Ajoka stages Basant at Alhamra
LAHORE: The premiere of Ajoka Theatre’s new play ‘Lo Phir Basant Ayee’ gave a real taste of Basant to Lahorites. The audience amidst a ban on centuries old festival of the city at least relished the kite carnival on Ajoka’s stage at Alhamra Art Centre, The Mall, on Tuesday.
The play was quite expressive of the fact that with each passing day the place for cultural space is shrinking in the country. It was also a strong comment on growing extremism, terrorism and general suffocation in society.
The play is the story of an ancient ‘Zinda Dil’ city where people believed that the walls around the city would protect them from marauding invaders for all times. But the insidious enemy stealthily broke in the gates and city was held hostage from within by an enemy which is now stealing everything, their values, their culture and identity.
Among the bewildered citizens is Ustaad Maju whose family has been making delicate and colourful kites for the people of his city for centuries. The character of Ustad Mauju was played by veteran stage artiste Arshad Durrani who had appeared on the stage after a long gap, he used to do stage in the times of Safdar Mir.
There were subtle and sometimes strong references to the persistent suffocation in society at the hands of extremists which were projected well through different remarkable scenes. For example in a scene a teacher is being told what to teach and what not to young students male and female who cannot sit on the same bench in college.
The Rok Tham committee in the play was indicative of the trends set by extremists in a society which once used to be the liveliest one, a society which used to celebrate all festivals and was free of the fear of bombs and terrorist activities. The Rok Tham society was the true representation of an extremist mindset.
Writer Shahid Mehmood Nadeem told this reporter that the basic theme of the play revolved around not only the banned festival of Basant but also it indicated the shrinking space for cultural activities.
Mr Nadeem has also written a very strong director’s note on his play in which he writes, “Basant is inexpensive, the poor man’s recreation. Yes, indeed, the rich tried to snatch it away from the masses, the profiteers invented chemical string to cut throats, and the intolerant judges found it convenient to ban Basant, rather than to ban the chemical string.”
Veteran short story writer Intizar Husain also came to see the play. Mr Husain while addressing the audience at the end of the play said in Delhi when it was the capital, first Basant was celebrated at the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and following that tradition at other shrines too the festival was celebrated. He said no one objected in those times why the Muslims were celebrating Basant? He congratulated Ajoka Theatre on their new play.
The cast of the play includes Arshad Durrani, Nayab Faiza, Usman Raaj, Sihail Tariq and others. The play will also be staged on March 5 and 6.