Young directors’ theatre festival begins

November 18, 2019

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A SCENE from Mitti Ke Gharonde.—White Star
A SCENE from Mitti Ke Gharonde.—White Star

KARACHI: It is audacious, in a sense, of the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) to begin its Young Directors’ Theatre Festival Sada-i-Nau, as it happened on Saturday evening, with an Urdu adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie translated as Mitti Ke Gharonde. There’s a pertinent reason for it: the play is to do with memory’s trickeries and psychologically and physically challenging characters. These are mature strands of content, and to expect a young person to do justice, or even do it with a fair degree of empathy, is a tough ask. To be honest, Farhan Malik, the director, needed to tweak the script a bit to get the desired (adapted) results.

Mitti Ke Gharonde begins with Salman (Mujtaba Rizvi) telling the audience about his mother, Nafeesa Bukhari (Asiya Alam), and sibling Fatima Bukhari (Fajr Sheikh). The setting is Karachi in the early 1970s. They live in a not-so-spacious apartment. The mother has had, seemingly, a colourful past and longs for materially better conditions. Her husband is no more. The sister is a polio-stricken girl who walks with a slight limp, a fact that has dented her confidence. She has developed this habit of collecting toys made of clay. Nafeesa wants her daughter to be married off. She often brings that up with Fatima who is shy about it, and once she goads the daughter into telling her whether in her younger days she liked a boy, she shows her mother a picture of a young man from school who used to sing well.

Urdu adaptation of The Glass Menagerie staged at Napa

Salman works at a godown. When Nafeesa pushes him too much about his life, they have an altercation. Then the issue of Fatima’s marriage rears its head again, and one day he invites a man Mujeeb (Yogeshwar Karera) he knows from work to dinner to see whether he takes a shine to his sister. Mujeeb is the same guy who Fatima liked in school. From there on, the story moves towards its climax.

Mitti Ke Gharonde should be appreciated because it’s staged by young people who may not have experienced or observed with a keen sense of empathy life’s socioeconomic vagaries. So even thinking about trying their hand at such a play is worth acknowledging. The performance, however, suffers on two counts: one, momentum or tempo (for which the script needed to be fiddled with; two, acting (the actors tried to bite more than they could chew by trying to go the extra mile, putting more energy into the lines than was required.)

Malik does well with lighting, which indicates he understands the value of the visual element in theatre. He should keep working at improving his craft. Art, like life, is full of learning curves.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2019