Ajoka stages stories from partitionArchive
ISLAMABAD: Ajoka Theatre performed an adaptation of Shahid Nadeem’s play Anhi Mai Da Safna – A Blind Woman’s Dream at the Pakistan National Council of Arts Sunday night.
The play pitches reality against illusion, making for a charming and ambitious production, with an ensemble of great Punjabi singers and an incredibly skilled cast.
Inspired by real life stories from after the partition of the sub-continent, the play is inspired, engaging and profoundly optimistic. Periodical narration by two very eloquent actors, musical notes and songs by an on-stage choir with the use of lights and colours created the atmosphere the audience needed to imagine the character’s dreams and reminiscences.
Belonging to the village of Prem Nagar in Pakistan, the protagonist Mai Jhanki, who is played by Samina Butt, is forced to move to India during partition.
She years to return to her birthplace but cannot due visa constraints and border closing after the 1971 Indo-Pak war and the deteriorating conditions between the two countries.
She struggles due to old age, the continuous trauma of memories disguised as nightmares and the incremental loss of eye sight.
However, her dreams, the love she has for her hometown and continued perseverance leads to her family finding a way for her to visit Prem Nagar.
They decide to involve the entire village in fabricating a lie and pretending she has been taken to Pakistan when she is being taken around the little town she lives in.
Samina Butt was very convincing as she played an aging but very determined woman and used body language, fluctuations in the tone of her voice and excellent dialogue delivery to make her character come alive.
Actors Sohail Tariq, Rukhsana Khan and Nayab Faiza play her family members and their timing, comic innuendos and inspired acting was very commendable.
Like Mai Jhanki, a local dyer at Rang Mahal Lahore, Ustad Rangu Rang Saaz who is played by Arshad Durrani, wants to attend his granddaughter’s wedding on the other side of the border.
Having refused to leave Pakistan during partition in hopes that peace will ensue and his family will return, Ustad Rangu dreams of reuniting with his family in Amritsar but is prohibited from travelling to India.
His wishes and emotional turmoil culminate into an overwhelmingly riveting story where the conflict of emotional bonds and blood-relations has him perplexed.
Though, his optimism, love for his land and longing for his family has his existence confined, it’s only through his dreams that he eventually finds peace.
The perfectly timed music, the diverse use of lighting – spotlights and colour, silence and clamour, and the appropriate use of props made the play fluid and captivating.
The show comprised of varied scenes, underlying themes and subplots, each with different structures, including monologues, songs, dances, and storytelling.
The essence of it, however, remained in the beautifully crafted direction of two parallel stories with a similar theme – love, dreams and bonds are impossible to restrict with borders, hatred and war.
Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2017