Tear jerker: Ajoka performance steals hearts in Delhi

Published: January 21, 2013
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By the time the Pakistan-based theatre troop bowed before the audience, the crowd was in tears amid resounding applause and a grand standing ovation.

By the time the Pakistan-based theatre troop bowed before the audience, the crowd was in tears amid resounding applause and a grand standing ovation.

NEW DEHLI: 

For a play that was rejected and henceforth declared cancelled, Ajoka’s performance – which was staged quietly in New Delhi – was nothing short of unexpected.

After the Indian government withdrew permission for the performance of “Kaun Hai Yeh Gustakh” in the state-owned theatres of the capital, a Mumbai-based benefactor paid to book a theatre – although much smaller in size – for the play that tried to recreate life after Saadat Hassan Manto left India for Pakistan.

More viewers came to see the play than many had expected —more than 250 crammed the 150-seater Akshara venue as the play was performed in front of an Indian audience for the first time. A second performance was held at the Jawaharlal Nehru University later.

While the turnout was surprising, the response from the audience was even more overwhelming.

By the time the Pakistan-based theatre troop bowed before the audience, the crowd was in tears amid resounding applause and a grand standing ovation.

The first Indian performance of Kaun Hai Yeh Gustakh was to be held on Wednesday in Jaipur, where a parallel festival of the Mahotsav was being held. It was called off following a protest at the venue. Subsequently, both Pakistani plays that were part of the Rang Mahtosav in Delhi were withdrawn.

India’s National School of Drama (NSD) Chairperson Amal Allana said she was saddened but she had received instructions that both plays were to be cancelled. As the NSD receives state funding, there was no option but for them to cancel the plays.

The subsequent staging of the play, according to Indian intelligence sources, was in the full knowledge of the intelligence bureau but was held for the “benefit of theatre lovers”.

“We are an independent theatre. What matters is the play, not where it comes from,” said Jalabala Vaidya of the Akshara Theatre, the venue of the play.

The organisers did not arrange for a security cover and, as it turned out, they didn’t need any.

The only people who were stopped at the gate were theatre lovers who kept turning up long after the hall was packed to the last standing space. A person from the audience who was in tears said Manto’s centenary celebrations in India would have been incomplete without the staging of this play.

“This is bizarre. Manto was the only rational element in the division of India and Pakistan. And a play that Manto had written, about the stupidity of the power play that governs relations between India and Pakistan – that play should be cancelled by government?” asked a member of the audience in utter shock.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2013.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • andleeb (Canada)
    Jan 21, 2013 - 3:58AM

    Indians have not done well in arts and no wonder that they cried after seeing even some unheard of group from Pakistan. No one has even remotely heard of them here in Canada (or even in Pakistan I’m sure) while the Indians cried their eyes out. In the field of arts (and atomic sciences) India is left far behind. Keep dabbing your eyes my Indian brothers.

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  • Hrishikesh
    Jan 21, 2013 - 4:00AM

    Most Indians always welcome Pakistani artists… Such a touching story… I wish I could have seen this play too… One day I hope Indians will be allowed to drive across the border and see how beautiful Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad are compared to most Indian cities… I’ve only seen images online, but I know they’re better planned and with wider roads, etc. since Pakistan is less densely populated and Karachi is just a desert after all… Those Defence Housing Authority things, the upscale areas of Karachi and the nice Sectors of Islamabad… the Motorway in Punjab… this is infrastructure that most Indians would love to have all over India… Pakistan is a great country and I’m sure Pakistanis are great people… I know they have issues with Hindus because of what their textbooks teach… I wish they’d just let us visit… they’d at least agree that not all Hindus are bad…

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  • Babloo
    Jan 21, 2013 - 4:17AM

    Manto cursed the day he left India for Pakistan under the influence of his wife.
    Pakistan only went downhill since then.

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  • No Offence
    Jan 21, 2013 - 5:04AM

    @ andleeb You are right, Indians are far behind than Pakistanis in “all fields” that’s the reason why your expat Rana got imprisoned for 14 yrs. One can fool himself believing his own perception BUT the problem begin when they start believing their own lies & that exactly seem to be the case.

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  • parvez
    Jan 21, 2013 - 8:48AM

    There is a general feeling of regret in Pakistan about the partition.

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  • mes
    Jan 21, 2013 - 8:52AM

    @andleeb (Canada):

    . In the field of arts (and atomic
    sciences
    ) India is left far behind.
    Keep dabbing your eyes my Indian
    brothers.

    what stopped you from quoting other fields, bring out the usual the missile, rocket, university, engineering and other claims.

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  • pak haters
    Jan 21, 2013 - 9:13AM

    @Hrishikesh – did u see delhi metro, probably not…bcoz of ur pathetic mental condition

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  • AIH
    Jan 21, 2013 - 9:42AM

    Ajoka is not an ‘unknown group’ it is in fact a very well known and well established theatre group which, through its performances, draws people’s attention to socio- political and rights based issues. Ajoka’s has been prominent in creating awareness on controversial issues through street theatre as well. Its possible that it is not known in Canada, however, it is a known name in Pakistan and India.

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  • Beatle
    Jan 21, 2013 - 10:36AM

    @Hrishikesh:
    Thx Buddy. Appreciate your comments. I hope your countrymen do not turn deaf ears. But one thing I can assure you is that your sportsmen and artists will never receive the kind of treatment Pakistanis got most recently; both on private and public sector.

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  • In the name of love
    Jan 21, 2013 - 10:48AM

    well first of all, new delhi is how it is spelt and not new dehli…there is no doubt that indians, especially from northern india and more so punjabis are extremely loving when it comes to pakistanis and i believe its true vice versa too…its high time we all rise above religion, above disputes, above politics…if not, then keep destroying ourselves and the generation to come in rage and and animosity..

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  • BlackJack
    Jan 21, 2013 - 10:56AM

    @andleeb (Canada):
    No one has even remotely heard of them here in Canada (or even in Pakistan I’m sure) while the Indians cried their eyes out.
    Theatre is for people with more class than you possess, my friend, so no surprises. Even the use of archaic terms like atomic sciences is probably an art form in your circles.

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  • Analyzer
    Jan 21, 2013 - 11:07AM

    @Hrishikesh:
    I’m with u on this my friend. I too would love to drive across the border and see the wonderful historic sites in India, meet with its people and enjoy the famous food in old Dehli. We need to end this culture of hate and distrust.

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  • IZ
    Jan 21, 2013 - 1:06PM

    @andleeb
    “No one has even remotely heard of them here in Canada (or even in Pakistan I’m sure) while the Indians cried their eyes out.”
    As a Pakistani I can assure you Ajoka are one of the most well-respected and popular Pakistani theatre troupes. Please don’t mistake your own ignorance as insight.

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  • Huma
    Jan 21, 2013 - 3:05PM

    well @parvez and @babloo, pls feel free to go and live in india, if u are here and are regretting the severance, because we will do well withiout such as you! as for the the main story… kudos to ajoka and thank you to the indians for the appreciation!

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