Da Bhagi Marg review: The accidental death of a potentially good play

Published: March 31, 2017
Email
PHOTO:RAHUL AIJAZ

PHOTO:RAHUL AIJAZ

PHOTO:RAHUL AIJAZ PHOTO:RAHUL AIJAZ PHOTO:RAHUL AIJAZ PHOTO:RAHUL AIJAZ

KARACHI  : The National Academy of Performing Arts’ (Napa) International Theatre and Music Festival has offered experiences that were transcendental, such as in Brigel Gjoka’s Hotel Propaganda and satirical as seen in Juloos, to the heart-wrenching Return to Palestine and Ikhtiar.

But then if you look at Da Bhagi Marg, staged on March 30, you’ll realise that it outright did not belong in the festival. Dubbed as the first Pashto play staged at Napa, the Rauf Afridi directorial was full of clichés and racial Pathan jokes made by (mostly) Pathans. Whether this was Rauf’s way of satire or merely his idea of good humour, I cannot say. Whatever it was, Da Bhagi Marg totally bombed.

PHOTO:RAHUL AIJAZ

PHOTO:RAHUL AIJAZ

The play, an adaptation of Italian playwright Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist, revolved around an anarchist who dies while in police custody for questioning a bombing in which he played no part. It starred Alam Zeb Khan, Aham Ali Khan, Salman Ali Khan, Hammad Khan, Essa Khan and Rauf himself.

And while Da Bhagi Marg’s narrative structure and the entire handling of the ‘farce’ situation was plausible, and even the performances, especially Hammad’s, were strong enough, the content and humour were something that seemed right out of an Umar Sharif stage drama. They were jokes you might be comfortable sharing in your close friends’ circle but shouldn’t present on stage.  And yet, to my surprise, everyone except a few enjoyed the play. Perhaps, I had expected a more refined adaptation. If the audience had come for some mindless entertainment, then the play succeeded.

PHOTO:RAHUL AIJAZ

PHOTO:RAHUL AIJAZ

One issue was the lack of subtitles or any help in understanding the Pashto dialogues. For non-Pashto speakers, this hindered understanding of the play. Combined with the brash humour, the message of how the media propagates misinformation and the social commentary was completely lost. It might have entertained the audience but lowered the standards set by the other plays staged before.

 Wash yourself of low-brow humour

On the other hand, Joshinder Chaggar staged a solo experimental movement performance titled Wash Yourself of Yourself at the Napa basement theatre. Directed by Sunil Shankar, the hour-long performance was in total contrast to Da Bhagi Marg – experimental, creative and meditative. It saw Joshinder take the audience through the eye-opening journey of a woman from age five to 14 and beyond, exploring her childhood and how she grows up to the harsh realities of the world.

One sequence that stuck in mind was Joshinder, tired and buckling under the weight of a dozen handbags, chasing the spotlight in vain. One could see the struggle, emotion and exhaustion of her character’s soul on her face. The team must also be commended on the interesting use of lighting.

PHOTO:RAHUL AIJAZ

PHOTO:RAHUL AIJAZ

Yet surprisingly, this experimental piece did not receive as thunderous a response as one would expect. Sure, Wash Yourself of Yourself became a drag at some points but considering it was a one-woman show, Joshinder carried it well with her captivating movements and swan-like flow.

Have something to add to the story? Share it in the comments below. 

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (3)

  • Murad
    Mar 31, 2017 - 8:21PM

    Was it that you couldn’t understand the language and the absence of sub title, or was it the plot that made you think the way you have mentioned in your critical analysis.Recommend

  • Rahul Aijaz
    Mar 31, 2017 - 10:22PM

    Murad, the language issue was forgivable. You could still make sense of the storyline. But the treatment and quality of humor was something that I could not overlook. If the play had to reinforce the same Pathan stereotypes and naswar and homosexuality jokes, then it didn’t break any new ground and was a waste of time. Recommend

  • Murad
    Mar 31, 2017 - 10:43PM

    Dear author you have written a very good critical analysis. I appreciate the line you have taken.Recommend

More in Film