The theatre group Peedia Entertainment presented its second play of a series based on classic stories to introduce children to the rich characters existing in Urdu literature. The loveable, roly poly and clumsy Sheikh Chilli (Aadi Adeel Amjad) breezes through one adventure after another, blundering along with aplomb, seeking the help of the young audience in sticky situations, and singing and dancing with them when scoring a victory. The play followed the successful formula of involving children in the story and combining the past with the present, something which the children can relate to easily.
Before the curtains parted, two storytellers (Unaizah Ali, Ahsan R. Firdousi) appeared dressed as old people and explained what was about to happen in the play, beating a hasty retreat as Sheikh Chilli’s reclining pose appeared on stage. He is fond of sleeping, which he does most of the time, while his poor widowed mother (Nida Fatima Syed) slogs through the day, tending to chores around the house. Fed up of her lazy son’s attitude she wakes him up by beating him with a jharoo, jolting her son out of a dream that he is enjoying immensely. She tells him to go and sell some eggs in the market so that she can buy food for them.
He puts the egg basket on his head and starts daydreaming; if the eggs were hatched they could become hens and soon he would have a poultry farm and become rich. Picturing himself as a rich man dressed in fine clothes, Sheikh Chilli bows and all the eggs break as they hit the ground. Seeing this, his mother starts crying and says she has had enough of both him and life. Sheikh Chilli is devastated and begs his mother not to say such things. She says that she will relent only if he promises to get the ‘key of success’. He readily agrees and sets out to appease his mother, but is thoroughly confused what the ‘key of success’ is and how and where to find it. Thus begin the adventures of Sheikh Chilli.
“Lagta hoon sher par andar sai billi, my name is Sheikh Chilli”… the children roar with laughter as Sheikh Chilli describes himself in the play that was staged recently at the Karachi Arts Council
On the way he meets Baba (Rodney Pereira) who helps him by sending him to a factory nearby where he tries to work but is unsuccessful at it and returns. Baba consoles him and sends him to a school where he fails to teach properly and is unable to find the ‘key of success’. Fast losing hope, Sheikh Chilli is encouraged by Baba to try yet again, asking him to go and meet a king (Saad Rabbani) who lives in a palace nearby. The king treats him badly and Sheikh Chilli is so upset that he starts crying and dreams of his mother. He returns home and tells his mother that he could not find the ‘key to success’, but is ready to work hard. His mother smiles and says that hard work is the ‘key to success’ which he has achieved. Thus Sheikh Chilli learns his lesson. The storytellers appear again and tell the children that hard work is the real key to success which is the moral of the story; and all the characters dance and sing to Dosti aisa naata.
Sheikh Chilli was directed by Aadi Adeel Amjad and written by Unaizah Ali. The producer Shahzad Qureshi lamented the fact that children are being neglected by the performing arts, “Like-minded people like us want to bring wholesome entertainment to children to enhance character-building, manners and moral values.”
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, June 12th, 2016