One done,curtains part for another play from Pakistan as NSD gives nod

Ajoka Theatre of Pakistan can finally start packing its bags for Bharat Rang Mahotsav,the ongoing annual theatre festival of the National School of Drama.

Written by Dipanita Nath | New Delhi | Published: January 13, 2009 2:49 am

Ajoka Theatre of Pakistan can finally start packing its bags for Bharat Rang Mahotsav,the ongoing annual theatre festival of the National School of Drama.

NSD chairperson Amal Allana called director Madeeha Gauhar on Monday afternoon to confirm the invitation.

Ajoka will be the second Pakistani performance at the festival — earlier Tehrik-e-Niswan drew packed house for its play Jinnay Lahore Nahin Vekhya on Sunday evening. Gauhar,though,knows it could have been a different tale if the staging of Jinnay Lahore hadn’t been incident-free. The first Pakistani show’s success has clearly paved the way for the second.

“I am delighted,relieved,” said Gauhar,soon after receiving Allana’s call. “We have visited Bharat Rang Mahotsav for the past five years and we are glad this year will be no different. We received our visas today and are looking forward to performing in Delhi.”

Considered Asia’s largest theatre festival,Bharat Rang Mahotsav features a generous mix of Indian and foreign productions,and a Pakistan troupe is always a major draw.

Allana and NSD director Anuradha Kapoor said they had “not received any threats against inviting Pakistani troupes”. But there was tight security during Tehrik’s performance on Sunday and NSD has promised to be equally careful when the curtains rise on Ajoka’s play.

“We don’t have security for any performance but a Pakistani play is different because we live in difficult times,” Allana said.

Ajoka’s 20-member troupe from Lahore will arrive in Delhi for a performance on January 16. Like every year,the group will hold the India premier of a play: this time it is their 2008 play Hotel Mohenjodaro,a 75-minute Urdu play directed by Shahid Nadeem,which deals with religious fundamentalists who have taken over the state controls.

This would be Ajoka’s second trip to India in as many months. The 25-year-old troupe travelled to Delhi and the Thrissur International Drama Festival with Bullah barely weeks after the November 26 Mumbai attacks.

From other troubled states
Even as Israeli planes pound the Gaza Strip,Shmuel Hadjes from the Jerusalem-based PSIK Theatre Company,which will perform at Bharat Rang Mahotsav on Tuesday,says the “unfortunate war” was just waiting to happen. PSIK’s play Days of Adel deals with the Arab-Israel conflict,but from a distance. The action unfolds in a psychiatric ward where the Muslim Palestinian protagonist is convinced he is Jewish. “Adel is schizophrenic,and the dialogues between him and a Jewish character show how he turned that way,” Hadjes says.

It isn’t easy doing theatre in Afghanistan. Ask Haroon Noori and Aftaab Theatre,both of whom had to cancel the trip to India due to fund crunch and lack of state support. But the third theatre group from the war-torn country — with nine women and six men — is on its way to Bharat Rang Mahotsav with a play that is a strong commentary on freedom and feminism.

“We were part of the NSD festival last year and it was amazing to act on a real stage with a real audience,” says Monireh Hashemi,director of Letter of Suffering,to be staged on Wednesday.

Though funds are not a problem now,Hashemi is contending with threat calls: “After returning from the NSD festival last year,one girl in our group was attacked. She has opted out of theatre.”

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