Aangan Terrha wows a houseful
ISLAMABAD: Aangan Terrha, a satirical TV series by Anwar Maqsood and presented by the PTV network in the 1980s, was adapted for the stage this year by a local theatre company, Kopykats, and performed before a packed hall at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA).
The play came to Islamabad after three months of performances in Karachi and almost three weeks in Lahore.
Originally based on many stories on multiple societal issues, the series was a thinly-veiled criticism of martial law and the electoral system.
The story revolves around an ex-classical dancer, current house servant, called Akbar who is employed by a retired civil servant, Mehboob Ahmed, and his wife, Jehan Ara Begum.
Living on a meagre pension, Mehboob regularly seeks Akbar’s advice on different matters, often with hilarious result.
The story is centered on the Ahmeds’ decision, prompted by the erstwhile Akbar, to take in paying guests in their home to improve their financial conditions.
The potential and occasional paying guests ranged from an indigent reporter to a glamorous TV morning show host.
A triumph in the stage version of the TV series is the role of Chaudhry Sahib, the Ahmeds’ neighbour.
Played by Khalifa Sajeeruddin, one of the senior most members of the team, the character and the actor had the audience in stitches.
Beginning with an appearance from Anwar Maqsood, the man with the golden pen, the play was a treat from his opening speech to the last bow. There was also a surprise visit from the original Jehan Ara Begum, the doyenne of Pakistani television, Bushra Ansari.
With his unerring ability to hit out at complex and disturbing social truths, Anwar Sahib moved us to tears while we couldn’t stop laughing with the original Aangan Terrha, and in his selection of KopyKats to recreate the essence of the series on stage, he has again struck a home run.
The character of Akbar, originally played by the late Salim Nasir, is exquisitely dealt with by Yasir Hussain.
The role demands impeccable timing for much of the humour revolves around the personality, effervescence and irreverence of the honorary ‘family member’ aka unpaid servant.
With stabs at captives of NAB, the MQM, the export of potatoes to import chips and many others the play was a reminder of the issues of the 1980s – one that fostered the realisation that very little has changed – other than the immaculate living earned by the civil servants of course.
With a pricey ticket, the jam-packed hall must be a delight for the producers of the play while the diversity of the audience was a delight for observers.
Teenagers graciously (and some not-so-graciously) sat down on the aisles so that older people could have the seats. Everyone felt the emotions of the cast and they were all moved to laughter and, on the rare occasion, tears with them.
A young student who resented having to sit on the steps because “they must have sold too many tickets” was nonetheless amongst the first to give the cast a standing ovation.
A reporter ended up writing down almost the entire script as she began to list quotable quotes.
But, as Asif, an engineer in his 50s, said, “This took me back to when I was young watching the play on TV. Everything and nothing has changed.”