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Theatre play recounts a tarnished dawn

A scene from the play Dagh Dagh Ujala staged in Islamabad. — Photo by Khurram Amin
A scene from the play Dagh Dagh Ujala staged in Islamabad. — Photo by Khurram Amin

ISLAMABAD: Personal accounts from the partition of India were brought to life by theatre group Theatre Wallay who performed the play Dagh Dagh Ujala on Sunday.

The play takes its title from Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem ‘Dawn of Freedom’ which is inspired by the partition of India.

The script for the 80 minute long play was the outcome of interviews with the survivors of the partition. The play narrates the personal tragedies which resulted from a historical event. The cast of the theatre group wrote the script for the play as each cast member personally interviewed partition survivors from all over Pakistan.

The play was directed by David Studwell, who is a professional actor and theatre teacher. The show was organised by the United States Embassy.

“As a team, we chose those personal accounts from the partition of the subcontinent which echoed the memories and feelings shared by many of those who were interviewed,” the director told the audience.

The show opened to scenes depicting life before the partition of India with the storm gathering above. Act one depicted that despite religious differences people respected one another and lived together in relative harmony, playing games, sometimes quarrelling but always living together. As the storm gathered in the second act of the play a man was shown searching for his family after his village was attacked, a woman fighting soldiers and a Muslim boy asking his Sikh girlfriend to stay with him.

Fear and desperation reach their dramatic culmination in the third act. The scenes depicted in this act moved many in the audience to tears. A woman stands by a well, being told by her brother to jump if a mob attacks and a child watching as a Sikh man who used to sell him cotton candy is attacked and killed by a Muslim mob.

The fourth act depicts displacement as people migrate to the newly-created Pakistan, travelling on foot and on trains through violent madness, towards a new life.

The last act describes life after partition. An immigrant to Pakistan talking about the family he left behind, a woman refusing to talk to her brother who murdered her Sikh lover, a man reminiscing happiness of days gone by.

The beautiful folk and classical music complemented the show and the well-knit script moved with the pace of movie. Everything about the play worked well except the venue - the hall of a private school.

Each of the cast members shined on stage, displaying their acting skills by playing more than one role.

“Everything was made to look so real. They showed us how partition truly happened and how dreams were shattered,” said Salman Hyat, an audience member.

“I did not expect the play to be so good,” he added.

“This story needed to be told now more than ever,” said another audience member.

The show ended to thunderous applause by the audience.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2015

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