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January 16, 2015

Anwar Maqsood’s ‘Dharna’ arrives in Karachi


January 16, 2015

After a successful run in Lahore and Islamabad, veteran playwright Anwar Maqsood’s fifth collaboration with Kopykats Productions, ‘Dharna’, premiered in Karachi at the Arts Council the previous night.
The play followed Maqsood’s famous ‘Aamna Saamna’ format of ‘Joo Ka Too’ television from the 1980s that predates the talk shows of today, and did a good job in educating the public about the talk shows that are “just talk and no show”, according to the writer.
‘Dharna’ revolves around a talk show where an array of guests from different walks of life makes their presence felt, and all the guests are a character in themselves.
There is a Tharki Maulvi from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) (Saqib Sumair), a current Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) minister (Ishtiaq Rasool), a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) loyalist-turned-Pakistan People’s Party choreographer Surmayee Soomro (Sana Khan Niazi), a foreign-returned Pakistani analyst (Amna Nawaz) and the one and only Imran “Container” Khan (Dawar Mehmood).
Veteran theatre actor Nazar Hussain plays the politically active cameraman while the experienced Noor-ul-Hasan (in an unrecognisable getup) plays the host to the characters.
All they do is discuss the current political situation in the country, which is nothing short of comedy itself.
Maqsood’s pen adds pop culture references to the script that, at times, punch the politicians in the face, and are sometimes below the belt, but always bring a smile on the face of the audience.
Asked about the motivation behind the play, Maqsood first corrected the use of “motivation”, because in his opinion the use of the word was debatable.
“Bilal (Maqsood) wrote the song ‘Main To Dekhoon Ga’ and performed it at a PTI function, and as a hopeful Pakistani I voted for the party. But, sadly, it was the province with this party in power that destroyed the future of Pakistan and this play was a way

to show my disappointment. I am still hopeful that in the remaining two and a half years he will be able to do better work and live up to the expectations; if Imran Khan can make a better Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, then I am sure he can make a better Pakistan.”
The script is king in this play, just like it was in ‘Pawnay 14 August’, ‘Sawa 14 August’, ‘Aangan Terrha’ and ‘Haaf Playt’.
Be it the Railway Ka Wazeer using “Dhuan” and “Seeti” in his dialogues, the host wrapping up a call about Maulana Diesel, the politician talking about Choli Kay Peechhe Kia Hai or quoting Allama Iqbal in lieu of dharna, credit goes to the veteran writer.
The references to “Mian sahib kay paye”, “Fauj Aik Hadd Tak Sharif Reh Sakti Hai” and Attaullah Khan Essa Khelvi’s Imran Khan song kept the audience entertained for the entire duration of the play.
The high points were the entry of the PML-N minister, the “heroines” discussion between the JUI-F leader and the PML-N minister and the interesting use of a balloon to annoy the JUI-F leader.
And then there was the call from London that not only made the entire cast stand up but some of the people in the audience also contemplated rising on their seats for a moment.
Actor and co-director Mehmood said the reason he decided to come up with a dharna was to get refund for his vote that went to the PTI.
“I voted for Imran Khan like many youngsters and was hoping that he would be able to bring change but, sadly, that didn’t happen. This play is my answer to the former captain of the Pakistan cricket team, because for the script we did research and came up with ‘items’ that haven’t been made public about the politicians of Pakistan. I am sure that the audience of Karachi (and Dubai) will love the play as much as the Lahoris and Islamabadis did.”
The cast did an outstanding job, one which is bound to improve with the passage of time. Although Yasir Hussain’s presence as an actor was missed, he was instrumental as co-director for the first time in an Anwar Maqsood play.
The experienced Hasan had the most lines, the most expressions and the most scenes in the play, as he never left the stage once he made his entrance. He did a commendable job.
The ever-improving Sumair played the JUI-F leader well and the same can be said of Rasool, who was the PML-N minister and had the funniest lines.
They both loved to be in the limelight and that too in the presence of beautiful women like Sana and Amna, although the ladies did not have as many dialogues.
Mubashir Ibrahim was impressing as Bilawal Bhutto as was Yasir Taj as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement man in their brief appearances.
Mehmood as Imran Khan had the least lines but made his presence felt with lines like “Container Nay Pagal Kardia” and his ability to stand on anything that made him visible to the public.
His dialogues with the “chai wala”, the creative team and even the fellow guests seemed realistic as did Mehmood’s impression, which was spot on.
The play is an out-and-out comedy and, unlike other Kopykats Productions, lacks in the emotional department, maybe because the dharna of Islamabad made Pakistan into a laughing stock and was not to be taken seriously.
The play will be staged in Karachi for nearly a month, following which the team will perform in Dubai for three days.

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