After successive commercial failures and creating a handful of fans in the course of three years, NAPA (the National Academy of Performing Arts) is all set for its sixteenth production “Begum Jaan” starring Nimra Bucha, who dazzled audiences in the Dictator’s Wife.
Umrao Jaan Ada by Mirza Hadi Ruswa is considered to be one of the finest pieces of writing in the literature of the sub-continent. The play has been written by the Indian writer Javed Siddiqui, who has bollywood flicks such as Baazigar, Dilwale Dulhaniya Lae Jayengay, Umraao Jan, Zubeidaa and Koi Mil Gaya, under his belt as a screenwriter. The play will be directed by Anjum Ayaz, senior faculty member at Napa.
Renowned theater and TV actors, Naila Jaaferi and Nimra Bucha, will take the stage with Napa graduate Ali Sheikh. The play will be performed for 10 days at the Arts Council from June 3 to 13 every day at 8 pm.
“To my fortune, after a long time I have a really good script to direct and this time around the stakes are high but we have tried our level best to do justice to it,” Ajum Ayaz told The Express Tribune.
Anjum Ayaz has previously directed “Wakeel Saheb”, “Kanjoos” and “Dil Ka Kiya Rung Karoon” for NRT (Napa Repertory Theater Company).
The head of NRT, Rahat Kazmi, was proud of the progress that Napa has made as an institution. “Our child by the name of NRT is 16 plays old now and I think in the sixteenth year of one’s life, one matures and becomes experienced and we are glad that other theater groups have also started coming up,” Kazmi said at a press conference on Friday.
When asked that whether in the 16 performances and three years, the child has attracted any audiences, Kazmi remained a man of few words and replied, “Well, now, we haven’t managed to create a proper audience but there are a few people who I can see at every performance, which is a sign of hope for us.”
This time around, Napa has been smart and covered its tracks especially where copyright is concerned. “We have spoken to Javed Siddiqui in India and have formally acquired permission to perform his play over here,” said Kazmi. “It was his graciousness that in return, he only asked for the performance pictures and the reviews that come in the papers.”
The same old questions came up again for NAPA officials when journalists asked them about non-performing contemporary plays and yet again accused them of living in the classical period. There was nothing new in the answer either.
“I believe that people such as Chekhov, Shakespeare and Agha Hashar are universal and their ideas and thought are assets for humanity, hence we perform them,” Kazmi answered. When further hounded, he added: “I’ll give one hundred thousand rupees to anyone who will bring me a new original play from Pakistan. I have asked everyone from Dr Anwer Sajjad to Asim Farruki but there are no original plays.” Meanwhile, right across the road an original Urdu play “Sabz” wrapped up after running for thirteen days.
For their part, Nimra Bucha and Naila Jaafri appreciated the effort and a chance to work with maestros such as Zia Moheyuddin and Rahat Kazmi.
Begum Jaan could just be the winning ticket for Napa. Break a leg.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2011.
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