KARACHI: It’s always nice to see theatre lovers having a good time watching a play that tackles serious issues with a lot of funniness and a bit of zaniness. It happened on Tuesday evening at the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) when Jungle Mein Mangal Bazaar produced by MNQ Productions had its premiere.
Although the audience wasn’t told from what foreign text the drama was adapted or translated into Urdu, the opening scene suggested that it was a version of Italian Nobel laureate Dario Fo’s remarkable political farce Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!
Jungle Mein Mangal Bazaar will continue its run till weekend
Directed by Meesam Naqvi, Jungle Mein Mangal Bazaar begins with two women Shehla (Kiran Siddiqui) and Kiran (Masooma Nadir Dar) returning to the former’s home from a supermarket after looting a big number of food items, taking advantage of a disorderly situation. This is the time when citizens have begun to feel the pinch due to inflation. The women are now finding it difficult to hide all that stuff from their working class husbands Umair (Fraz Chhotani) and Daniyal (Farhan Alam).
Desperate to put away the stolen things, as Shahla’s husband Umair is about to come back from his office, she puts some of the bags underneath Kiran’s burqa making her look like a pregnant woman. Umair comes and is astonished to see Kiran in the family way because there were no such signs until a few days back. Shahla confuses and convinces him — in equal measure — that he doesn’t know how a woman’s body works. To spice things up, a policeman (Nazr Ul Hasan) enters the fray to investigate the supermarket incident, and the story takes one interesting turn after another, especially with reference to Kiran’s fake pregnancy.
Jungle Mein Mangal Bazaar, which will run for six days, engages the audience, as it did on Tuesday, because of the amusing improbable situation that the story places its characters in. The actors do a decent job — as is expected of them because they’re Napa graduates trained by the likes of Zia Mohyeddin — and the director seems to know his onions.
The only thing that one feels is that the Urdu script does not do full justice to socioeconomic overtones that the original version is replete with. One says this because one has seen it perform on stage on a few occasions. It touches upon the working class struggle in an effective way and sees societal issues through a feminist lens. Having said this, each production comes up with its own sets of constraints. And Naqvi’s effort is fun to watch.
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2023