ISLAMABAD: People turned out in droves for the two-day performance of Jhaanjar Di Paawaan Chhankaar at the Pakistan National Council of Arts, a thought-provoking play that balanced intense moments and ideas with wit and humour.

The play is named after a hit song by Madam Noor Jehan, written by Saeed Rehman and Fatima Maan, directed by Sarmad Khoosat and stars Samiya Mumtaz, Zain Afzal, Iman Shahid and Khoosat himself.

The story follows Hamza (Zain Afzal), a blind young man from Sheikhupura who leaves home and moves to a studio apartment in Lahore, away from his overprotective mother Mrs Sohail (Samiya Mumtaz).

In Lahore Hamza encounters his next door neighbour, Zaman (Sarmad Khoosat), an aspiring actor with a particular fondness for the Punjabi film star Anjuman, and they develop a close friendship.

Through these characters, along with Mrs Sohail and Eman (Iman Shahid), the director of Zaman’s debut movie, the play opens up a discussion on social issues and societal taboos in its 90-minute run.

Many of the exchanges between the main characters focus on discrimination against mentally or physically disabled people or those with less privilege, as well as discrimination based on gender and less socially acceptable professions.

The play highlighted the way that discrimination begins at home, often because of loved ones; being unknowingly overprotective towards a child inculcates a feeling of not being normal, which can lead to self-pity and self-loathing.

Khoosat’s performance as Zaman and Mumtaz as the fastidious overprotective Mrs Sohail awed the audience. Khoosat won applause several times throughout the play for his spontaneity, expressiveness and even a dance sequence.

Mumtaz returned to her roots as a theatre actor in this show, and made her presence felt in every scene.

Her unruffled expressions during intense conversations with Zaman and Hamza won her applause for her character’s poise.

The star of the show, however, is without a doubt Afzal. The actor has already acted in one film, a few television serials and radio plays, and is now making inroads on the stage. Afzal’s physicality in the role in particular did great justice to Hamza’s character, who is trying to live his life without being limited by societal stereotypes.

It would be fair to say that Jhaanjar Di Paawaan Chhankaar was the result of great teamwork, with everyone involved in the production playing their role up to the mark. The set design was simple and homey, the writers produced smart and effective dialogue interspersed with wit, humour and sarcasm, while the overall narrative was also well-crafted and powerfully delivered by flawless performances.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2019

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