In times of crises, theatre is often associated with plays addressing social issues. However, the newer lot of thespians have taken an escapist approach by offering pure entertainment through their latest play Act 144. A KopyKats production, Act 144 is an original Urdu play written by Yasir Hussain and directed by Dawar Mehmood. Its cast includes Sundas Tariq, Hareem Farooq, Nimra Nagi, Dawar Mehmood, Umar Sultan, Shafqat Khan and Talal Jilani.
The play revolves around two burglars — Shera and Billa — who break into a house after which a curfew is imposed in the city. Shera and Billa fall in love with the girls in the house and meet their annoying Dada Jaan and a police officer, Deepak Tijori.
The show started with a short skit by the students of the arts council’s theatre academy. The performance was similar to those the group had earlier done for another play Sabz. However, this time the performers were less funny, more annoying and pointlessly preachy — not setting the right mood for the audience.
Finally the curtain was raised and the audience witnessed an hour full of comic punches, hilarious situations and to some extent, good acting. Act 144 as a whole is a decent theatrical production and is definitely meant for those people done with their day to day routines and in need of a break. However, there were a number of technical issues with play.
The script was not strong enough and after Sabz, a lot more was expected from Hussain. Though there were some interesting one-liners, the script overall was not impressive. What made it worse was poor direction. At many points, the actors seemed confused with no lines to deliver. Nonetheless, the overall performance left the audience in fits of laughter. At one point, an audience-member shouted that a joke about the Hindu community was culturally offensive, but others were too engrossed to pay any attention.
Just like Sabz, forcing Bollywood songs into a narrative was a fundamental flaw in Act 144. Featuring song and dance may usually make theatre filmy and more entertaining, but sometimes it only serves to annoy the audience.
Though a few songs blended well with their scenes, the play did not present itself like a musical.
Casting could have been better but for a cast full of business students and radio jockeys, the results were more than expected. Umar Sultan’s (Billa) Pashto accent was nearly perfect. Shafqat Khan (Dada Jee) was on a wheelchair throughout the play, but his performance moved the audience. Hareem Farooq had a good timing, but her shrill voice was annoying by the end of the play. Talal Jilani (Deepak Tijori) did justice to his character of the oversensitive police officer with effeminate qualities.
Though the dances were loosely choreographed, they were at least tolerable. However, despite all the glitches, Act 144 is definitely a good entertainment. The play will run till July 20, every day, at the Karachi Arts Council.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2011.
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