Tuesday January 25, 2022

‘Swaang’ tries to infuse life in dying art of theatre

January 10, 2022

Islamabad : The Saturday evening was damp and bitterly cold. It felt all the more freezing after one had watched and listened to the horrors the tourists have gone through following extraordinarily heavy snowfall in Murree over the last 48 hours. People froze to death in their vehicles, buried deep in snow.

There was a group of young people, men, and women, restlessly shuffling on their feet, trying to focus on the tasks they have been assigned at the entrance of the ‘Media Centre’ of Lok Virsa. While they seemed busy, they kept casting anxious glances towards the entrance to the Lok Virsa compound from the road.

They were part of the ‘Swaang’ team, a newborn Islamabad-based theatre group established by two sisters, Snobar Nazir and Kanwal Ajmal, a dancer who had been performing in Canada and Dubai to promote ‘Eastern Dance’ culture.

They were caught in a ‘Catch-22’ position because the tickets for the theatre performance, a play titled ‘Main Nay Kuch Nahi Kiya’ (I have done nothing) were all sold out and just hours before the play was to be staged, the events of tragedy in Murree started unfolding with horrifying details. But the play was already beyond the stage of cancellation or postponement.

Then, to much relief of the organisers, the guests started trickling in!

It was a light ‘crime-comedy’ play worth watching quite enjoyable with family wherein the police are found trying to resolve a series of mysterious murders of elderly women, all of whom were initially found brutally killed with multiple knife stabs.

The Director of the play, Safeerullah Khan, indeed kept the whole performance tightly knit and reflected a series of social and cultural issues in a subtle manner. The manner in which he portrayed various social aspects including the ‘thana culture’, the anxiety of electronic media to take lead over the other, the gender biases, scorn towards women superiority, deceit and deception in love and extreme emotions such apparently covered up matters invoke all of a sudden.

Sarmad Sehbai, the legendary dramatist, poet, writer, film and drama director, and, probably, a singer who sings mystic and classical poetry in his own unique style, was invited as the chief guest at the launch play of ‘Swaang’ theatre. And as typical of Sarmad Sehbai, he refrained from uttering many accolades!

“They are beginners and they did pretty well for the beginners I must say. Their confidence on stage was appreciable, their dialogue delivery matched with their actions and that is important in a live stage play,” Sarmad Sehbai said.

Farrakh Yar, a banker, who is far better known as a poet, a writer, and a thorough researcher, was also present on the occasion, said that it was something really enjoyable on a sad, dull and dreary day.

“I indeed appreciate the efforts put in by each and every member of this ‘Swaang’ team but like always there is a person or two who just run away with the show. And in today’s play, one must say that the police tout, ‘Chandio’ did perform excellently. But one must not forget the asylum inmate who had escaped and apprehended by the police as a serial killer suspect,” Farrakh Yar said.

If looked minutely, one can feel a little, well sort of shyness, on part of Inspector Rani, the young lady who took over the case investigations as she seemed cautious about her appearance. Chandio played the part of police tout well but obviously ‘overdid’ in his performance. But, we believe, that was the purpose of the play!

The purpose of a light family theatre show is to make the audience happy. While they managed to draw out laughter from the audience a couple of times, they also made the guests smile repeatedly with their dialogues and actions.

The cast of the play included: Maria Habib as Khurseed Baigum (the serial killer), Niaz Aziz as the District Police Officer ( DPO), Zia Ur Rehman as Constable ‘Bulbula’, Abubakar Hussain as the police tout ‘ Chandio’, Asif Mehmood, as ‘Thaanedar/SHO’, Xenia Abid, TV Channel Reporter, Ali Sidiquee as male TV Reporter, Wasif Naqvi as the ‘Mystic’, Beenish Raza as Inspector Rani and Nadir Shehbaz as the ‘Mad Man’.