone in Mamma Mia! with her performance to ‘Take a Chance On Me’ towards the end of the play. She keeps the tone of her singing conversational. As she makes theatrically cheeky overtures towards Bill (Saad Rahim Zubair), she seduces the audience too. Sanam Saeed is a true talent – for me she stole the show. Her vocal chords do not have the power of Kiran Chaudhry’s (Sanam has often been a backing vocalist for Kiran’s Caramel) but no one comes close to her expressions that are always a hoot and that effortlessly fluid body language.

And then of course, there are the men, out of whom Omar Bilal Akhtar (of the Aunty Disco Project) as Sophie’s beau Sky stands out again thanks to his singing talent. Akbar Merchant as Harry, Aly Mustansir as Sam Carmichael and Saad Rahim Zubair as Bill complete the cast as Sophie’s dads. They are all competent enough, but what you walk away with at the end of the show is the undeniable feeling of girl power. The girls get all the good songs and all the great line – and justifiably so -Mamma Mia! is essentially a chick flick.

It’s the theatrical extravaganza of the year in Karachi, just like Chicago was before it. While they’ve both been borrowed screenplays and (as critics are quick to point out) the rights to them have not been bought, I wouldn’t dismiss the power of what Nida Butt is achieving. She’s putting musicals into the limelight, bringing about a culture of live music (courtesy the In Time Band) and singing in theatre, creating stars both men and women who sing and dance on stage (until one saw Chicago, one wouldn’t have thought it possible) and forging the all important links between theatre, fashion, celebrity and music that thespians aren’t doing.

The acting in a Made 4 Stage play falls below par when compared to that of say a NAPA production, so does literary merit and no, there is no message for society either. Nida Butt’s productions are about a band of brothers and sisters who are having fun with the medium. They are men and women who enjoy live music, are related to the performing arts in some way, do plays together and at the end of the day party together. They have a hit in Mamma Mia! because there is an audience in Pakistan that has grown up listening to Abba songs who will flock to see the the desi version of a global phenomenon. As much as purists like to scoff at the effort, the fact of the matter is that a musical on Taansen won’t do so well.

But one can imagine a hip original musical in Urdu starring Atif Aslam; done right, it could take both Pakistan and India by storm…

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Oct 13 2009

Ajoka steps forward

Category: Articlesmansoor @ 10:17 am

Ajoka Theatre’s credentials are beyond doubt. Over the years the group has done innumerable plays that have not only entertained the audiences locally and across the border but made them put their thinking caps on.

Naturally, if something despicable like the Gojra incident happens, Ajoka people get hurt. As a result, the group is staging three of its plays in Lahore from Aug 18, and has titled the event Peace, Tolerance and Communal Harmony.

It’s an event ‘dedicated to the victims of the Gojra riots and countless other who have lost their lives because of religious intolerance and extremism’.

Who wants to follow suit?

Courtesy: Dawn Images

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Apr 30 2009

Stage Drama Taleem-e-Balghan on Ptv

Category: Ptv,Taleem-e-Balghanmansoor @ 10:47 pm

Taleem-e-Balghan’ has no equal when it comes to quality comedy dramas. Qazi Wajid, Subhani Ba Younus among a host of other notable actors delight viewers as students studying under the watchful eyes of Mehmood Ali. The slightest act of indiscipline invites a beating from Mehmood Ali who carries a flexible whipping stick that could be mistaken for his third arm – he is that comfortable using his stick and uses it to good effect. But you can’t maintain discipline for long with students of such diverse vocations (barber, butcher, milkman, landlord etc) all studying together under one roof – with the result that the stick features more than any of the actors in this play.

Director: Agha Nasir

Writer: Khawaja Moinuddin


Mahmood Ali, Subhani Bayounus, Qazi Wajid, Bakhtiyar Ahmad, Qasim Jalali, Sheikh Mehboob, Sheikh Ali Ahmad, Razia Sultana

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