Anwar Maqsood's latest offering to set new standards! -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Anwar Maqsood’s latest offering to set new standards!

Pakistan Press Foundation

As Pakistan’s 66th Indepedence Day celebrations kick off, KopyKat Production’s ‘Sawa 14 August’ will bring together on centre stage founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah and his successors and political arch rivals Z.A. Bhutto and General Zia-ul-Haq for a comical and hard-hitting analysis of the state’s decline.

For a playwright who has given countless successful TV dramas, long plays and comedy shows, coming up with a 100% original theatre play was always going to be a tough job. And when that person is as famous as veteran writer Anwar Maqsood, the standard bar is automatically raised to a whole new level, where no one has gone before. The maestro’s latest theatre play Sawa 14 August – his first 100% original offering – after the successful Pawnay 14 August and Aangan Terha is all set to blow you away with its interesting scenarios, over-the-top dialogues and humor that will keep you wondering whether to smile or feel bad, or both!

Like Pawnay 14 August, Sawa 14 August features the father of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (Zahid Ahmed) who visits Pakistan after a gap of one year. The similarity ends here as instead of his contemporaries Maulana Shaukat Ali and Allama Iqbal, Jinnah gets to meet his successors Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (Wassam Waheed) and General Zia ul Haq (Gohar Rasheed). The play revolves around all three who are present at a railway station instead of an airport terminal and talk about the merits and demerits of their acts, the current political situations and above all, try to solve the mystery of ‘where Pakistan went wrong.’

People from all walks of life – including politicians from different provinces, a Balochi, a Pathan poet as well as an influential khatoon, all visit the platform where the coolie, the sweeper and the fatso railway guard also have something important to say. There are a group of ladies whose conversation is as varied as demanding an answer from Fakhru bhai to discussion on Ishq-e-Mamnoon, from Turkey with love!

This is Anwar Maqsood’s third collaboration in two years with director Dawar Mehmood and his KopyKats Productions’ team from Islamabad. When asked how difficult it was to write this play, Anwar Maqsood said, “It was as difficult as making a correction in the 18th Amendment”. How does he feel on his association with the youngsters who came from nowhere and revived the theatre industry in Karachi. “Nawaz Sharif has become the Prime Minister for the third time. If he can keep the same cast, meri cast kyon tabdeel ho!”

Actor Zahid Ahmed, who plays Jinnah this time around, knows how important his role would be for the success of the play. “Playing Quaid is as humbling as you can imagine. There are 4 shades of Quaid’s behavior that we see in this play – we see him in a relaxed mood, in a further disappointing mood (after Pawnay 14 August), in a hopeless and sorrowful state and finally in an angry mood. I have tried to portray his emotions as per the requirement since we all know what he did, and what he achieved.”

Wassam Waheed managed to enthrall crowds with his antics as Iqbal in Pawnay 14 August and later as a poet in Aangan Terha. The actor returns as Bhutto in Sawa 14 August and plays the cool customer to Zia ul Haq’s brash army officer. “When I was offered the role, I was confused whether Bhutto was the villain or the hero, but I had to settle on the latter after I read about him. Not only did he have a charismatic personality but he was a true awami leader, and I was thrilled to play him. He didn’t deserve to die the way he eventually did, and for that I strongly dislike Zia ul Haq, something that I have tried to show in my portrayal of the character. ”

Gohar Rasheed joins the cast as Zia ul Haq and has the cheesiest of lines, not because of his appearance, but because of the way the former dictator used to run government. The actor feels that playing the dictator was difficult since he considered himself righteous in his own mind. “It is the most dangerous character of my career so far. Portraying General Zia ul Haq is not an easy task, may God be with me.”

As for the lead actors of KopyKats’ last production Aangan Terha – Yasir Hussain and Hareem Farooq – both make an appearance in this play as well but in supporting roles. The indomitable Yasir Hussain plays as many as three roles in the play including that of a Sindhi politician who lost the elections and a Pathan poet who calls Zia ul Haq Deputy Mohammad Bin Qasim, whereas the charismatic Hareem Farooq will set the stage alight as the notorious khatoon, the influential woman behind each and every decision made in Pakistan.

Director Dawar Mehmood is on a roll after the success of both Pawnay 14 August and Aangan Terha and believes that the play is his chance to do something different. “Pawnay 14 August was unbelievable and Aangan Terha was a dream-come-true. With Sawa 14 August, I just want to test my limits.”

The soundtrack of Sawa 14 August has been composed by Abbas Ali Khan and the haunting track is likely to keep you engrossed throughout the play. Kamal Uddin Ahmed, who was associated with Pakistan Television for a long time, has ensured that the makeup of all the actors is as close to reality as possible.

Sawa 14 August will premiere on August 13th at the Arts Council, in Karachi and has big shoes to fill before its first show. Its predecessor Aangan Terha became the first play in the history of Pakistan to be staged for 100 consecutive days, without any break. The dialogues, the set design, the acting, the soundtrack and even the fireworks at the stroke of 14th August are likely to keep the audience engrossed, and one hopes to see Anwar Maqsood’s magic do the trick once again, like it has always done whenever he has waved his wand!

Omair Alavi works for Geo TV and can be contacted at omair78@gmail.com

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