KARACHI: It may seem like a cliché — two friends fall in love and after much trial and tribulation, end up getting married. But that’s not all that director Hamza Bangash is offering in his short play Baraf Paani — A Karachi Love Story. With his uniquely interactive screenplay, Bangash has depicted the highs and lows of youth in the fabric of Karachi, with a splash of subtle humour, tragedy and romance bringing the narrative together.
The independent short film and documentary maker, whose short film Badal made it to the Cannes Film Festival, believes that the onus is on the artistic community to create an environment of normality in Karachi.
The play kicks off with Amtul Baweja as the restless Suhani and Hadi bin Arshad as the charming, mellow Hussain playing baraf paani — a game familiar to all Pakistani children. Much to the audience’s delight, the pair comes down off the stage to play around the rows of seats; this interaction continues as the actors later dance around the audience at Hussain and Suhani’s wedding and when the couple steps down to thank the viewers for coming to their nuptials.
According to Bangash, this was the first time he had experimented with such interaction but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “This is why I prefer a small setting such as this one — it allows for more interaction with the audience,” he told The Express Tribune on Sunday, referring to the Fomma DHA Art Centre at Zamzama Park, where the play will be on stage till May 31.
The play’s storyline revolves around the two friends caught between their dreams and the restrictions imposed by society and fear of what people will say. Suhani wants to make it big in cricket and astronomy while her parents want her to choose literature and the arts; Hussain’s parents want him to study science but his heart lies in architecture. Both are discouraged from spending time with each other.
When Suhani’s mother and Hussain’s father are killed in a bomb blast, they are forced to give up their dreams for the needs of their families. As time moves on, Suhani is left to lead a dull life, doing chores at home and fending off marriage proposals — until their parents start talking about getting Suhani and Hussain married. The two strike it off again, discussing the writings of Manto and Ghulam Abbas in one of their meetings.
“I simply love the works of Ghulam Abbas,” Bangash admitted. “And at some point, the play has to include the personal side of the writer too!”
For Bangash, the Karachi he returned to after 16 years in Toronto was very different from the one he left. “I was bored of writing screenplays and wanted to do something for Karachi,” he explained. Baraf Paani is the result. Showing the balance between normality and catastrophe that is the life of an average Karachiite, Bangash believes that this is one city that gives the message of moving on.
The director’s next plan is to film the play while capturing the youthful energy that came across with the cast on stage. “I love working with young people — everyone is so involved and they all want to make it better.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2015.