Of chameleons and more -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Of chameleons and more

By Sumaira Jajja

Karachi: The first day of the on going Shanaakht festival saw plenty of activity at the venue. However, it was ‘Rang Badal Lo Bhai’ a satirical Nautanki staged by Tehrik-e-Niswan and The Citizens Archive Pakistan that proved to be a major crowd puller.

A speech by former information minister Sherry Rehman was one of the highlights of the evening. Harping on about how things should be, her words sounded hollow to those present and as one onlooker cattily commented, “Given that she does not get enough air time on TV now, she used her time on stage to cry her heart out and the minute she was done, she left. Talk about being in love with your own voice!”

Moving on, directed by Sheema Kirmani and Anwer Jafri, the later being the script writer as well, ‘Rang …’ was an hour long in-depth analysis of the Pakistani society complete with song and dance routines.

Taking an introspective look, it narrated the doings and wrong doings of our leaders, the trickle down effect of general corruption and the chameleon like creatures that the Pakistanis have become, adjusting to our surroundings as and when required just to save our skins.

The timeline of the play starts with the newly created Pakistan, the land of the pure, getting its first taste of corruption. It than moves on, citing some important references in Pakistan’s chequered history with the subtle hints and gestures of the characters, aptly capturing the atmosphere of the times gone by.

From the lust for wealth and power to the insensitivity and inhumanity that has become an inherent part of our daily lives, the play shed light on how things went awry after the partition. Some of the funniest references included the mango crates that led to a change in government after 11 years, the C-130s used for Hajj, the corrupt policemen and the equally corrupt bureaucracy, the religious fundamentalists, the diamond desires of the Persian wife of a political big wig and the penchant for dogs, not always the four legged kind. Similarly, the musical parody had the audience in raptures of laughter with “Jhat pat rang badaltay jao” and “mein afsar hoon sab jantay hay” being the best tracks.

The play started with a bang but halfway through the subtlety was lost and what followed next was melodrama right out of a Lollywood flick. From the loud wails of the old woman narrating the tale of her grand daughter’s rape and subsequent victimization, the scene was of the usual ilk that is portrayed in the Maula Jutt series. One particularly waited with bated breath for a gandasa wielding Sultan Rahi lookalike to appear on stage any moment and cleanse the evil.

Similarly, the lost dog skit based on Anton Chekov’s ‘Chameleon’ was more on the lines of low brow comedy that one generally associates with the likes of the Lahore theatre of Babu Baral and Amanullah.

With the play losing its plot, quite a few spectators left the show halfway through. However, those who remained gave a heartfelt ovation to the cast for putting up a decent performance.

Talking to The News, Amna, a young spectator said, “The play was fun and captures the history and the misplaced priorities of Pakistani leadership in a nutshell.” A similar opinion came from Shakira Masood, an art dealer who said, “It’s brilliant! Given the way things are in the country, it’s good to see that so many people turned up.”

As I walked out, I mused that one of the traits of a chameleon is to observe and do nothing. Ironic as it may seem, that is how we, the Pakistanis, have been behaving for the past 62 years.
Source: The News
Date:11/11/2009