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Ajoka Theatre is set to commence its 31st year with a tour of the US. A 10-member Ajoka team, led by playwright-cum-director Shahid Nadeem, will leave Pakistan on Jan 16 on the invitation of the Myriad Voices project of the Georgetown University, Washington DC.

Ajoka will perform its hilarious satire ‘Amrika Chalo’ which deals with the complex and sensitive subject of Pak-US relations. It was first performed in Pakistan in December 2011. The two-day performance in the US on Jan 23 and 24 will be at Davis Performing Arts Center of the Georgetown University.

The story of the play takes place in the Visa Section of the US Embassy where applicants are being interviewed by the US visa counselors. It touches on issues such as illegal immigration, extremism, the US policies and Pakistani fascination with American glamour and glitz.

The songs include ‘Chalo Chalo America’, a song on the Pakistani 9-11 (nau do gyara) and a qawwali with opening lyrics “O Mama Obama, Bula Amrika Mujhe”. The play is in fact a collaboration between Pakistani and American theatre artistes.

The major cast is from Ajoka and its regular actor Furqan Majeed is already in the US. The Ajoka team will be joined by Washington-based actors and students of the Georgetown University. American professionals will also be assisting with set, lights, subtitles and stage management. A unique feature of the production is that the role of the US ambassador in the play will be played by ex-US ambassador Prof Cynthia Schneider. Pakistani American community is also helping with the project by promoting the event and offering accommodation to the visiting team.

Shahid Nadeem said “sometimes there are national issues which become so serious and sensitive that they have to be addressed through satire.” He said ‘Amrika Chalo’ was a satirical response to the love-hate relationship between Pakistan and the US.

“We hate the US policies but many of us would love to visit the US or even settle there. We have serious reservations about the US policy towards the Muslim world, military interventions, domination, “do more” demands, drone attacks. For the visible and invisible policy-makers, it is a question of national interest and geopolitics but there are others including the so-called ghairat brigade for whom everything which is wrong can be conveniently attributed to the US.

“On the other hand, the American values of liberty, freedom and morality are too often contradicted by its imperialist policies. But Amrika Chalo is not a polemical play about international politics or US-Pakistan relations. It is a light-hearted self-critical view of our double standards and hypocrisies and is a lot of fun too,” he said.

An ‘Artist’s Note Book Launch’ will be held at X 2 café, Gulberg on Jan 15. The launch will also include an informal talk with Dean Visual Art Beacon House National University Salima Hashmi and art critic Qudus Mirza. The book launch being held under White Turban Art Consultancy will include an exhibition of artworks by Farida Batool, Fazal Rizvi, Ghulam Muhammad, Humaira Abid, Noor Ali Chagani, R.M. Naeem, Saba Khan and Sana Kazi.

Having kick-started on a high note, 2014 turned out to be an exciting year for Faysal Quraishi. His grand project ‘Bashar Momin’ went on to become one of the most watched serials of the year. The lavish sets, gripping storyline and Faysal’s on-screen chemistry with actress Ushna Shah received acclaim from critics and audiences alike.

Besides doing many other glamorous TV shows, Faysal starred in a serious TV play named ‘Adhuri Aurat’ which dealt with the sensitive topic of breast cancer. He became the first Pakistani celebrity to launch his own smartphone application, and remained one of the most popular morning show hosts through his show ‘Muskurati Mornings’ on TV One. His show ‘Ikraar’, where he stars opposite Resham, is currently being aired on GEO TV and receiving a great response.

Along with other popular Pakistani TV shows that were handpicked to be aired in India, Faysal’s Mano Salwa (renamed Tere Ishq Mein) and Meri Zaat Zara-e-Benishaan (renamed Kaisi Yeh Qayamat) were two of the most popular viewed across the border. After winning accolades in Pakistan, the shows were welcomed in India with the same enthusiasm and resulted in Faysal receiving a lot of fan mail and interview requests from there.

Speaking about the success of his shows in 2014, Faysal said: “I am humbled by the love India’s viewers have given not only to my shows, but to all of our Pakistani shows. I strongly believe, in the end Pakistan’s success is my success hence I am proud of actors like Fawad Khan who represented the country in a positive manner.”

Published in Dawn January 11th , 2014

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