LAHORE: Stage actress Deedar put on a two-hour dance performance at the Government College University’s (GCU) Bonfire Night on Tuesday, prompting anger among some quarters at the “debasement” of one of the city’s most prestigious educational institutions.
The event’s organisers said there was nothing vulgar about Deedar’s performance and it was all for a good cause, the university’s Help the Helpless campaign through which poor students can get financial aid. The GCU Welfare Society raised Rs1.5 million at Tuesday night’s event.
This was perhaps the first time that a theatre actress, a profession considered indecent by some, has officially performed at an event at a public university. She danced to several popular Pakistani and Indian songs including Sheela Ki Jawani and Munni Badnam Hui Darling Tere Liye.
Around 450 students bought Rs1,000 tickets for Bonfire Night. Men were instructed to wear a black suit, while women were required to wear a red dress and a rose. Couples were offered two tickets at the concessional rate of Rs1,800.
Other performers at the event included singers Shafqat Amanat Ali, Arif Lohar, Annie, Jassie and Amanat Ali Khan and bands Raga Boys and Call.
A BA student told The Express Tribune that he bought the ticket only to see Deedar. “At a private theatre, I couldn’t touch her or exchange smiles with her,” he said. “Thanks to GCU, my wish to dance with her has come true.” He said that GCU Registrar Sahibzada Faisal Khurshid had asked Deedar to dance to the song Sheela Ki Jawani. The registrar was unavailable for comment.
Senior faculty members criticised Deedars’ performance, saying it was not worthy of an institution of GCU’s standing. They noted that in previous years, the performers had been classical singers and regional dancers practiced in historic art forms. Their performances had cultural and educational value, they said. “Deedar’s dance sends the wrong message across the world about the GCU. Half the audience was female students. What will they have learnt from Deedar’s dance?” asked one faculty member.
GCU Welfare Society adviser Dr Khalid Manzoor Butt, an assistant professor, argued that the event was healthy entertainment that was good for the students. He said that the registrar was present at the event and there had been no vulgarity or indecent behaviour. He said Deedar had danced fully-clothed.
He also pointed out that by attending the event, the students had helped raise millions of rupees for poor students who might not be able to afford an education otherwise.
Iqbal Z Ahmed, noted industrialist and president of the GCU Endowment Fund Executive Committee, inaugurated the event by lighting the bonfire. Punjab Education Minister and Old Ravian Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman, US Consul General Carmella Conroy and US Consulate Public Affairs Officer Jennifer Larson also attended Bonfire Night.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2011.