While actors usually learn to ignore obnoxious crowds, it is much harder to do so as an audience member.
As the Pakistan National Council of the Arts opened its doors on Tuesday to allow actors from all over the country to showcase their talents, most theatre-fans in the audience shared this complaint.
The first play was from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Directed by Ijaz Mir, who also played the lead character, the play featured Iqbal Khokar, Rafiur Rehman, Saeed Anwar, Lubna Shehzadi, Sohail Khan and Baqir Farooqi.
Titled “Iss Mitti ki Khushbo” (the smell of the soil), the play was packed with patriotic dialogues, loud rhetoric and sprinkled with a few laughs.
The story is about an upstanding policeman whose love for Pakistan sees no bounds, as he lectures his family on the importance of serving one’s country.
His son Sikander, however, thinks otherwise. Fed up with the daily bombings and turmoil around him, he insists on applying for a visa and settling abroad, claiming “mein ek dafa set ho jaounga toh aap logon ko bula loun ga” (once I’m settled I’ll arrange for you to settle abroad as well). His family refuses to listen to him and taunts him for being a coward, especially his father, who seems extremely disappointed at his son’s lack of love for the country. Even the young lad’s girlfriend taunts him and accuses him of being unfaithful to his homeland. Her putdown, “mein ek buzdil keh liye intezar nahi karsakti” (I cannot wait for a coward) received a loud, hooting-laced response from the audience.
After an unfortunate turn of events leads Sikander’s father to fall victim to a suicide bombing, Sikander’s desire to leave the country is further reinforced. However, in the final scenes, we see him walking into his home wearing his late father’s police uniform and stating he wants to stay and serve his country, just as his father died doing, for there is no greater honour.
While the basic plotline was interesting, the whole play seemed to fall flat due to clichéd dialogue and technical glitches that marred the performances of the seasoned actors. Also, the ending seemed a bit abrupt as there was no effort to show the emotional transition that forced Sikander’s sudden change of heart.
Unfortunately for serious audience members, watching the play was an ordeal unto itself thanks to the crass behaviour of some audience members. Loud talking, blaring cell phones, and crude remarks by some male groups in the audience served as reminders that civility is a dying trait. One lady had to get up and ask a man sitting in the row behind her to take his phone outside as he kept talking loudly on the phone through much of the play.
When The Express Tribune asked the same lady whether or not she enjoyed the play, she responded, “Half the time I was trying to hear what the actors were saying because the man behind me wouldn’t stop talking on his phone…no wonder people say we don’t deserve entertainment.”
Published In The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2012.
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