Not to be mistaken
KARACHI: Slapstick comedies make actors push the envelope in unconventional ways. They have to rely more on their movement, footwork and reacting to the situations not a microsecond late when reactions are needed.
Though it would be difficult to categorise Bye Mishtake, the third play put up at the National Academy of Performing Arts’ (Napa) Young Directors Festival on Saturday evening, the treatment that director Masoodur Rehman adopted for the story and the antics that the actors resorted to, were pretty much slapstick. And it worked, to a reasonable extent.
Bye Mishtake, an Urdu adaptation of Derek Benfield’s play Off the Hook, is set in a hotel owned by Mastaan (Kashif Hussain), a fidgety little character. He does not seem to think too much about his wife, Nimra (Shumaila Taj); he should, because she is not a faithful person. Nimra’s sister Zoya (Syeda Maha Ali) is the only member of the hotel staff. The other one is a cook who’s gone back home to look after his mother, who has broken her leg (maan ki taang toot gai hai). The action begins when Firdaus (Farhan Alam) and Fawad (Hammad Khan) enter the building. They want three rooms, two for themselves and one for Khadi (Syed M. Jamil) whom Firdaus has helped run from jail. The three are criminals. Firdaus believes that Khadi knows where the looted money is stashed in the very hotel that they have checked into. The thing is, Khadi is not that person. It’s a case of mistaken identity.
Mrs FB (Muzaina Malik) and her daughter Tina (Hajra Yamin) have already occupied two rooms in the hotel. The thieves find themselves in a spot of bother when they find out that Mrs FB is a criminal judge. From here on kick-starts a battle for concealing Khadi’s identity from the judge and at the same time looking for the money hidden somewhere in the building.
Bye Mishtake was a likable play. The emphasis on brisk movement made it an effort worth sitting through. Of course, it had a lot do with the actors’ interest in following the director’s instructions. However, it was evident that the performers had improvised a bit during rehearsals as well as on Saturday night. Farhan Alam as Firdaus, who, I’m told, is taking part in half a dozen plays to be staged at the festival, looked to rely more on his instincts than the script. So did Shumaila Taj. It did not matter in the larger scheme of things, for the audience was enjoying their zaniness.
The only thing that Masoodur Rehman needs to look into is the script, as should the other young directors.
The plot could have been enhanced with funnier and meatier one-liners and meaningful repartee.
Similarly, the play Saari Raat performed a couple of hours before Bye Mishtake could have been set in a more relatable locale (such as Karachi or Lahore) largely due to the dialogic exchange among actors. It is not easy for a Kolkata-based man or woman to use words like ‘takhayyul’. Imagination is a readily understandable word. That being said, the dramas that the academy’s fresh graduates have chosen, and are choosing, indicates that they are constantly in search of quality content. It’s a good omen.