The setting of a sanatorium in a play likely signifies a tragedy. However, it turned out differently in the case of ‘Shaam Bhi Thi Dhuan Dhuan’, which was enacted at the Arts Council of Pakistan on Sunday as part of the Pakistan Theatre Festival 2023.
A romantic drama originated at the sanatorium between two middle-aged people: a 58-year-old doctor, who is a thorough professional and serving as the sanatorium’s incharge, and a 49-year-old woman, whose attitude towards life, as depicted by her fascination with rain, sea waves and flowers, is quite romantic and defies her age.
The play was directed by Paras Masroor, who has worked extensively in the medium of theatre and television plays. There was no other cast besides the doctor and the patient, played by Arshad Sheikh and Lyba Anwar. Shaam Bhi Thi Dhuan Dhuan is Rafiq Anjum’s adaptation of Russian playwright Aleksei Arbuzov’s play ‘Old Times’.
The play began with the doctor calling the patient to inform her that her fellow patients at the sanatorium have been complaining about her because she starts singing upon seeing the sunrise, disturbing their sleep.
She has also been found leaving the room from the window, when the door is locked during the night hours, to enjoy the breeze or the sea, since the sanatorium is located along the coast.
In the first scene the woman appears immature: she tries to flirt with the doctor, objects to his sensible remarks and lies that she is unmarried as she fills in the official form. The doctor is annoyed.
However, as the play unfolds, that annoyance gradually changes into friendship and love. The conflict between them and the witty dialogues helped the audience retain their attention.
Later, the unhappy personal lives of both the characters are revealed. The doctor is a widower. His wife possibly drowned at sea when their only daughter was a child. He did not marry again and is now living alone because his daughter is married.
As for the woman, she has had multiple failed marriages. She had a son from her first marriage whom she raised all by herself. However, he also drowned at sea in his teenage years.
Romantic songs by great singers like Rafi, Asha, Mukesh and Ahmed Rushdi were played between the scenes to maintain the romantic aura. As both the characters get fond of each other, they try to influence each other.
The woman has more success, as rather than allowing herself to become less romantic, she makes the doctor go with her to a club where they dance together without caring about what others would think of their affair. The cast played their roles well, with Sheikh’s sonorous voice making a lasting impression.
The Arts Council also offered another play on Sunday. Titled ‘Fareb’, the play is an adaptation of Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’. It was directed by Muneeb Sheikh.