At around 5 o’clock on Saturday evening, the auditorium of the Arts Council was alive with the vibrant cast of “Avanti” that took the stage once more. But instead of being involved in its usual shenanigans, the “Avanti” team had invited members of the press to thank them for their ongoing support and discuss the issues plaguing the theatre industry in Pakistan.
Javed Ahmed Saeedi, the director of the play said, “The main aim of this press conference is to tell you that performing arts is still alive, and this I can say with the response we have received here in Karachi.”
He added that while people in Karachi are avid theatre fans, “What is being showcased in Lahore these days is out of context”. He then went on to explain that the “changes taking place in Lahore” can be blamed on the culture of “cheap commercial theatre” that has taken root within the city.
Saeedi’s main gripe with the industry is the lack of government support. He says that the theatre industry in every other part of the world is big and has government support which helps with tax collection. “It is a sad sight that although there are four theatre auditoriums available in Karachi, only the Arts Council auditorium is fully operational,” laments Saeedi.
Saeedi feels that despite his efforts to broaden the minds of the general public, their response to Pakistani theatre remains more or less the same. “There is still a segment of society that thinks it is odd for us to be a part of the theatrical industry,” he added.
He also went on to say that the response is greater in Islamabad than in Karachi, as more people come to view theatre with the idea that the entry should be free of charge.
When he was asked why “Avanti” was primarily in English, with Urdu only being used in some comic scenes, Saeedi said, “That trend has sort of picked up in the city so we stood on those grounds. We wanted to add many falvours to the play; besides a lot of foreigners have come over to see the play, so it is easier for everyone to understand.”
On the question of which city garners the best crowd in town, Saeedi bluntly replied, “Karachiites are the best! They come, they mostly pay for their tickets, they see it, understand it and finally enjoy it to the core. We really appreciate this crowd.”
Saeedi promises to bring another play called “Cinder-Jatt” to the city of lights, which will be an adaptation of the fairy tale “Cinderella”. For now, “Avanti” runs at the Arts Council till June 25.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2012.
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