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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Across the Border

The roots of fundamentalism in the subcontinent run deep,perhaps deeper than the Partition of India,” says Sheema Kermani,whose group Tehrik-e-Niswan is part of the Pakistani contingent at the ongoing Bharat Rang Mahotsav...

Written by Dipanita Nath |
January 11, 2009 2:21:47 am

Two Pakistani theatre troupes bring political commentary to the Bharat Rang Mahotsav

The roots of fundamentalism in the subcontinent run deep,perhaps deeper than the Partition of India,” says Sheema Kermani,whose group Tehrik-e-Niswan is part of the Pakistani contingent at the ongoing Bharat Rang Mahotsav,the annual festival of Delhi’s National School of Drama. The only other troupe from across the border is Ajoka Theatre,which will hold the India premier of its 2008 play,Hotel Mohenjodaro.

India’s cricket tour of Pakistan may be off,but the presence of the two groups affirms that cultural dialogue has survived despite the current diplomatic freeze. It hasn’t been smooth sailing though. NSD’s original plan had included a performance of Salman Shahid’s Glad Tidings and Abdullah. “They dropped out suddenly due to

logistical and organizational problems rather than Indo-Pak tensions,” says Anuradha Kapoor,director of NSD. Ajoka Theatre,that toured India with Bullah in December was then invited to fill in the vacant s lot.

Kapoor adds that both plays present “a strong political commentary,especially on the present state of the subcontinent”. Hotel Mohenjodaro provides a glimpse into the retrogressive ideology of religious fundamentalists who propagate a rigid interpretation of Islam. Written in the mid-1960s when religious fanatics were marginalised in Pakistan,it finds an echo in the contemporary realities of the country.

Tehrik revisits the Partition through Jinnay Lahore Nahin Vekhya,an adaptation of a Habib Tanvir play. A family of Indian Muslims is allotted a house after they migrate to Pakistan. Even as they settle in,they find to their surprise that the house wasn’t exactly empty — an old Hindu woman,mother of the former owner has been hiding there all along. “We have worked on the original script to make it more relevant to our situation in Pakistan,how religion is used by goonda elements for vested interests and the rise of intolerance,” explains Kermani.

The play is full of layers for her personally. A Bharatnatyam and Odissi dancer,she was the first Pakistani to introduce Odissi in Pakistan and even now,hers is the only institute in Pakistan that teaches the dance. Kermani was on an ICCR scholarship to India when she met Tanvir as he first staged the play in 1989. “After coming back to Pakistan we did this play for the first time in 1991. This was during General Zia ul Haq’s dictatorship and the play eventually got banned,” she recalls. The group staged it secretly and “was amazed when a large number turned up to watch it”. The popularity shows that. “We bond together on the basis of the same culture,same language,same heritage,same history; we must celebrate our similarities.”

Jinnay Lahore Nahin Vekhyawill be staged at 9.30 pm today at NSD
Hotel Mohenjodaro will be staged on January 19 at 2.30pm and 6pm at NSD
Contact: 23383420

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