KARACHI: It was a strange day. There was palpable tension in the air because of the uncertain law and order situation in the country. Many thought that the Sindh Theatre Festival organised by the Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi, which was to kick off on Friday, would be put off. Not to be. The organisers, despite the uncertainty, went ahead with the programme and presented the first play of the fest. And a considerable number of people turned up to watch.
The evening began with a little red carpet-type ceremony, though. It was a little baffling as to what it was about when the artists who’re taking part in the event were not there. Snacks were also served, which, perhaps is not that bad an idea to ease the nerves of the people who had come to the council despite what was transpiring on the political front.
The play put on stage on Friday was Ullu Aur Mano, an Urdu adaptation of Bill Manhoff’s Owl and the Pussy Cat, directed by Anjum Ayaz.
The story has two principal characters — Sheerazi/Fareed (Saad Fareedi) and Anjuman/Ismat (Marya Saad) — both of whom are flawed individuals, as all of us are, but fail to recognise it. As the curtains go up, the audience sees a shabbily kept room in an apartment where Sheerazi lives. Someone is banging on the door at an ungodly hour — he is fast asleep. It’s Anjuman. After a bit of dithering, he opens the door, and she barges in. She yells at him for making her vacate her house by complaining to the chowkidar against her. He initially denies that, but then admits to it. He has often seen her with binoculars through the window of his apartment bringing ‘men’ to her place. From here on, a verbal ding-dong between the two begins; Anjuman screams at the top of her lungs, while he tries to calm her down. She now wants to stay the night at his flat.
He is a writer who hasn’t yet tasted the fruit of success, but thinks extremely highly of himself. She is a struggling actress and model who sleeps around.
As can be guessed by now, the two fall for each other. However, something’s amiss. What’s that? Answer: the real contentment of being together. It’s only when they start looking themselves in the mirror that reality will dawn on them.
The actors in Ullu Aur Mano, including Rahil Siddiqui (who appears as Leslie, an effeminate friend of Anjuman) do very well. The problem is with the script and direction, which only works in patches. There’s too much explanation given for the girl’s background in a few scenes. The dialogue stretches for way too long, so much so that one is reminded of (read: wishes for) the proverb ‘actions speak louder than words’.
The festival will run until Nov 18. It will feature Urdu and Sindhi language plays, including those that have been staged before — such as Kyun Nikala, Ikhtiyar and Chup — at different venues.
Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2018