LAHORE: Lahore is one of the centres for commercial theatre in Pakistan, but there are only a handful of plays that are based on scripts.
Lahore’s commercial theatres including Naz Theatre, Mehfil, Tamaseel, Alfalah and Alhamra run the shows throughout the year (except in Moharram) yet none of the plays shown there have a proper storyline. In most of the plays, the actors use spontaneous jokes to entertain the audience, and fill the holes with dance performances.
The chairman of the Commercial Theatre Producers Association Chaudhry Zulfiqar agrees that a script is very important for any play but says that spontaneous humour created through dialogues was what people adored the most about commercial theatre. He told The Express Tribune, “We don’t support vulgarity or obscene dances in stage plays however these elements have entered commercial plays.
They should be banned. However, good producers are focusing on scripts to remove these from their plays. But it took time to establish this pattern and we need time to undo this”.
Zulfiqar said that it was true that most stage actors didn’t rely on scripts and spoke dialogues that were objectionable.
“There was a time when people like Ashfaq Ahmad, Bano Qudisa and Dr Anwar Sajjad used to write the scripts and the artiste wouldn’t even budge an inch from the script. Spontaneous dialogues brought in a lot of humour but yes quality was lost,” he added.
Abid Kashmiri, a senior stage artiste who has worked with writers such as Ashfaq Ahmad and Dr Anwar Sajjad, believes that the quality of the theatre declined because scripts were ignored. He said, “The role of arts councils is very important in this regard. Plays based on strong scripts are always better than unscripted ones.”
Lahore Arts Council’s deputy director for programmes Zulfiqar Zulfi said that they were currently searching for playwrights who could write scripts for new plays. “An advertisement in this regard might be circulated shortly. We are looking forward to having good scriptwriters for our productions,” he said.
Though the council plans to search for playwrights, its premises is used for commercial theatre, which have no storylines.
A commercial theatre producer said, “This is true that commercial plays lack scripts but at least they provide entertainment to people. Every night hundreds of people turn up to watch these dramas. Those who speak about good theatre productions haven’t done anything new in years.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2010.