LAHORE: Ajoka Theatre will soon roll out its first festival in honour of its late founder Madeeha Gauhar. Titled Madeeha Gauhar Theatre Festival, the event will kick off on Septmeber 27 till September 29 at Alhamra Hall, Lahore. The three-day event will play host to Gauhar’s hit plays that proved her producing skills and directorial genius. These include Kala Maida Bhes, Lo Phir Basant Ayee and Bulha.
While these plays helped Gauhar earn international recognition, all three highlighted the social evils in our society. The festival directors will also screen a documentary on Gauhar’s life and renowned choreographer Wahab Shah will pay a dance tribute. This will be followed by a pictorial exhibition of Gauhar’s different works throughout her career.
“In her 34-year-long career, Madeeha produced wonderful plays and did her best for the promotion of theatre. She helmed 50 plays and also represented Pakistan internationally,” Gauhar’s husband and executive director of Ajoka Theatre, Shahid Nadeem told The Express Tribune.
Gauhar passed away in April 2018. In May, Ajoka Theatre organised a memorial to honour her services. Titled ‘Celebrating Madeeha’, the event was held at Alhamra Hall, with writers, intellectuals and theatre activists from across the border in attendance. Artists paid tribute to Gauhar’s passion, progressive mindset and her significant contribution in making Pakistani theatre internationally known.
Kewal Dhaliwal, leading theatre director of eastern Indian Punjab earlier announced that the Madeeha Gauhar Theatre Festival will be held annually in Amritsar too. Teams from both Pakistan and India will participate in the event to convey the message of peace, love and tolerance. He also announced a peace award named after Gauhar which will be presented to prominent peace, theatre and social activists selected from both countries.
Dhaliwal revealed that the Indian theatre community was deeply saddened following Gauhar’s passing. A series of tribute programmes were also held in various Indian cities including Kashmir and Kerala. He mentioned that the Sangeet Natak Academy in Chandigarh compiled a book based on collaborative productions with Ajoka Theatre along with memories of working with Gauhar. The book was scheduled to be published in July this year.
Other Indian theatre activists including Sahib Singh, Neelam Man Singh, Bibi Harjinder Kaur, Ramesh Yadav, Parminder Singh and Mazhar Hussain shared their experiences of working with Gauhar. They all spoke very highly of the late artist’s services towards cultural exchange. While paying their tributes, they also expressed that Gauhar was a courageous woman who served as a bridge between India and Pakistan.
Prominent personalities from different walks of life including Qamar Zaman Kaira, Waleed Iqbal, Ibn Abdur Rehman, Asghar Nadeem Syed, Farrukh Goindi, Sharmeen Abbas, Paren Boga were also present. “Madeeha became a symbol of resistance in the 1980s and worked bravely for the restoration of human rights,” said Kaira. “She was a firm believer in democracy, freedom of expression and the rule of Law like all progressive parties of Pakistan.” According to Rehman, “Madeeha not only revived the traditional form of theatre but also enriched it with modern techniques in a very convincing manner.”
Ajoka Theatre's 'Marya Hoa Kutta' enthralls at Alhamra Theatre Festival
Activist Roshaneh Zafar paid homage to Gauhar by reciting Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s Dasht-e-Tanhai. Activists from over the world including Dr Fowzia Afzal Khan, Sadia Delhvi, Zeba Hyder and Raza Roomi sent in exclusive messages for Gauhar. The programme ended with personal statements from Gauhar’s family members. Nadeem vowed that Ajoka theatre will carry on its mission set by Gauhar – to enlighten through art with the same spirit and motivating plays in the future.
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