National drama festival: A faltering tribute to Bhutto and the dishonoured railway man

Published: December 28, 2011
A riveting scene from the play “Ghathri.” PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID

A riveting scene from the play “Ghathri.” PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID


A befitting albeit indirect tribute, the play “Hum eik hain” aimed to pay homage Benazir Bhutto on her death anniversary at the Pakistan National of the Arts here on Tuesday.

The play held the audience’s attention but the sombre nature of the play is debatable. For one, a sizeable amount of the cast were television actors. The writer and director Rifat Ali Qaiser has had experience writing for television. Therefore, the script of the play and the acting was reminiscent of a television soap opera or a movie.

Furthermore, though dealing with the problems of the common man, the plot borrows a lot from the proverbial love triangle, which dilutes the seriousness of the play. The rich girl, Shanni (Shazia Sheikh) is caught between Policeman Mujahid (Rahid Maras) and the working class hero, Yasir Ali (Shabbir Shah).

Like other plays in the festival, there is use of musical numbers. But in this one, the songs were played for too long and consisted of actors circling and glaring at each other. This led to a lot of time being wasted that could have otherwise gone into moving the plot forward.

Shanni’s family business is being inspected for a worker’s death by Mujahid, who due to his love for her has turned the blind eye to the shady dealings of her father and brother, Vicky (Naeem Khan).

In contrast, the union leader and righteous Yasir is unfaltering in his mission for justice, which inevitably makes Shanni fall in love with him. The dialogue was very dramatic and sometimes instead of making a clear point, just sounded like baseless rhetoric, that further abandoned the core of the theme.

For instance, there were multiple monologues and dialogues about the same issue; the lack of unison between police, scientists and the working class, but the issue was never addressed beyond an idealistic question. Wazir Ali (Anjum Malik) and Sonya’s (Sapna Shah) banter about their financial issues and Pakistan’s socio-economic condition was perhaps the most genuine dialogue in the play. Though lacking much structure, the audience did seem receptive to the play and there was a substantial decrease in heckling and inappropriate participation.

On Monday, the play “Ghathri” dealt with another poignant theme. The plot revolves around the story of a man who loses his mental equilibrium when his daughter elopes with her boyfriend.

As a result, the old man spends the rest of his life at a railway platform, waiting in vain for his daughter to return. Meanwhile, when another girl contemplates running away with her boyfriend, the man tries to stop her, but is hit by a speeding train and crushed to death.

The message in this play was that we should not become the reason of disgrace for our parents in the society and instead respect them. The play was written by Aslam Mughal and directed by Afzal Latifee.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2011.

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