Ajoka’s theatrical tribute to Taseer

Ajoka brought two play productions to stage to project the rising intolerance of society.


Ali Usman January 18, 2011

LAHORE: A rally organized by Tahaffuz Namoos-i-Risalat Mahaz to praise Mumtaz Qadri, the confessed murderer of Governor Salmaan Taseer, staged a traffic jam in Lahore on Monday. On a parallel note, two performances by Ajoka productions were dedicated to Taseer at Alhamara and received a raving applause from the audience at large.

Ajoka staged two plays;Bullha and Dekh Tamasha Chalta Ban to pay tribute to Taseer as a reflection of the opposition felt to the rising extremism in society. “Both these plays have relevance to our current scenario. Bullha highlights the struggle of the great Punjabi mystic Bulleh Shah against the religious orthodoxy of his time and his plea for peace and tolerance. While Dekh Tamasha Chalta Ban shows how innocent people are implicated in false cases on the name of religion in our society. We dedicate this to Salmaan Taseer as these plays are our voice against the rising intolerance,” said Ajoka’s Creative Director Madeeha Gauhar.

Shahid Nadeem, the author of the two plays, came on stage before the performance began saying that the plays were written years back but were quite relevant in today’s circumstances and were a rejection of the rising intolerance prevalent in society.

However, the event itself poised a unique occasion as Ajoka rarely stages two productions on the same day, “Normally we don’t do two performances a day as Bullha is a full length play but we did two plays to pay homage to Taseer and his courage to speak,” Gauhar told The Express Tribune when asked why she decided to go ahead with two full fledged performances.

The first performance of the day was Dekh Tamasha Chaltan Ban; that showed innocent citizens, intellectuals, teachers and social workers accused of blasphemy and then executed. By the end of the play, the executioners ran out of victims and satisfied their mad lust for blood, got hold of the narrator of the play and hung him. The narrator is seen pleading for his life but the executioners don’t listen to him.

The play titled Bullha started with the death of Bulleh Shah  and showed clerics arguing that the mystic was not a true Muslim. The chief cleric, Qaziul Qaza, therefore was asked not to offer his funeral prayers.

The focus of the play then shifts on to two devotees of Shah who told the story of the legendary poet. The play portrays Bulleh Shah’s struggle and showed how he had to leave his home in Kasur and move to Lahore where he became a disciple of Shah Inayat. In the guidance of his Murshad (spiritual teacher), Shah discovered various paths of mysticism and writes poetry which that was revered by many.

However, the Shah’s Murshad got angry with him and dismisses him to leave. Shah is then seen as a determined disciple set to win back the pleasure of his mentor and to reconcile with him. Eventually, he succeeds in his goal and his Murshad asks him to return to Kasur.

Shah serves people till his last breath but was not allowed a burial in a Muslim graveyard after his death. The poet’s body is buried outside the city but the play goes onto show that depspite all the hardships he faced, till today his shrine remains a mid point in the city and followers consider it an honour to be buried at his feet.

Ahmad Saeed, one of the audience members said “The performances are really impressive. I came to watch these performances because I knew they were quite relevant otherwise I have watched these plays ages ago. Ajoka definitely lived up to my expectations. “

On Tuesday, Ajoka staged yet another play called Dara which showed how the emperor, Aurangzeb Alamgir executed his own brother Dara by accusing him of having non-Islamic thoughts. “The discourse of history in the subcontinent would have been entirely different had Dara been an emperor instead of Aurangzeb,” commented Shahid Nadeem, the writer of the play.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th,  2011.

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