‘Our society needs entertainment’
Karachi: The purpose of staging plays is mainly to tell the people that performing arts are still alive in our city and our country and our main aim is to engage families.
These views were expressed by Javed Ahmed Saeedi, production director of the musical, Avanti, running currently at the Arts Council, while addressing a press conference here on Saturday evening.
Saeedi said that entertainment in Karachi (as in other cities) was something that was hard to come by and the concept of entertainment was so stereotyped and narrow that for most people, it just meant an evening out at a posh food outlet in town. He said people would rather dine in a swank hotel and cough up a bill of around Rs6,000 but they wouldn’t take their families to a theatre performance costing just a 1,000 rupees, which provides as much of entertainment as good food and is mentally so stimulating.
In other countries, he said, performing arts was treated as an industry and so doing, the government collected revenues there.
He said theatre in the country was looked upon from a strange perspective, not in a very flattering sense. Often, he said, it so happens that when you tell somebody that you’re associated with theatre, the question they instinctively ask you is, “What’s your main occupation?”
In the case of their theatre company, he said, that there were people from all professions, doctors, bankers, company executives and others. After they’re through with their offices, they come over for activities like the production, Avanti, running right now. He pointed to one of the cast members, Usman, actually a mathematics teacher. Many of them hold nine-to-five jobs.
Saeedi was of the view that there was so much of depression in Pakistani society resulting from perennial civic issues like a shortage of essential utilities like power and water, depression resulting from backbreaking inflation which had rendered people nervous wrecks. Under such circumstances, he said, it was imperative that there be some distraction to take people’s minds off their worries, which, he said, were a health hazard.
Citizens, he said, could support their theatre company by bringing their families over and by encouraging youngsters to come over.
He said that in almost all other countries governments set aside a certain portion of their budgets for cultural activities like performing arts, which, unfortunately, he said, was not the case in the country. He hoped that the government would review its strategy in this regard.
Talking about the future programmes, he said that his company, Entertainment Xtra, planned to stage a humorous play in December 2012/January 2013 with the title of Cinderjat, a parody to Cinderella, with the story transposed on to Pakistani rural setting. The central figure of the play would not be that paragon of beauty, Cinderella, but a Jat (a rustic farmer, villager) from rural Pakistan.
He issued a general verbal invitation to citizens to come and watch their musical, Avanti, which runs up until the 25th of June.