Friday June 21, 2024

‘Siachen’ warms Karachi with nationalistic zeal

By Ebad Ahmed
January 02, 2016


“Fauj ke liye likhna itna hee mushkil hai, jitna Sindh hukoomat mai CM hona, kuch kar hee nahin saktay.” (Writing for the Pakistan Army is as tough as as being the chief minister of Sindh; one really can’t do anything.)

Who else could come up with such a gem than the legendary writer, Anwar Maqsood? After watching his latest offering, ‘Siachen’, one has all the right to say that with a flawless script that left the audience in peals of laughter and also tears of patriotism, it is indeed quite hard to believe that the maestro had struggled while penning down another masterpiece.

The play, which focuses on the daily life of soldiers stationed at the world’s highest battlefield, the Siachen glacier, kicks off with a mother bidding farewell to her son, a sister her brother, a wife her husband and a father promising his son a football as a gift upon his return – all against the backdrop of Anwar Maqsood's voice.

However, the beauty of the play remains in the fact that where it vilified the hardships of war, at the same time it paid an exemplary tribute to our men in uniform who continue to sacrifice their comfort to serve their motherland.

Was it jingoism under the garb of humour; no. 

If it had been, Maqsood would never have penned this, “Half the army is employed at Zarb-e-Azb, half is at the border and the remainder is at Siachen. If martial law was declared, I am afraid that the navy would take over.”

Some may argue that the dialogues of the Bihari Indian soldier and the humour centered on the Pukhtun Pakistani soldiers perpetuated some much-exhausted offensive stereotypes. 

But then the other side of the argument is that if the sitcom, Citizen Khan, can have a hilarious dig at British Pakistani families, when the humor on Scots and their ‘proximity’ with sheep is now not considered to be touching the red lines of racism, when Russell Peters’ take on Africans and South Asians are welcomed by international audiences, then how does the exaggerated (which is the essence of comedy) take of Maqsood on Biharis and Pukhtuns fall under ‘hidden offensive racism’?   

Dawar Mehmood, the director of the play, has introduced debutant actors which is, perhaps, why a certain ‘rawness’ was felt in some of the scenes. While at times it gave a unique and fresh artistic touch, there were also some ‘half-baked’ dialogue deliveries.

But the pinnacle of the play was its ending; injured and exhausted after a fierce combat, the soldiers agreed to strike down the enemy plane despite knowing that it means certain death for them.

The audience may have diverse political, religious or ideological affiliations but one thing was for certain while exiting the Arts Council premises, that the Anwar-Dawar duo had given them a reason to cherish and respect Pakistan.