The undying pull of Ajoka’s plays

When something as freakishly spectacular as Ajoka’s Bullha or Dara comes along, we are left speechless.


Sachal November 01, 2010

ISLAMABAD: In our world of abundant movies, television shows and amateur theatrical presentations, we have become accustomed to their limited and generally mediocre range. Therefore when something as freakishly spectacular as Ajoka’s Bullha or Dara comes along, we are left speechless. If you have not seen any of Ajoka’s plays I strongly recommend that you do so the next time such a chance comes along.

As far as meaningful theatre is concerned, it simply does not get better than this.

With their rich cultural content Ajoka plays address serious social issues, never letting the entertainment tempo flag and without stooping to the suggestive vulgarity of the popular stage. They rely on tasteful humour and powerful live music to keep the audience enthralled.

Theatre goers of the city are familiar with Ajoka’s work and each time the group brings its plays to Islamabad the productions get louder applause. This time around Ajoka has staged three plays at the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) beginning with Raja Rasalu on Friday, Bullha on Saturday and Dara on Sunday evening in aid of the flood survivors.

Bullha is Ajoka’s most popular play; it has been performed around the globe and even 10 years gets a houseful response. On Saturday people sat on stairs, many stood through the two-hour long performance.

Directed by Madiha Gohar and written by Shahid Nadeem, the play revolves around the life of great Sufi poet Bulleh Shah (1680-1758), who witnessed the downfall of the Mughal Empire. People joined in the robust chorus of Bulleh’s words, and when a crowd that large hums in unison, everything from the ceiling to the soul vibrates as one. The Sufi (mystic) concept of Wahdat-al-Wajud (Oneness of being) becomes a mass reality, a collective demonstration.

The strength of the spiritual sentiment the play is able to generate can be gauged from what happened when Bullha was performed at Patiala, Indian Punjab, where an old man brought his sick son to the stage at the end of the show and asked Sarfraz Ansari who plays the saint to bless him. “I am just an actor, I have no spiritual powers of healing,” Ansari told the old man. But the old man insisted saying Ansari was the saint’s avatar and through him Bulleh Shah’s blessing will reach his son.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2010.

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