Madeeha Gauhar passes away
LAHORE-Popular theatre personality and founder of Ajoka Theatre Madeeha Gauhar passed away on Wednesday early morning. She was 61.
Her funeral will be held today at her residence 24 Sarwar Rd Lahore Cantt at 5pm. She is survived by her daughter Sawaira Nadeem, two sons, Nirvaan and Sarang and her husband playwright Shahid Nadeem. Madeeha was suffering from cancer for the last three years.
Born in Karachi in 1965, Madeeha obtained a Master degree in English Literature. Later, she moved to England and got a degree in theater sciences from the University of London.
In 1983, Madeeha and her husband Shahid Nadeem moved to Lahore where they laid the foundation of Ajoka Theatre. She has the credit of directing over three dozen plays performed nationally and internationally in countries like India, Bangladesh, UK, USA, Egypt and Iran.
Madeeha was a tireless activist whose talent and energies were always committed to speaking on behalf of the downtrodden, specifically women and the minorities.
Madeeha was awarded Tamgha-e-Imtiaz by Pakistan Government in recognition of her services and contribution in the field of culture and performing arts. In 2003, she was awarded Fatima Jinnah Award by the Government. She was also a fervent supporter of peace between India and Pakistan. In 2006, Madeeha became the first Pakistani to be honoured with the prestigious Prince Claus Award for her leadership of Ajoka. The award was given to her by Ambassador of Netherlands Willem Andreae.
Ajoka theatre pioneered the theatre movement in Pakistan with its first play ‘Jaloos’ in Lahore in 1984. Her famous plays include: Charing Cross, Lo Phir Basant Ayee, Kabeera Khara Bazaar Mai, Kaun Banega Badshah, Kaun ha yeh Gustakh, Mera Rang de Basanti Chalo, Shehar-e-Afsos, Dekh Tamasha Chalta Ban and many more. “Jaloos”, the first play performed by Ajoka, was written by the veteran Indian revolutionary playwright Badal Sircar. Ajoka has worked with people like (late) Safdar Hashmi, Anuradha Kapoor, Ratti Bartholomew, Kamla Bhasin and Kewal Dhaliwal.
Ajoka’s first performance in India was witnessed in 1989 when ITT was staged in Delhi. The plays performed in India include: “Kala Meda Bhes” (In Delhi, Kolkatta and Chandigarh in 1997), “Aik Thee Nani” (In Delhi in 1999 & 2003 and Bombay in 2004), “Dukhini” (In Delhi, Chandigarh and Kolkatta in 2000) and “Border- Border” (In Chandigarh and Amritsar in 2001 and 2005 respectively).
In November, 2003, “Bullah” was first performed in several cities of Indian Punjab including Amritsar, Patiala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Chandigarh and Jammu.
Talking to The Nation, Shahid Nadeem said, “Madeeha Gauhar was an extraordinary woman of great substance. She lived her life accordance to her principles and was never afraid of any pressure from establishment or even from extremist elements. Her achievements are remarkable in reviving Pakistan theatre and putting it on the global map. She established Ajoka theatre for 34 years without a single day rest and provided Pakistani audience with theatre plays which were entertaining, educational and enriching.”
Playwright Asghar Nadeem Syed said that Madeeha Gauhar challenged the brutal regime of General Zia-ul -Haq through her theatre group, Ajoka and its many iconoclastic productions. She was a brave girl who used the medium of theatre for social change and promoting peace between Pakistan and India.
“I remember she offered me to come with her at Delhi, India to celebrate the achievements of Ajoka theatre. I went with them but at the time I didn’t know she was suffering from cancer. When the seminar was wrapped up and we were returning back to Pakistan then I got to know Madeeha is going to be hospitalized for the treatment of Cancer in India. Her contribution to revive the medium of theatre in Pakistan and across the globe is truly remarkable. With her death Pakistan has lost a genuine artiste.”
Faiz Foundation Trust chairperson Salima Hashmi said: “Faiz Foundation Trust mourns the passing of theatre director and activist Madeeha Gauhar today in Lahore, the city which witnessed her development as a talented actor and committed theater activist. For Madeeha Gauhar, theatre was a critical component of cultural life and identity. She continued her work over the decades commenting on the issues and concerns which plagued social and political life in Pakistan. Madeeha Gauhar was a dedicated and courageous voice for peace in the region and took Ajoka across the border to audiences all over India. We will miss her presence at the Faiz Festival this year and for years to come.”
Alhamra Arts Council, Executive Director, Atta Muhammad Khan said, “Madeeha Gauhar was a great director, actress and a wonderful human. Her clear and selfless style of conducting theater was an eye-opener for the society. Her death is undoubtedly an immense loss for her family, friends and theater industry in Pakistan.”
Travelogue writer Mustansar Hussain Tarar said, “Madeeha Gauhar was amongst the pioneers who struggled a lot to revive the dying tradition of theatre in Pakistan. The credit even goes to Shahid Nadeem who wrote the plays in a brilliant way. Madeeha is no more, but her plays will resonate on the theatre scene in this side of the border.”
Also, Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif expressed a deep sense of sorrow and grief over the death of famous actress. In his condolence message, the CM prayed to Almighty Allah to rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant courage to the bereaved family to bear the loss with equanimity.He paid tribute to the legend, saying Madeeha was an experienced actress who gave a new dimension to the world of theatre and her services will be remembered.