Known for tackling different sociopolitical issues and advocating women’s rights through stage productions, Tehrik-e-Niswan took audiences by surprise with their illustration of the musical-comedy Baehrupiya.
Held at the National Academy of Performing Arts’ (Napa) and showcased for the International Theatre Festival, the production is an adaptation of the 17th century play, Tartuffe. Directed by Anwer Jafri, the story focuses on a dysfunctional family who find their lives turned upside down with the arrival of Muslim cleric Mulla Barudi (Imran Khan), who’s made his way into the already rickety household.
Apart from the family patriarch, Mirza Sahib (Waheed Ali), who has an unparalleled level of admiration for Mulla Barudi due to his excessively religious persona, other family members are aware of the cleric’s exact intentions.
Despite being caught red-handed by his son Danish (Haris Khan), while attempting to seduce his wife Almas (Sumaira Ali), Mirza Sahib refuses to deem the allegations, considering it as an attempt to tarnish the Mulla’s reputation.
In a conversation with The Express Tribune, renowned theatre personality and assistant director for the play, Sheema Kermani discusses how the quaint play still holds relevance in present day society, despite being scripted almost three and a half centuries ago.
“The reason we selected the play is because it’s relatable in today’s world. The concept of religion has become an obsession with some people and they misuse it to influence other people’s ideologies,” says Kermani.
According to Kermani, the International Theatre Festival was the right time to showcase the play considering that Tartuffe, the original show has previously been adapted by several production companies internationally.
Baehrupiya, which had previously been performed at the Tilism Festival earlier this month is among the several local productions being staged at the festival. Kermani is hopeful to stage further shows of the adaptation, saying, “Now that the play has become part of our repertory, hopefully we shall go on to perform more shows of Baehrupiya.” Anwer Jafri’s staging is vivid and deliberate, which somewhat added to the proceedings and jovial nature of the plot.
Boasting a cast with tremendous potential — from the innocent-yet-overweight Mirza sahib to the conniving and menacing Mulla Barudi, the play was unable to make full use of the extent it had to demonstrate humour. The characters ended up being only mildly entertaining and regrettably didn’t bag as many laughs as they might’ve planned on.
Major casualties suffered at the hands of the production are the conversations between Mirza Sahib and Mulla Barudi, which had the prospective to be super witty. With the use of enhanced comical dialogues and amusing physical actions, the result wouldn’t have been so run-of-the-mill.
Some of the absurdity worked delightfully well but audiences were made to wait until the climax of the play to get that hint of pleasure. The most hilarious and memorable lines of the play are uttered by Mulla Barudi towards the conclusion, as he skyrockets his pursuit of Mirza Sahib’s wife — to the extent that he searches for all possible ways to justify his relationship with Almas — all in the name of religion.
The play was performed from March 26 to 27 and is set to be followed by joint Indo-Pak stage production Tum Kaun on Saturday, March 28 and 29.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2015.