The dharna that fizzled out

Audience sits in on Anwar Maqsood Ka Dharna, a poorly executed play brimming with clichés.

Maryam Usman November 29, 2014


With plays such as Mein Adakara Banun Gi and Pawnay 14 August under their belt, KopyKats Productions are credited with setting the bar high for live entertainment in the capital. Their fifth play titled Anwar Maqsood Ka Dharna, made in collaboration with acclaimed satirist Anwar Maqsood, recently premiered at the Islamabad Club.

Written by Maqsood and co-directed by Dawar Mehmood and Yasir Hussain of KopyKats Productions, the play jests at the ongoing dharnas and the chaos and some degree of awareness they have elicited among the people. Opening on the sets of a live talk show, the play showcases the last-minute panic of a production team that has invited prominent politicians and analysts to speak about the prevailing socio-political situation in the country. From the producers to the technicians, everyone is in a fix.

Noorie, the show’s host, feigns objectivity and is, in fact, partial in his opinion, personifying ‘lifafa journalists’. When a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz minister walks in, the DJ plays a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) theme song. The minister gets worked up and threatens to call the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to get the channel blocked. Then, come, Maulana Popalzai from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, and Surmai Soomro from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), followed by an analyst Suzanne and PTI chairman Imran Khan. A defence analyst joins them on phone but the connection is soon lost.

What ensues is the inane, hollow chatter that talk shows are infamous for. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain join in via telephone, amid crank callers flirting with the female guests or making irrelevant, inappropriate comments to the host. The guests, in their idiosyncratic and exaggerated styles, boast about their respective political parties, bashing each other with incendiary rhetoric. The show mentions that Maqsood is staging a dharna outside Mazar-e-Quaid with his wife and that the only other person with them is Quaid-e-Azam. Interestingly, passing remarks are the only reference to the dharna in the play.

As soon as Khan makes an entry, he jumps up on the chair and then hops onto the desk, emulating the expressions and gestures of the PTI chief in his speeches from the top of his container. For all its worth, Khan’s character is the only saving grace of the play, which relies heavily on clichés. Although the only memorable character in the play, Khan offers little beyond a confused mandate for a ‘Naya Pakistan’ and antics. The new cast seems to be acclimatising to their roles in the satirical adaptation of a politically-tense situation.

The dramatic yet forced performance concluded on an abrupt note. Apart from its poor execution, the play had its share of technical glitches, such as a faulty sound system, and flaws in storytelling, such as the use of stale jokes to create an impact in the absence of strong punch lines. The first 15 or so rows of the auditorium were reserved for a telecommunications company, leaving the rest, including media personnel, to fend for their own selves. “I was a bit disappointed by tonight’s play since I actually enjoyed watching Aangan Terrha by the same team,” said an audience member, Sana Chaudhary, adding that she had expected more out of the performance, which was sold out weeks before its premiere.

Verdict: The play, which started out as over-ambitious, fell short of making a cut, mainly owing to shoddy performances, crude humour and an admittedly deliberate lack of script

Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2014.

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Nomi | 6 years ago | Reply Overall the play was good. However, I had expected more political satire than suggestive, cheap jokes and low level slapstick comedy. I was sorely disappointed in Mr. Anwar Maqsood's choice of jokes and it seemed that all he could think of vis-a-vis his female characters and Bilawal Bhutto was sexual innuendo. I could have expected this of Omar Shareef but not of Anwar Maqsood.
hassan | 6 years ago | Reply

Imran Khan is a wake up call for a nation that has been on life support for the past several decades.

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