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CURTAINCALL: DANCING TO A FAMILIAR TUNE

April 14, 2019

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Photo: Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Photo: Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

One would have thought Anwar Maqsood’s play Naach Naa Jaaney (NNJ), a supposed prequel to the original Aangan Terrha performed back in 2013 by KopyKats Productions, would be a tad different.

Reportedly, director Dawar Mehmood had asked satirist Anwar Maqsood to write something (slightly) different for stage using the same play, the proceeds of which would go to a fund for deserving artists. Considering the fact that the original play — based on the 1980s’ popular TV series of the same name — had had a successful run in different cities of the country for almost a hundred days, this was thought to be a sure bet.While the satirist couldn’t imagine a total revamp of the classic play, he added in a flashback sequence focusing on the past life of the main protagonist, the domestic servant Akbar.

What this, in effect, meant was that aside from a mega dance performance choreographed by Wahab Shah, glimpses of the bygone, comparatively liberal era of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and glimpses of Akbar’s ailing mum begging her bohemian son to make a decent living. the rest of the play is the same as before.

With only an added-on flashback sequence to the original Aangan Terrha, the theatre play Naach Naa Jaaney proves only mildly amusing

The flashback sequence revolves around the days of yore, when dance and music in Pakistan did not interfere with religion. Then came the days of Ziaul Haq’s oppressive rule, and dancers and musicians were sent packing, their source of bread and butter considered non-religious. A simpleton butpassionate Akbar tries his best to find a job for himself in the corporate sector, the armed forces of Pakistan and even the bureaucracy. Buteverywhere, he is shown the door for his forthrightness. He finally lands his destined job: a domestic servant in the house of a retired civil servant and his wife, who have no children. Akbar has no choice but to accept the circumstances of his employment.

Actor Yasir Hussain, a protege of KopyKats Productions and now a TV and film star in his own right, has returned to stage after a long time in NNJ’s adorable character, Akbar. Back in 2013, when he was still a struggling actor, theatre was his forte. Then he ventured on to greener pastures and took to acting in TV plays and films. Time and again — and yet again in NNJ — Yasir Hussain has proved, however, that he is essentially made for stage.

Some sequences of the play seem forced, such as one where cricketer Imran Khan (played by Dawar Mehmood) is more interested in the girls who dance with Akbar rather than in getting him a job, and one where Akbar targets his dying mum for laughs. In addition, overall the playwright seemed tremendously restrained in his political wit, his main forte. However, new faces such as Sara Bhatti (as civil servant Mehboob Ahmed’s wife), Asad Gujjar (‘Paijan’ Chaudhry) and, a special mention, Hina Rizvi (Paijan’s sister Sultana) did stand out.

Nevertheless, nothing in this production comes close to the original, stellar quality and freshness of PTV’s Aangan Terrha. This was almost predictable since sequels/prequels only provide a copy that has nothing to do with originality.

Dawar Mehmood may have shattered many theatre myths in the past — primarily that theatre cannot be profitable — but he now needs to innovate to continue to grow. He has proved his mettle as a stage director who can attract crowds with an engaging script. He can set a shining example in the very precarious field of performing arts, but for that he needs to bring originality to his work.

Published in Dawn, ICON, April 14th, 2019