The National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) delighted theatre lovers when it opened its latest offering, a double bill with two plays in one night, on Friday evening at the Arts Council Karachi.
In Shaam Bhi Thi Dhuaan Dhuaan and Salgirah, one can witness a couple on stage drinking whiskey, waltzing and openly discussing sex without drawing any murmurs from the crowd. There is infidelity, a realisation of mistakes and the brilliant delivery of Urdu dialogues, peppered with some typically English phrases that will leave you in awe.
Directed by Zia Moheyyedin, the cast of the two plays consists of veteran actors Rahat Kazmi and Naila Jaafri, who together provide two hours of wholesome entertainment. The first play, Salgirah, which has been written by Indian writer Javed Siddiqi, is about Sameer (Rahat Kazmi), a successful writer and his wife Sonali (Naila Jaffri). The couple has thrown a party for their friends a day before they decide to part ways after 15 years of marriage. During the course of the play, the two go through ups and downs in their time apart and keep stumbling into each other. With a sprinkle of humour, the play focuses on the bond between a man and his wife, and the journey a couple makes emotionally during their time together. In a relatively modern setting, Jaafri looks striking in a black, sleeveless outfit as she plays the well-groomed Sonali. Time and again, she is the voice of reason in the play.
Ten minutes after the end of Salgirah comes Shaam Bhi Thi Dhuaan Dhuaan, an adaptation of a Russian play written by Aleksei Arbuzov and translated in Urdu by Rafiq Anjum. The humour and witty dialogue in this play present a good break from the melodrama of the previous one. It is an old school love story about Parthav Sanehal (Kazmi), a 65-year-old doctor who works at a sanatorium, and Uma Rai (Jaafri) a beautiful 55-year-old woman who has accepted that life is too short and that every moment should be celebrated. She manages to pierce through the thick-skinned Parthav who tries his best to avoid reality and prefers to live by what he thinks is right. In their short and sweet journey, they dance together and feel the beauty of the falling rain. What unfolds is for you to watch and relish.
While the theme of love in theatre is as old as the art itself, the sophisticated and compelling manner in which the masters — Moheyyedin, Kazmi and Jaafri — have delivered it makes the evening one to remember. Both Kazmi and Jaafri reinforce that they are not just veterans of our acting industry, but also masters of the craft. Their chemistry in both plays is phenomenal and, with all due respect to an actor of Kazmi’s stature, one can see Jaafri steal the lime light and overpower him at certain points. However, frequent changes in the set can make Salgirah a bit of a drag for the audience, with interruptions halting the dramatic crescendo that is building up. The second play is short and sweet, and the brilliant comic timing of the actors compensates for the lulls as one bursts into fits of laughter.
The ever graceful Naila Jaffri seems to be ageing in reverse and Kazmi’s age shows despite his dyed hair but the real winner of the evening is Zia Moheyeddin. His classical approach to theatre and idea of a minimalistic set are both supremely successful. Moheyeddin is more of an actor’s director and that shows not only in the performances but also in the detail given to the blocking of characters and utilisation of space in both plays. Napa’s double bill is a must watch for everyone, not just because of the stellar performances but also because of the impeccably-delivered Urdu dialogue.
The back-to-back plays run till December 23, with tickets available at Agha’s Supermarket and Napa.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2012.