Handling a legacy: Some powerful dialogues, some clichés

Play shows Jinnah, Iqbal and Maulana Shaukat Ali visiting Pakistan in 2012.

Hashim Bin Rashid July 13, 2012


Pawnay 14 August, the first play written by satirist Anwar Maqsood for theatre, opened at Alhamra Arts Council, The Mall on July 5 and will run till July 17.

The play begins with Mohammad Ali Jinnah (played by Hassam Khan), Allama Iqbal (played by Wassam Waheed) and Maulana Shaukat Ali (played by Dawar Mehmood) deciding to visit Pakistan, in August 2012, ignoring Josh Maleehabadi who advises them against it.

The one-act play is set at the Quaid-i-Azam International Airport, Karachi. The three are disappointed by how no one recognised them during the three days they had spent wandering around in Karachi.

Jinnah is carrying a briefcase, Iqbal a suitcase and Shaukat Ali a DVD. They have a chance reservation with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) for a flight to Islamabad.

“Iqbal, put on chance by PIA?” exclaims Shaukat Ali as Iqbal sits on a couch. “The day you had the dream about Pakistan, you shouldn’t have slept,” he says as a character walks by and remarks to another, “Faiz [Ahmed Faiz] is the greater poet since he was sung by more artists.”

Shaukat Ali is the one who delivers most of the punch lines; Jinnah remains aloof, speaking only as if sharing afterthoughts; Iqbal is distressed at how his poetry is ‘misused’.

The play has various cliché characters, including Veena Malik, a flamboyant woman supporter of PTI, a burqa-clad wife of a Jamaat-i-Islami member, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat, a Bengali immigrant, and, a member of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

Jinnah chastises Colonel Majeed over the military’s seizing of power and building an atom bomb in a country where people go without food or water. The colonel reminds him, “I am a colonel and still ‘serving.’”

Jinnah asks the colonel, “How many martial laws have been there?” The colonel goes through the list.

“This nation does not unite under its flag, but under martial law’s baton it does become one,” remarks Colonel Majeed.

“If Punjab hadn’t been a part of Pakistan, there would have been no army,” Shaukat Ali retorts.

“Then there would have been no Pakistan…,” says Jinnah but is cut off by Ali, “That may have been better.”

A Bangladeshi passenger says, “West Pakistanis did not bow to their Bengali brothers for 24 years, but bowed readily to enemies when the time came,” before taking on Quaid-i-Azam directly. After he leaves, Ali addresses Jinnah, “You should have let Bengali be East Pakistan’s language.” Jinnah’s response is, “If I had done so, Faiz would have written his poetry in Punjabi.”

Ali later questions the two founding fathers on the creation of Pakistan.

Iqbal continues to suffer through people quoting his poetry to justify their actions. One of them is Veena Malik, who recites, ‘Wajood-i-zann se hai tasveer-i-kainat mein rang,’ (Women bring colour to the picture that is universe) to justify her nude photo shoot. He faints Junoon’s rendition of ‘Khudi ko kar buland itna’ is played on the television.

The play descends to clichés at the end when Jinnah hands over a briefcase containing his plans for Pakistan and Iqbal his suitcase containing the secrets to ‘khudi’ (self esteem) to a boy who recites two of Iqbal’s verses in their ‘proper context’.

During the curtain call Dawar Mehmood tells the audience, “You must remember the cases Iqbal and Jinnah hand over to the boy have actually been given to all of you.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2012. 


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