A play capturing the almost hypnotic influence pirs (spiritual healers) exercise on people and the subsequent havoc their blind faith can wreck in their lives was enacted at Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) on Monday as part of the ongoing drama festival.
Written and directed by Javaid Babar, the play titled “Sanp” was performed by artists from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Fari, a married woman, played by Mussarat Malik is taunted by her dominating mother-in-law day and night for being unable to provide an heir to the family after over five years of marriage. This becomes a bone of contention between the two and Fari tries in vain to explain that all the doctors she and her husband visited cleared her and urged that her husband should have himself tested.
But the relentless mother-in-law threatens to have her son married off to another woman if Fari refuses to visit a famous pir. At first Fari tries to convince her that such people are generally fraudsters and manipulate others under the guise of being enlightened and pious. After much debate and persuasion from her husband - who never seemed to have his say in the situation - she visits the spiritual healer with her mother-in-law. The Baba jee in question turns out to be a fraud and manipulates the family into believing that Fari is possessed by a djin and s he must perform an exorcism to free her from his possession.
What follows is the horrendous tragedy of a fraud Pir sexually assaulting his client after rendering her unconscious.
This incident leaves Fari deranged, spiralling further into insanity after discovering that she has been impregnated. In a bout of rage, she avenges herself by murdering the Baba jee.
Fearing that the family’s reputation would be harmed if the truth was revealed, her husband and mother-in-law put her away in a mental asylum after she gives birth and cover up the episode by telling everyone that she passed away during childbirth. It is a journalist who later uncovers her story during a visit to the asylum and helps her face the demons of her past.
It is ironic that even though this may be a drama performed by actors, the story is common to our society. The emotional trauma faced by a woman was depicted brilliantly by the performers, casting a thoughtful silence over the audience. The play was bold and the message sent across touched a nerve with the audience.
The drama festival, aimed to develop an understanding about certain moral issues prevalent in our society, has been well-received, as evident by the crowd it has pulled in so far.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2011.
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