Ajoka Theatre is set to perform its acclaimed productions, Burqavaganza and Dara, at Karachi’s Arts Council auditorium this week.
Burqavaganza is a bold political satire that provides an insight into the hypocritical values of politico-religious nature and Dara is a play based on the life of Dara Shikoh, brother to Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
At a press briefing on Thur-sday evening at The Second Floor Madeeha Gauhar of Ajoka and Sheema Kirmani of Tehrik-i-Niswan presented a briefing on the upcoming performances but lamented the fact that the society we live in has become more intolerant.
Also at the event were Ajoka Theatres’s actors which included Madeeha Gauhar’s son Nirwan Nadeem, Hania Cheema and Bakhtawar. They shared their perspective on theatre and how Ajoka had groomed them as child actors.
Burqavaganza was recently banned by the Pakistan Nati-onal Council of Arts, but was finally allowed to be staged in Islamabad.
Gauhar said, “The play was banned on the grounds that we were making fun of the national dress of a neighbouring country. We assumed that it alluded to India but wondered why, since no one wears a sari in the play. But we were told that burqa was the national dress of Afghanistan and that was what we had targeted!”
“All progressive political parties of the country were against us,” Gauhar said. “We would not have been able to stage our plays if it wasn’t for Nilofer Bakhtiar from the Senate’s Standing Committee on Culture, who is a liberal person and supportive of our work.”
Sheema Kirmani of Tehrik-i-Niswan said, “We lived under a dictatorship in the 1980s but people were liberal. Now people’s mindsets have been conditioned otherwise. We now fear each other. Now you don’t know your enemy for sure; back then in the 1980s you knew your enemy which was one dictator and his policies of censorship. Over the last 25 years we have been infiltrated by fundamentalists. Dance is thought to be a sin. We don’t protest enough and that culture has died too.” However, she did strike an optimistic note, “Societies and countries evolve so let us hope.”
On a final note she said, “When Ajoka started it was with a vision - to have a secular system in the country. This message goes forward in our plays. We create awareness regarding various issues, open it up to discourse and to end the intolerant attitude. There should be a place where everyone can talk and be heard. The idea is to promote freedom of expression.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2010.
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