Dreaming freedom

March 19, 2023

Anwar Maqsood’s Sarhay Chauda August revolves around the idea of a utopia people wanted after the colonial rule

Dreaming freedom


nwar Maqsood has written a trilogy round the Independence Day: Paunay Chauda August, Sawa Chauda August and Sarhay Chauda August. He maintains that the real August 14 has yet to arrive.

The three stage plays have been staged under the Kopycat Productions and directed by Dawar Mehmood. The three have been spread over a period of almost a decade. These have been performed all across the countryand have received a good response from the audiences. The latest, Sarhay Chauda August, revolves round the idea of a utopia that the author, like so many other Pakistanis, had dreamt about after the British colonial rule. It is a patent technique to assess the present or the prevalent against an ideal. It provides the necessary space and solidity to criticise or to comment on the current against the high ideals for it pushes into a frame of sharper contrasts.

The question of topicality and relevance has always been debated when a writer and not a journalist writes about the world that he lives in. The necessity of it is always highlighted and pushed for more and more. A playwright has to be alive to the situation raging round him. He has to walk a rather thin line. There is a benchmark against which the current or the prevalent can be criticised.

To represent the current through contemporary characters, too, is a device that attracts attention, at times some undue attention. In the arts, a true story being untold is also a patent device that draws more attention for it makes it doubly poignant. Though the art is never about the retelling of a story that has already taken place in real life, it adds value by placing it within the overall human condition. The retelling of a story faithfully would be either history or journalism.The label of a true story – while it may be a marketing gimmick - is actually a disqualification in arts.

The sharp wit and the one-liners have always added spice to something memorable that the audience can take home with them. The team of Anwar Maqsood and Dawar Mehmood has contributed significantly to good theatre.

Are we looking for answers as to what happened to the dream of creating a new country or the disillusionment that this didn’t happen in a certain way? Disillusionment is always an attendant fallout of any popular project. But was Pakistan really the kind of project it is being represented as today or have we added something to the idea in retrospect, or are we made to think so on account of the many ideological layers that have been piled up upon it to find the reaffirmation of an ideology.

There is a temptation to join the moan brigade: the lament about what is happening to Pakistan and why it is going downhill or not living up to the expectations. The comparison is always with a very developed country that is seen in a finished form and not as a process and or some hazy nostalgic image conjured up from the past. If one looks at our country, it shares most of its characteristics with many other countries that are going through the same phase in their historical progression. We are also depressed because we overestimate our capabilities and are disappointed at the failed expectation.

Anwar Maqsood has written nine plays that have been staged under the Kopycats Production. All of these have been directed by Dawar Mehmood. The plays and the teleplays based on human stories have been done with great sensitivity by the playwright. Some of these have focused on the peculiarities of our cultural mix and its dynamics as well as its failings and absurdities. It is here that he has been brilliant in capturing the essence of our culture.

The sharp wit and the one-liners have always added spice to something memorable that audience can take home with them. The team of Anwar Maqsood and Dawar Mehmood has been quite productive one.It has contributed significantly to good theatre, meaning a well-made play that does not rely on ad-libbing and improvisation.

The team has also provided opportunities to many new comers who in the course of the past ten years have gone on to establish themselves as successful theatre and television performers.

The writer is a culture critic based in Lahore.

Dreaming freedom