Impressive turnout at KLF’s day one
KARACHI: Despite being a working day, the halls were packed at the fifth Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) that kicked off on Friday. Even though the situation in the city is anything but ideal, yet to consistently hold a festival year after year does speak a lot about those organising it.
It was all about celebrating the country’s finest writers and speakers, who spoke their hearts out in the various sessions that took place.
The crowd was not much around in the beginning, thanks to the long-lived tradition of Karachiites of starting their mornings late. However, people started filtering in around afternoon and that too in hordes.
There was a storytelling session for children on the far end of the venue, and on another, a play put up by the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) based on the famous story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
Students from the Citizens Education Development Foundation, were seated right in the front, who apart from singing the national anthem at the inaugural session, enjoyed the play put up for them as well.
Author of The Diary of a Social Butterfly Moni Mohsin stole the show completely as she came up with witty one-liners and read a passage from the book on the request of moderator and activist Raza Rumi.
The book is an entertaining account of a wannabe socialite living in Lahore’s Gulberg area. It is also based on a long-running column Ms Mohsin wrote for The Friday Times.
In a typical Punjabi accent, with a hybrid of English and Urdu words, she read a passage from the book, where the main character Butterfly is wondering why Israel’s ‘intelligent agency’ is called Masood? To which her mother replies, “Jani, please understand. Having a Pakistani name helps them in putting the blame on our country.”
But in the question-answer session, where other people asked her who did Butterfly vote for in the general elections last year, one old man wanted to know why Moni Mohsin did not include a chapter about drone attacks and the ‘Amreeki Samraj’? “Isn’t that more important? Aren’t innocent lives important to you?” he asked, wagging his finger right at the author.
Sitting amid the audience, noted lawyer and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jahangir chose to answer that. With her biting sarcasm, she said, “He’s right. Thousands of women and children are being raped and killed by the Taliban, and yet we should definitely cry about drone strikes.”
She also suggested that Ms Mohsin name her next book as ‘A Dialogue with a Drone,’ adding that, “at least it will be a best-seller in our part of the region.”
The man, meanwhile, decided to sit down, mumbling repeatedly, “it should be debated.”
Right after it, a session named Bushra’s Barbs had actor Bushra Ansari in conversation with television host and actor Ali Saleem.
Bushra started off by speaking about how we do not have time for ourselves anymore. Crediting veteran playwright and satirist Anwar Maqsood for playing a major role in her acting career, she said: “I also learned how to properly stress on vowels in Urdu terms, such as, ‘Kutta, Qeema and Qainchi’, than pronouncing it in a monotone,” she said with a smile.
The conversation was more focused on her commercial endeavours such as, being one of the judges at the singing show, Pakistan Idol, and her portrayal of a character named, Saima Choudhry, for a private television channel.
At that point, Saleem asked her whether the Pakistani television industry was progressing or regressing or was the content more commercialised than it should be? Bushra retorted that, “the positive thing about commercialisation is that one doesn’t hear of an actor starving to death anymore”.
She also added that the quality of the dramas being produced may not be excellent, but this was what people were accepting. “Drama is more of a date oriented craft, more than a craft oriented one,” she said trailing off.
Being away from the television screen for two and a half years, Bushra Ansari said that she had categorically informed her directors to approach her for title roles only.
Speaking about her most talked about stint as one of the judges at the Pakistan Idol show, she said that “mistakes happen and they will but please don’t judge us so critically”.
She also spoke about how she was told about the criticism she received on social networking site Twitter on her behaviour with a few contestants. “Thank God, I don’t know how to operate Twitter or I would have had a nervous breakdown,” she exclaimed, making those listening to her burst out in laughter.
On a serious note, she said: “We rejected some people, made fun of others, and were rude to some as well. But this is the format of the show.”
But she was all praise for all participants who made it to the show despite facing gigantic hurdles. Narrating one incident in particular, she said that, one of the participating girls left her home as a result of which her father divorced her mother. “But despite that, her mother supported her and urged her to go ahead. Her voice gave me goose bumps. It was that powerful.”
When asked to sing, she was quick to comment, “Yeh toh Azaan wala microphone hai. Awaaz phattay gi toh nahi?” And went on to sing a beautiful rendition of a bandish called ‘Raag Des.’
Though by the end of the evening news report of a strike call in the city filtered in which not many people at the KLF knew about.
The day one ended by a poem recitation by Aqeel Abbas Jaffri at the mushaira, Pehle sheher main aag lagayein na-maloom afraad, phir aman k naghmain gayein namaloom afraad.