NAPA’s Mantorama to feature in Asia’s biggest theatre festival
By: Rafay Mahmood
KARACHI: In a place like Pakistan, where appreciation for art is a niche idea and something like theatre is an even bigger novelty, having a culturally similar and artistically proactive neighbour like India always comes in handy.
While our cinema industry is run by Bollywood films, it is theatre festivals like the 15th Bharat Mohatsav that give Pakistani theatre artists a chance to showcase their talent on an international platform. It is not the first time that Pakistani artists are involved in a festival like this. The likes of Tehrik-e-Niswan and Ajoka have also participated in this festival. After successfully performing Kalidasa’s Shakuntala and Intizar Hussain’s Khwabon Kay Musafir at the 12th and 13th Bharat Mohatsav, Mantorama would be the National Academy of Performing Arts’s (Napa) third appearance in this annual festival.
However, this time around the whole cast of 26 people will be leaving in two batches as a group of graduates have to perform an extended version of an excerpt from the same play at a literary festival in Kolkata on the January 11. The play will be performed in New Delhi on January 17.
“That is what all the hurry is about,” says Zain Ahmed, the Artistic Director of Napa and also a member of the faculty accompanying the graduates to India. “One of our musician’s visas hasn’t arrived yet and I am really worried about it because I’ll be leaving with the earlier batch.”
A number of cast members who were a part of the original cast couldn’t accompany the group because they did not have passports. They probably never imagined performing on such a platform in their wildest dreams. “There is still a lot of room for improvement,” says Ahmed. “Given the short span of time we had for the rehearsals of the Kolkata performance, I am very satisfied with how everything is turning out.”
Mantorama is written by Khurram Shafique and directed by Suni Shankar, another Napa graduate. Despite all the theatrical brilliance of the performance, one wonders why Napa did not opt for their own rendition of Peter Shaffer’s Eqqus, a play that was also directed by Shankar and featured in their performing arts festival and blew everyone’s mind.
“Frankly, it wasn’t in our hands,” says Ahmed with a smile, referring to the choice of plays. “We had sent Mantorama and Eqqus as our entries and they chose Mantorama. It was probably because of Manto’s centenary celebrations and also because Indians like hearing Urdu in its truest form.”
Ahmed has already left for New Delhi along with a group of musicians, where they will embark on a journey by train to Kolkata and later join the rest of the cast in New Delhi for the performance of Mantorama. We hope that visa issues don’t hinder any participants from Pakistan from showcasing their talent and brilliance on such a huge platform. Mantorama will open on January 17 at 7pm at the Kamani auditorium at the National School of Drama (NSD). Ajoka will perform Kaun Hai Yeh Gustakh on January 19 at the same time and venue.
The National School of Drama in New Delhi is considered one of the finest drama schools in the world. The alumnus includes actors such as Naseerudin Shah, Anupam Kher, Om Puri and Irrfan Khan. Bharat Rang Mahotsav was initiated 10 years ago by the NSD to facilitate the growth and awareness of theatrical arts across India. From a local festival, it has now evolved into an international festival featuring artists from around the world, making it the biggest theatre festival in Asia.