ISLAMABAD: Artistes at Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) are busy rehearsing for the upcoming stage play ‘Panja Shikanja’ a playful satire on the political history of Pakistan.
The play revolves around a cat, five innocent kittens, a critical rooster, a philosopher dog, a compulsive dreamer, the ruthless king and all his men as they jostle for eternal control. It is a fable woven around our socio-political-culture.
Some 60 artists including a Chinese artiste are taking part in the play.
According to the plot, a cat gives birth to five kittens who start chanting the slogan ‘Long Live the King’ as soon as they are born.
The news of the miraculous kittens spreads like wildfire and everybody starts claiming their ownership.
However, the kittens are confiscated by the king who was urged by his advisors to show the kittens to the world.
So the miracle is witnessed by the entire world and the king claims the kingdom of the entire world.
The king’s men organise a grand event, which is attended by the most important leaders of the world and transmitted live to the entire world.
The king gladly shares the miraculous kittens with the world, however as soon as the kittens see the king, their slogan changes into ‘Down with the King’.
Shocked by the debacle, the king orders an investigation. During it, the cat is badly tortured to uncover the true plot.
Finally, it turns out that the kittens had been born with their eyes closed and raised the chants. On the fifth day, they opened their eyes and learnt about the reality of the king’s rule and turned their slogans to one of rebellion against the king. PNCA Director General Jamal Shah, who has scripted and directed the drama, is playing the leading role of the king.
“The play is funny and is complemented by interesting music, dances, dramatic sets, innovative costumes and special effects,” Shah said.
“PNCA is committed to theatrical entertainment in Islamabad by bringing together the best theatrical talent in Pakistan,” he added.
Ali Saleem, playing the role of the prime minister — ‘Wazir Khanum’ — said that it’s basically a black political comedy representing an evil regime of the past. Since Islamabad is my hometown, I am thoroughly enjoying not only the environment but the energy of the team members as well, Saleem said. “I would give full marks to PNCA that over the last couple of years as it has reactivated the cultural activities and I would request the people of Islamabad that they should come and bring their friends to watch this interesting play,” he added
Chinese actor Wang Shan, who plays the role of a Chinese doll in the drama, said that it is a great experience working with Pakistani artists who are extremely talented.
They act naturally like they were born artists. Comparing Chinese theatre with Pakistani theatre, Shan said that Pakistani artistes are more spontaneous, more dynamic while Chinese are more rigid culturally as they follow rules more strictly. The cat is played by Naeema Butt, a theatre artist who also runs her own interactive theatre ‘Pehlaaj’.
Talking about her role, Naeema said her role depicts a mother who cannot defend her kids against the oppressive system. “Since I run my theatre company for the oppressed communities, I can easily connect with the role,” she said. Performances of the play are planned across the nation in August and September this year.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2018.