Anyone would think twice before daring to replicate the unbeatable performances in ‘80s satirical-comedy drama Aangan Terrha. The brilliance in dialogues both written and delivered is still treasured by those who have watched it. Touching a script like that, especially for a stage performance, is a daunting task which could have resulted in a disappointment of gargantuan proportions. But director Dawar Mehmood and his team took up the challenge and succeeded.
Under the auspices of the legendary writer Anwar Maqsood, who is also the playwright for the original drama, young and passionate actors brought new life to the characters of a drama that is a part of our national archive. Yasir Hussain as Akbar, Hareem Farooq as Jehan Ara, Khalifa Sajeeruddin as Chaudhary Sahab, Nurjis Jafri as Hamsheera/Sultana and Talal Jilani as Mehboob Ahmed in the main roles left no stone unturned in giving us fresh rendition of Aangan Terrha.
Late Salim Nasir’s unforgettable role of a servant and former classical dancer in the drama is played by Hussain, who feels the role was a part of him. After witnessing his performance, veteran actor Bushra Ansari, who was a part of the original cast, gave him her blessings by saying: “Tum to Akbar ko ghol kay pee gaye, bohat achay”. While Farooq played Jehan Ara Begum, who appeared a lot like a younger version of Ansari, Sajeeruddin played the energetic Chaudhary Sahab.
The play Aangan Terrha is a pleasant break from the thumkas and item numbers that have infested Karachi theatre, and incredible one-liners by the master of satire himself are worth the watch.
While the class and charisma of the original drama has been retained, a bit of reinvention was expected and also needed for stage which unfortunately was not seen. Perhaps the only flaw was the lack of a theatrical feel, since the director has chosen to replicate on stage exactly what was on TV. Similar to the transitions in a TV play, the lights and music faded in and out as a changeover of wardrobe and props were needed, which was uninteresting for the audience.
A few issues in the venue gave way to some murmurs within the crowd. The number of people invited on media night exceeded the available seats at the Arts Council. This resulted in organisers requesting some children to vacate their seats for adults. Despite the fact that children under 12 were not allowed, a few crying babies were admitted into the auditorium, which became a source of disturbance during the performance. It would have been better if the audience had followed the rules, or the organisers had stuck to theirs.
A ticket worth Rs1,500 is certainly steep for Aangan Terrha, which is a play that people from all income groups would like to watch. This also casts a shadow of doubt on whether or not Aangan Terrha will complete a running of a 100 shows. Theatre is an industry that needs money, but it’s unreasonable to expect all income groups to pay such a price. The organisers would have had more ‘house full’ nights had it been a Rs500 ticket.
Verdict: Do watch Aangan Terrha for Anwar Maqsood’s hilarious one-liners, the incredible resurrection of Salim Nasir’s character Akbar and a nugget of how Urdu was once written and spoken. For the oldies, the play will bring back fond memories; for young members of the audience, it is a valuable lesson in culture and literature.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2013.
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