ISLAMABAD, June 8: Popular entertainment goes to advance community life. Theatre, particularly serious theatre, plays a vital role in keeping society abreast with contemporary issues in a creative way. Hotel Mohenjodaro presented by the Ajoka group is one such example of intelligent comment on the rise in extremism that has been seen in recent years.

The play is an adaptation of Ghulam Abbas’s short story Dhanak that he wrote back in the mid-1960s.

Shahid Nadeem who has adapted and directed the drama has cleverly narrated the serious theme in a comic way which adds to the impact of the story. It is remarkable how swiftly Shahid Nadeem gets audiences involved with his dramatis personae despite their outlandish appearances.

It is a zesty story. The master wordsmith Shahid Nadeem’s humour is astonishingly broad as he jumps from stoic sarcasm to slapstick. “This drama has an accessible, casual quality, like the most entertaining story you’ve ever heard standing around the water cooler. Witty and thought-provoking piece of popular entertainment at its best,” as a knowledgeable somebody in the audience remarked.

The story of Hotel Mohenjodaro is so relevant and close to the present-day ugly reality that it is hard to believe a writer (Ghulam Abbas) could have foretold it with such uncanny accuracy.

The crackling scenes depicting religious zealots may cause quite a furore among the conservative people as truth is bitter and hard to digest. The picture of Pakistan painted in this story was far-fetched and unimaginable — Pakistan was progressive enough to have conquered the moon. The State was all powerful, the military ruler Ayub Khan was in full control with feudal and tribal lords controlling the destinies of large sections of the society and the ‘Westernised’ civil-military elite held sway. In this dispensation the sudden take over of the country by the turban-brigades and imposition of their retrogressive and intolerant ideology with the acquiescence of the establishment leading to the disastrous consequences with which people are now quite familiar, do not cause any shock or surprise. But it was quite unimaginable when Abbas wrote his prophetic story.

Fused with musical portrayal of violence, visual aid and songs like Band Karo, Sab Band Karo, Hum Rokain Gay, Janat Kay Mazay Hum Lootain Gay and Marna Halal Hai, Jena Haram Hai, the disturbing drama presents the primitive thinking and the irrational world view that wants to destroy the civilization. The chilling end comes when the sound of war planes is heard in the skies. Surely they were not friendly planes.

The cast was flawless and expertly directed. The maulanas — Imranul Haq, Usman Zia — who also played the Ambassador and General, and the Ameer played by Sarfaraz Ansari gave their most likable performance.

“It is the most intelligent and engagingly intellectual theatre piece — honestly fascinating, even brilliant work,” said an Ajoka fan.