The play was delightful in many ways. It presented an Urdu classic novel to young children through drama, which was an effective way for them to know about their literature and language. Through interaction with the kids, the comedy instilled good manners and behaviour along with the knowledge of heritage and culture. As many feel that Urdu is dying out due to inadequate attention being paid to the promotion of the language, such dramas are good starters for kids of all ages to get interested in classics.
Umro Ayyar the play, based on the form of storytelling, was presented to a packed hall of kids from aged 5-13, accompanied by their parents. Umro Ayyar (Saqib Sameer) through his travels meets a djinn who tells him not to go to the palace court as he will not be allowed in. When he gets there the king (Sharjeel Khan) tells his guards to throw him out as he is preoccupied with his ailing daughter, but when Umro convinces him he knows how to cure her the king allows him in.
Umro then goes to the djinn called Kuchi Kuchi Jinn (played by Ajnabi) who tells him that four different herbs, one from Africa, India, China and Koh-i-Kaf (Caucasus) will cure her. The djinn refuses to go and get it as his mother doesn’t allow him to go far, so Umro decides to go himself. And thus follow hilarious situations, adventures and danger which Umro overcomes … with help from the young audience of course.
One finds very few books for children and very few programmes that cater to them on television and stage. So when Umro Ayyar, a play for youngsters was staged at the Karachi Arts Council, it was received quite admirably
At his last destination a fairy tells Umro — who is in the habit of stealing things and putting it in his magical bag, the zambeel — not to steal which he ignores. Getting all the herbs Umro returns to the palace and the princess gets better after eating them. The king then marries off the princess (Sanobar Shakeel) to Umro.
The story is set in the olden days but with a smart difference — it uses modern-day technology and words to attract youngsters interest such as google, internet, wifi, selfie and the use of a mobile phone by the djinn.
Saqib Sameer comes across as a versatile actor who can perform different characters, especially humorous ones with aplomb. Umro Ayyar was also written and directed by Saqib Sameer along with Unaizah Ali, and produced by Shahzad Qureshi.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, April 3rd, 2016