Sania Katha stage a comeback
By Biya Shadab
KARACHI: Sania Saeed holds the audience of ‘Main Adakara Banu Gi’ in thrall. The audience is absorbed by the moods of her character, Naila Anjum, a barely educated young girl from a poor socio-economic background, who aspires to be an actress and arrives at the doorstep of Zegham Rafiqi, an actor and teacher, played by theatre and TV artiste Ehteshamuddin. Eyes open wider when Naila expresses wonder, hearts sink when she experiences dread and the whole auditorium celebrates when she is joyful. The audience waits for her next utterance with palpable eagerness.
Moreover, Naila brings to light the challenges, aims and hopes of a girl who dares to dream despite her gender, and the economic and social disadvantages she is born into. But the play is not a gloomy tragedy. Inspired by Willy RuselÂ’s ‘Educating Rita’, written by Baber Jamal and directed by Shahid Shifaat, ‘Main Adakara Banu Gi’ is a comedy that projects social issues through clever punch lines.
The play is a tale of the bridging of two different worlds, of personalities and points of views shaped by different realities. Naila, with her crude mannerisms and religiously tempered perspective, collides with the world of Zegham, a highly cultured intellectual, who is more at ease surrounded by books than by people. After much persuasion, Zegham agrees to train her as an actress. Naila is dumbfounded, though, when Zegham insists she acquaint herself with the literary greats by way of training. What, she asks, has literature and art to do with acting, or life at all?
She is antagonised by his drinking, while he is antagonised by her labelling of Manto as ‘vulgar’. She prances about his apartment, performing crude re- enactments of Punjabi cinema and Bollywood scenes in her attempt to convince him of her super star abilities, while he struggles to explain to her the need to refine her language and attitude if she is to stand a chance as an actress.
Despite their differences, the two characters grow close, and share their innermost thoughts. The audience learns of Naila’s regret that she was never able to get a world-class education, yet in her struggle to rise, she sadly informs her teacher that it was not education that got her what she wanted, but other dubious means. “Yahan sab kuch bikta hai,” (Everything is sold here) reflects Zegham. Everything comes at a price: fame, success, and, as we learn from Naila’s story, even the love of those one fancies.
Zegham on the other hand, tells her of his wife, who has left him due to his incessant aloofness to her needs. She has left him, for she feels he loves books more than her. Things come to a head in the play, when Naila unwittingly causes his efforts to convince his wife to come home to fail. Turmoil enters Naila’s life too, and she decides to take a stand against society and defy norms in order to live her dream.
“Life is absurd,” says Zegham, “without beauty and harmony.” To make sense of life, therefore, one must find beauty in it. The impression that these two characters leave on one’s mind is that beauty in life is to be found through the love and comfort we may find in others, sometimes in complete strangers or those radically different from us. True companionship erases the eternal human condition of loneliness and doubt.
Baber Jamal has done a commendable job of treading the fine line between humour and slapstick comedy, and the two member cast manages to keep the audience engaged for the more than two hour duration of the play. All the scenes are staged on one set, which is ZeghamÂ’s study and sitting room. The set itself is simple, but convincing.
The only flaw one finds is in Ehteshamuddin’s portrayal of a drunkard in the later stages of the play. Neither the voice, nor the body language indicates that he is a man who is drinking himself to oblivion over lost love. Given that Ehtesham is a veteran, this amateurish portrayal is rather surprising.
‘Main Adakara Banu Gi’ is the return of Sania Saeed and her theatre troupe, Katha, to stage. Katha, Saeed’s brainchild, was established in 1994 to produce contemporary plays that are socially relevant. After considerable success with plays like Â‘Taarikyion ke SaayeÂ’ and ‘Khushi ki Chirya’, Katha faded from the scene about five years ago.
The play will be staged from June 6 to 9, at 8pm at the Arts Council theatre auditorium.