‘I wrote Half Plate for Khalida Riyasat’
KARACHI: A stage play titled ‘Haaf Plate’, based on the famous long drama that ran on PTV in the 1990s, will be staged from Dec 10 at the Arts Council, announced Anwar Maqsood, the writer of both the play and its adaptation, at a press conference on Saturday afternoon.
He made it a point to let the media know that ‘Haaf Playt’ was a tribute to actors Moin Akhtar, Khalida Riyasat, Jamshed Ansari, Latif Kapadia and TV producer Mohsin Ali – all of them are no more with us. He showered praise on them saying it was during ‘Half Plate’ (the TV version) that all of them were at the top of their career.
Mr Maqsood said it was difficult in Pakistan for a playwright not to keep writing. It had been 45 years since he started putting pen to paper for the television industry. And then a team of young people belonging to CopyKats Productions met him and insisted that he write a stage play for them. Initially he resisted but when he found them sincere in their resolve he gave in and penned ‘Ponay 14 August’, directed by Dawar Mahmood. Contrary to his expectations, the play turned out to be a huge success despite the fact that it had a simple setting, having three protagonists in the form of the Quaid, Maulana Shaukat Ali and Allama Iqbal. The play subsequently travelled to Lahore and Islamabad.
Mr Maqsood said the young men then requested him to write on more dramas, suggesting him that he adapt his TV play ‘Aangan Tehra’ for the theatre. It was difficult for him to condense a drama series into a 90-minute script, but he did and it worked. At that point, the writer quipped that in Pakistan people assumed power for 90 days and stretched it to many a year. It was followed by ‘Sawa 14 August’ and that too was a successful attempt.
He said after that the team asked for two more plays, one political and the other of his own choice. And that’s how ‘Haaf Playt’ came into being. He told the media that he had written the original TV version for actress Khalida Riyasat who one day came up to him and said he hadn’t written anything for her. The doctors had told her that she wouldn’t live for long. “I wrote Half Plate for Khalida Riyasat,” he said with fondness and respect for the actress in his tone.
Mr Maqsood remembered the time when she and Moin Akhtar rehearsed for the first scene of the teleplay. They did the 30-odd page scene in just five minutes whereas its director Mohsin Ali was under the impression that it was a lengthy sequence. The late Jamshed Ansari and Latif Kapadia, too, had worked hard on their roles. He thanked the Arts Council for providing the space for the production and praised its president Ahmed Shah for encouraging him and the young actors to go with it.
Ahmed Shah said there was a time when people thought going to theatre was an elitist activity; Anwar Maqsood, his team and the Arts Council proved that notion wrong.
The director of ‘Haaf Playt’, Dawar Mahmood, said the project was supposed to start from Dec 5 but he thought the actors needed more time for rehearsals. He said the fact that Anwar Maqsood considered ‘Half Plate’ his favourite had put an extra bit of pressure on him. He added though it was impossible to match the performances of the likes of Moin Akhtar and Khalida Riyasat his actors would try to put their best foot forward.
Yasir Hussein, who plays the part of Mirza, said it’s a challenge for him to do a role that the legendary Moin Akhtar had made his own. Similar thoughts were echoed by Maryam who plays the role that Khalida Riayast did. She also thanked Anwar Maqsood and Dawar Mahmood for providing her with such an opportunity.
Zahid is in the role of Butt Sahib, played by Arshad Mahmood in the TV version.
PS: It is a little difficult to fathom as to why the spelling of Half Plate on the invitation cards to the play has been changed. It’s a little confusing because if the intent is to pay tribute to the original production then it looks a little uncalled for.