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An actor prepares

August 09, 2014

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Sania Saeed and Abdullah Farhatullah perform in a play at the Arts Council on Friday evening.—White Star
Sania Saeed and Abdullah Farhatullah perform in a play at the Arts Council on Friday evening.—White Star

KARACHI: They say acting is the art of self-negation or assuming someone else’s character in a believable manner. It’s accurate to a certain extent. Sometimes what happens is that the star in an actor overpowers his or her talent to a point where it’s only a veneer on the surface of the performance that the theatregoers get to see, and nothing else. This is not the case with Sania Saeed. There is a reason she is one of the most respected actresses in the country: when she slips into a character’s garb, she looks the part. This could be seen, one more time, in her performance in the play ‘Main Adakara Banun Gi’ that premiered at the Arts Council Theatre on Friday evening.

Directed by Shahid Shafaat and written by Jawaid Jamal, the drama tells the tale of an aspiring actress, Naila Anjum (Sania), who approaches a teacher, Zaigham Rafiqi (Abdullah Farhatullah), through an acquaintance to learn the art of acting. Naila comes from a lower middleclass family where acquisition of knowledge is not given due importance. She has grown up watching Bollywood movies and Pakistani Punjabi films and now wants to appear on celluloid. Zaigham is a disciplinarian who is heavily into art and literature. This is revealed in the very first scene when Naila enters his house wearing a burqa and sees a nude painting hanging on a wall. Despite being a chatterbox and someone who likes to dance à la Bollywood song sequences, she is taken aback. Taking note of her uncouth behaviour, Zaigham initially discourages Naila but gradually takes a shine to her. Also, he needs money.

Zaigham’s personal life is in a shambles as his wife does not live with him. Naila’s arrival doesn’t help either. Somehow Zaigham tries to give lessons to her (of diction, primarily, stressing how to correctly pronounce the alphabet ‘qaaf’) that she finds hard to learn. What she does is that she diverts his attention by telling him the stories of her life and occasionally inquiring about his.

It wouldn’t be wrong to claim that the driving force behind ‘Main Adakara Banun Gi’ is Sania Saeed. Perhaps that’s the way its makers wanted it to be. But then it’s a play. Everything has to come together. Sania is outstanding as Naila. Her motormouth delivery of lines, her antics as a film buff and her timing are quite special. Especially in the second scene when she comes to apologise to Zaigham for making a boo-boo and creating misunderstanding with his wife is astounding. The way she pauses to say her lines in an ostensibly comedic situation is something that not all actors can pull off.

Abdullah Farhatullah’s hard work should not be undermined. He is an extremely diligent actor. But he comes across as a stiff, pedantic individual (perhaps for no fault of his as it should’ve come from the director or mentioned in the script) that it is quite strange because he is supposed to be teaching acting where flexibility of the body and nimble footwork are of the utmost importance. His character in the script puts emphasis mostly on diction, making him sound like someone who has a degree in Urdu literature. That being said, he’s very impressive in the latter part of the play where he stands toe-to-toe with Sania.

One more thing: for some reason the director decided not to use music in the initial three to four scenes and then suddenly music (of the schmaltzy kind at that) is played preceding or succeeding the scenes. It’s a bit of a put-off.

‘Main Adakara Banun Gi’ is a powerhouse presentation, mainly because of its actors.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2014