Breaking the wall
KARACHI: The problem with doing a play aimed at giving a noble message is that it can get unnecessarily schmaltzy. However, done in a light-hearted manner negates the sermonising element and puts across the message without being emotionally heavy. Watching Dhaani, a play produced by film actor Shaan Shahid and directed by Umar Sultan, on Wednesday at the Arts Council Theatre reinforced the idea of how comedy can be used for effectively communicating a serious subject to theatre-goers. Although the play had some really enjoyable moments which should be thoroughly appreciated, there was something amiss.
Dhaani, written by Imrana Maqsood and Amra Alam, tells the tale of two women Rashida (Sarwat Gilani) and Ruqayya (Sanam Saeed) who are neighbours. Their houses are separated by a wall. They usually talk to each other by standing near the wall with their loud voices easily reaching across the divide. The first scene has Rashida’s daughter Munni (Hooria) playing hopscotch alone in the house. The garrulous Rashida enters and immediately starts talking about her neighbour. When she starts speaking it is difficult to stop her. This is shown through the sequence when Munni needs to go to the bathroom and is imploring her mother to help her, but she is too busy exchanging arguments with Ruqayya.
In the next scene Rashida slips on the floor and screams for help. Ruqayya comes in and helps her stand on her feet. Ruqayya reassures Rashida that she will be there whenever the latter needs her. However, their friendly reassurances soon turn into fierce debate as they argue over a meaningless issue.
Ruqayya is relatively better off because her husband Dilawar (who doesn’t appear in the play) has a job at a security firm.
Rashida mocks Ruqayya for being ignorant of her husband’s flirtatious nature who she believes is cheating on her with a ‘firaak waali’ (frock-wearing woman). Ruqayya overlooks this fact and instead gets back at Rashida pointing out flaws in her personality.
In the meantime Rashida’s mother Amman (Sundus Tariq) comes in to live with her daughter. This is coincided by the arrival of Ruqayya’s uncle Fayyaz (Kamal Hussain) in the drama. The old couple indulges in a little bit of romance. Rashida’s husband comes home from the office and sees his mother-in-law’s bag in the room. This irritates him and it is revealed that there is friction between him and Amman. The husband asks for a cup of tea but Rashida at that moment gets engaged in another heated argument with Ruqayya and her husband steps out of the house huffing and puffing.
The to and fro movement of the quarrelling and befriending women continues throughout the play. Ruqayya’s husband gets a mobile phone from the office and she flaunts it. In the last moments of the play Ruqayya discovers that her hubby is actually cheating on her. She feels sad and at that instant Rashida comes in to console her. But when Rashida suggests that she will seek her husband’s help in resolving Ruqayya’s issue, Ruqayya throws a barb at her saying Rashida’s husband doesn’t have the kind of position in the office that could enable him to influence anyone. This makes Rashida hit the ceiling and the two women resume bickering.
Dhaani had some strong points, namely a fine script, some really funny sequences and impressive performances. The script wasn’t hilarious but had elements which elicited a hearty laughter and meaningful smile. For example, when Rashida requests Ruqayya to lend her a bowl of sugar, she says “yahan Osama bin Ladin mil jaey ga shakkar nahin miley gi” (you can find bin Laden here but no sugar). In one scene uncle Fayyaz sneaks into Rashida’s house to see Amman. He finds Munni in the room.
When he greets the little girl saying “How do… you do?” Munni replies “To khud ho ga” (you yourself) suggesting Fayyaz had used foul language. Then the scene where Rashida and Ruqayya try to copy fashion models while watching TV was the highlight of the play.
Sanam Saeed was, barring a couple of fumbles, outstanding as Ruqayya. She over the years has blossomed into a quality actress.
The way she wears the garb of the character is dazzling. Sarwat Gilani was also impressive. She relied a little too much on gesticulation and moved her arms vigorously all along.
The not-so-heartening feature of Dhaani was the lack of buildup towards the climax. There was no definite conflict in the play and it only relied on the tit-for-tat verbal exchange of the two protagonists. The end was abrupt and didn’t have any climactic high. There were nuggets of tiny incidents, aided by the Fayyaz-Amman romantic track, which had the essential humour quotient. But the message of the play (don’t fight amongst yourself lest a third party — firaak waali — takes advantage of it) could have been relayed in a better way if there was a proper buildup to the story. One felt that the use of songs to highlight the two women’s dilemmas was perhaps thought of to extend the duration of the play to a reasonable length.