Commercial theatre in decline
By Shoaib Ahmed
LAHORE: Three Punjab government departments that monitor commercial theatre have not been able to bring about any improvement in it, according to critics.
The Punjab Arts Council, the Home Department and the DCO Office are supposed to take measures for the improvement of commercial theatre.
The PAC is responsible for vetting the scripts of the plays, the DCOs are authorised to monitor their (plays) screening and the Home Department takes action against producers, directors, artistes and theatre owners in case of violation.
The commercial theatre over the years has faced degradation. The general complaint is that it is a lowbrow medium and thrives on obscene dialogue and dances.
Another aspect of commercial theatre is alleged corruption. “Bribes are common and female artistes are exploited by the producers and directors of the plays as well as by the government officials tasked with monitoring the theatre,” alleges a stage producer.
Commercial theatre arrived in Lahore in the 1980s. Naheed Khanum, Amanullah, Mastana, Suhail Ahmed and Baboo Baral are pioneers of commercial theatre, whose lively dialogues and innovative style took the city by storm.
The group staged plays at Alhamra and shifted to Faletti`s hotel hall in 1981-82 when Alhamra was closed for the construction of a new building.
Afzaal Ahmed gave a boost to commercial theatre through his play “Janam Janam Ki Maeli Chaddar” at Tamaseel Theatre in the 90s. His play integrated dances with the storyline, setting up a new trend.
Lahore has five private theatres – Tamaseel, Mehfil, Naz, Crown and Alfalah (the last named is sealed these days due to lease issues) and a government-run theatre, Alhamra. Lahore`s theatres are packed on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and tickets are black-marketed on Eid.
A stage play usually runs for 16 days and tickets cost between Rs500 and Rs5,000.