Trying to overcome the Monday blues, people scurried towards the Arts Council on November 14, where a stage was set up for a play reading.
Displaying playwright Mansoor Saeed’s picture as the backdrop, his actor-daughter Sania Saeed greeted guests at the entrance and the gathering was set. The event was organised to commemorate the 69th birthday of the late theatre practitioner and also to launch his Urdu translation “Anokhi Baat Bhi Mumkin Hai”, an exceptional translation of German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s “The Exception and the Rule”.
The event kick-started with Asma Mundrawala reading an essay by Mansoor Saeed, which he wrote about the formation of Dastak, his theatre group. Formed in 1982, Dastak served as a hub for performing arts and collected like-minded individuals under one roof.
Despite a delayed start, the celebration got better as it progressed with Sheema Kermani — who had worked along Mansoor in the early days of Dastak — performing a short dance piece on Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetry. Kermani, who is also the founder of Tehrik-e-Niswan (a movement for women’s rights through performing arts), along with her two students, enchanted the audience with a phenomenal mixture of odissi and kathak dance steps making Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem “Aaj” more expressive than ever.
The crescendo of the celebration was reached when renowned theatre and TV personalities like Ehteshamuddin, a well known TV director and theatre actor, accompanied by Saleem Mairaj , Saife Hasan and Sania Saeed took over the stage for a dramatic reading of “Anokhi Baat Bhi Mumkin Hai”.
The plot of the play revolves around a travelling merchant who hires a coolie to help with his luggage which contains documents he requires for an oil digging contract. The affluent merchant, who is caught up in his paranoia about reaching his destination on time, suppresses the coolie and mistreats him for no reason. Their journey says a lot about the mindsets in a capitalist’s society and, by the help of some characters, elaborates how ‘certain rules’ can be used to manipulate reason.
Bertolt Brecht is an important playwright, not only in the history of theatre, but also in the context of Pakistani society. The translations of his plays like “Life of Galileo” and “The Exception and the Rule” are a significant contribution to Urdu translations from foreign playwrights.
The director of dramatic reading and Mansoor Saeed’s son-in-law, Shahid Shafaat says, “Brecht’s plays will remain relevant till class differences exist in our society.” According to Shafaat, the powerful have always oppressed the powerless and, he added, there are many examples in Pakistani society, which serve to highlight the point Brecht was trying to make with his plays.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2011.