In an attempt to shed light on a topic that is rarely discussed publicly, Suno, a play addressing mental health issues will be performed at the Karachi Arts Council. Slated for a run between April 27 and April 30, the play has been produced under the banner of Taskeen, a non-profit organisation dedicated to raising awareness regarding psychological conditions. Written and directed by Hamza Bangash, Suno aims at telling a gripping story with a universal theme to it.
“We live in a society where mental illnesses have a certain stigma attached to them … making it even more important to educate people on this matter,” remarked renowned psychiatrist Dr Taha Sabri, who is the founder of Taskeen and also the producer of the play. “Suno is about how a person suffering from bipolar disorder, a mental illness, is supported by his family and treated by society. We wanted to use performing arts as a medium to spread awareness regarding this issue.”
Sabri didn’t have to look too far for inspiration as the play is partially based on the life of one of Taskeen’s volunteers named Ramis Akhtar. Akhtar had been suffering from a mental illness but with the right support, he successfully managed to overcome it thus becoming the source of inspiration behind Suno. The play marks Bangash’s fourth outing as a theatre director, but Suno is quite different from his previous works, most notably the romantic-drama Baraf Paani. Bangash however maintained that one common denominator in all of his plays is that they are based around families. “Like my previous productions, Suno also focuses on a family and how they stand by each other despite the problems surrounding them.”
Bangash, who has also penned the play, recalled his apprehensions from the time when he was given the task of writing Suno. “I was honoured but also extremely worried. Writing a piece that is entirely fictional is one thing, but writing about a story inspired by the life of a real individual, about what he experienced is another. I had my concerns,” said Bangash. In the days that followed, Bangash frequently met and interacted with Akhtar, as well as other volunteers at Taskeen – something that gradually helped him overcome his initial trepidation.
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However, the director wasn’t the only person to benefit from these interactions; cast members such as lead actor Hadi Bin Arshad also met with the volunteers to get a better grip of the complex subject. “The results became evident after a while as the cast could empathise with all these characters,” said Bangash.
Both Bangash and Sabri are optimistic that Suno will help society change its view of mental health issues. “After speaking with Ramis, I realised that Suno was more than a personal story. It is about every Pakistani family ... anyone who has ever been depressed and looked to their family for consolation, for advice and for hope,” added Bangash. Suno will be performed by a cast of emerging thespians including Yasmeen Hashmi, Hammad Siddiqui, Danya Zaidi, Hira Dar, Syed M Jameel, Mah Jabeen Rehman and Hasan Khan.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2016.
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