“Don’t you wonder: why it is necessary to declare me dead again and again?” Aslam Azhar, who was playing Karl Marx from Howard Zinn’s one act play “Marx in Soho”, asked the audience at Kuch Khaas on Friday. “You can spread the word: Marx is back,” he told them.
Azhar, recognised as the father of Pakistan Television, held the audience’s complete attention as he read out from Zinn’s historical play written back in 1999.
The audience thoroughly enjoyed the reading and Zinn’s insightful and witty description of Karl Marx’s life doubled the pleasure.
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“I guess I do not need a microphone as I have, all my life, been doing this – throwing my voice to the back of the hall,” said Azhar before beginning the reading. Indeed, he was true to his words, he did not need one.
In the one-act play the writer of “Das Kapital” and “Communist Manifesto” returns to earth and lands in Soho, New York, to defend communism, making one wonder why did he choose New York over London?
As if explaining his choice of venue sarcastically Marx arrives before his audience in the play and says, “They have freedom of speech but within limits, they are ‘liberals’.”
The play shows how Marx lived his life. Zinn also introduces the audience to his wife Jenny and his daughter Eleanor and their struggle with poverty in London.
Marx informed the audience that he had come to clear his name. He denied that he was a ‘Marxist’, “as the world was being told that communism died with the defeat of the Soviet Union”.
He also questioned the communism of Stalin in the Soviet Union. “Communism is not the concentration of power in one man, one party or one commune. It is universal in nature,” said ‘Marx’ to the listeners.
While addressing his audience in Soho, Marx claimed he had predicted in the middle of the 19th century that the capitalists will soon be ousted, so it was not perfect timing for his return (since his prediction had not come true).
He hoped that perhaps in another 200 years capitalism along with similar systems, which facilitate the accumulation of wealth in few hands, would be defeated. Marx said he and his friend Engel dreamt of a world “where every human being had ample food, breathed pure air and drank pure water. [Where every person] has to do less work and had more leisure.”
Referring to Stalin, Marx demonstrated his anger and disappointment at him and his so-called interpretation of Communism.
Azhar was true to every expression that he read out; the audience laughed at the witty play of words and was spellbound where Marx told them about the ‘horrors of Capitalism’.
The reading lasted for over thirty minutes, leaving the audience yearning for more. Azhar closed the reading with Marx’s last lines in the play where while addressing his audience before exiting he says, “Did my coming here irritate you? Let’s say that it was the second coming. Christ could not come so Marx came.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2011.
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