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The pangs of infidelity

April 02, 2013

Ramiz and Zoya in a scene where he makes her confess to her extramarital affair.–Photo by White Star

KARACHI: Nobel winning British playwright Harold Pinter was known for his short sentences and minimum use of lines marked by pregnant pauses.

When he investigated the intricacies of human relationships, he did so by trying to expose those facets of his characters which hid behind multiple masks. ‘Betrayal’ was one of his dramas that fell into that category. An Urdu adaptation of the play titled ‘Faraib’ written by Zohair Raza and directed by Uzma Sabeen at the National Academy of Performing Arts in-house theatre on Monday came pretty close to Pinter’s work in terms of intensity.

Faraib basically traces the seven-year deception trail of a married couple Ramiz (Rauf Afridi) and Zoya (Joshinder Chagger). Ramiz’s best friend Zain (Fawad Khan), who is also married, has had an affair with Zoya for the past five years and when the play commences Zoya tells Zain that she has told her husband about her unfaithfulness.

The play moves back and forth (mostly backwards) in time. When the audience first gets to see the protagonists it’s in 2013 at a restaurant where Zoya informs Zain she has come clean before her husband. The revelation disturbs Zain suggesting he never wanted Ramiz to know about it. During the course of their chitchat it is also revealed that it’s been two years since they broke up.

The next scene takes place at Ramiz’s house where Zain meets him to ward off guilt. He receives another shock when Ramiz, in a rather nonchalant way, discloses that he has known about the affair for the past four years.

The scene shifts to the year 2011 in a flat where Zain and Zoya spend time together. Here the issues weighing on their minds regarding their extramarital relationship peel off bit by bit as they quarrel over insignificant things.

The defining scene follows next in 2008 when during a foreign trip Ramiz manages to extract the truth out of Zoya and she confesses that she’s been having an affair with Zain. When the scene begins she is reading the book by an author that Zain, who is a publisher, has introduced. Ramiz in a roundabout way touches on the subject of the book and claims that it’s about betrayal. Zoya pretends she does not see him eye to eye. When Ramiz pushes the subject and tells her that he has received a letter addressed to her, Zoya realizes there is no use hiding the facts.

Then the flat where the lovers meet becomes the centre of attention. Zoya’s guilt becomes prominent and she mixes up a few facts about the foreign trip that she had with her husband. The sequence is followed by Zain and Ramiz’s discussion at a restaurant where Ramiz pricks Zain’s conscience but Zain puts that down to his drunkenness and is unaware that Ramiz knows about everything.

The penultimate scene happens in 2007 in the flat where the Zain and Zoya affair is in full swing. Zoya tells him that she ran into his wife, Ayesha, which perturbs Zain. When Zoya drops a hint that his wife might be interested in someone else he unconvincingly shuns the notion. The last scene unfolds in 2004 when during a party at Ramiz’s house Zain first expresses his love for Zoya.

Faraib was a successful effort in the sense that despite not being typically Pinteresque, it conveyed the crux of the story as far as concealed human emotions are concerned. The high point of the play was Joshinder Chagger’s impressive acting. Perhaps the only thing that she needs to work on is voice projection; otherwise she is a natural performer. In virtually every scene she outshone her co-actors, who, by the way, did not do a bad job. But one felt that Fawad Khan could have done a bit more to look like an audacious lover. Rauf Afridi was very good in a couple of scenes as the cuckold husband. Especially when he would suddenly start speaking at the top of his lungs, he persuasively portrayed the man faced with a painful truth and can’t do much about it.

The director too must be commended for being mindful of not just physical but psychological positioning of the characters. As for the script, since it is almost impossible to transfer a Harold Pinter drama into another cultural setting mainly because of the unspoken words, the writer’s effort was noteworthy.