KARACHI: To be fair, this year’s Laughter Fest organised by the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) elicited more laughter on Sunday evening than ever since it began on Jan 10 during the Aisha Hassan-directed play Biwi Ho Tau Apni.
Not that it was flawless — there were a few (just a few) instances when the actors either missed their cues or overlapped the lines; but given that some of them are the finest artists that the academy has produced, they successfully managed to salvage the situation, went ahead with their performances with a great deal of confidence, and did not allow the audience to notice the tiny hiccups.
Before narrating the story of Biwi Ho Tau Apni, one is compelled to say a line or two about the late Kamal Ahmed Rizvi, the writer of the play. He died in 2015, and one would have thought that his legacy might vanish into thin air, as it often happens in our part of the world with creative people. Kudos to the current crop of theatre practitioners for not letting that happen. Doing his scripts means that they are trying to familiarise contemporary audiences with the kind of work that was steeped in the traditions of 20th century drama.
Biwi Ho Tau Apni is about Saleem (Farhan Alam), a 47-year-old man who is to get married in a couple of hours to Amina (Chand Bawani), a much younger girl. Saleem is a philanderer. He has had intimate relationships with the wives of two of his friends Manzoor (Hassan Raza) and Farooq (Saad Zameer). When the curtains go up, Farooq’s wife has already passed away, and both him and Manzoor do not know what Saleem has been up to. Amina’s parents Mr and Mrs Qudoos (Samhan Ghazi and Hina Rizvi) have an intrusive nature, and they, from the get-go, intend to live with their son-in-law.
Saleem now wants to mend his ways, and in the first scene he is seen trying to get rid of the letters of the women he’s been with. The situation gets a little messy when Farooq begins to get closer to Saleem to the discomfort of Amina. Manzoor, too, keeps coming in as if he’s a regular member of the household. One of the funniest sequences in the play is when Manzoor takes off, or puts on, his cap in which his wife keeps letters for Saleem — the cap works as a signal for their romantic meet-ups. But Manzoor remains blissfully unaware of it. The more Saleem tries to get intimate with his wife, the more his two friends intervene in his life.
Biwi Ho Tau Apni succeeds by virtue of funny repartee and circumstances emerging out of the two cuckolds’ behaviour, to make the audience realise that what we do in our past seldom leaves us. Sometimes it recurs in the shape of nightmares, and sometimes in the form of people who keep reminding us of who we were.
All the actors turned in convincing performances (barring the above-mentioned negligible goof-ups). Shabash! One wonders if the director, should she decide to do the play again, can be given the permission to change the climax of the story. It might add a bit of a 21st century zing to the script.
Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2019