May 5, 2008 - published work    No Comments

King Lear comes to Pakistan

My Latest published work

The story of Sufaid Khoon, Agha Hashar’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’, is as old as time and still relevant to us all.

Like its inspiration, the play opens with a court scene where King Khaqan (superbly played by Talat Hussain) asks his daughters about affections for their father. The elder daughters Mahpara (Bakhtawar Mazhar) and Dil Ara (Maria Rabab) eloquently praised their father to the skies and were suitably rewarded for flattery; the king distributed the kingdom between the two of them.

However, the king was not happy with the youngest daughter Zara (Aymen Aly) who did not display affection for her father in the court and was consequently sent away. The daughters turn out to be greedy and power hungry and drove their father to madness. He took refuge in the jungle along with a couple of his loyal ministers. When Zara hears about it, she comes to take her father with her. When the older sisters learned that Zara is now taking care of their father, they abducted Zara and their father with the help of Bairam (Paras Masroor), the scheming son of one of the loyal ministers of the king and attempted to kill them both but end up killing each other.

The play was interspersed with a parallel comedic story which depicted an early 20th century haveli with a patriarch Turram (Jamal Abro), his son Jalil (Zeeshan Haider Nalwala), his daughter-in-law Laila (Shagufta Mumtaz Shah) and Jalil’s tutor Baghlol (Syed Ather Abbas) along with two extremely cheeky servants Guldam (Uroosa Shamim Siddiqui) and Gul Khairu (Farhan Shah) and two guests Karak (Kashif Sial )and Bharak (Mohsin Ali Shah).

Although not related to the original story line, a comedic portion was written to break up the original tragedy as was the tradition in early 20th century. Apart from the genre and storyline, the parallel stories are visually different as well. The actors in the tragedy were attired in elaborate period costumes while the comedic period had actors wearing early 20th century outfits such as achkans and chooridar pajamas.

The play was the first production of NAPA (National Academy of Performing Arts) Repertory Theatre Company. According to the artistic director of NAPA Repertory Theatre Company (NRTC) Rahat Kazmi, the company is established to promote an appreciation for professional theatre and is committed to all forms of theatre; from high brow experimental work to comedy and hyperbolic melodrama. The company will also work on translations from across the globe.

Staged at the the Karachi Arts Council, the play is produced and directed by theatre veteran Zia Mohyeddin. Apart from Talat Hussain, all the actors were NAPA students. The set and props, designed by Schahbaz Chaudhry were minimal. The costumes designed by Ismail Fareed, Ambreen Inayat Ali and M. Talha were suitable, however, the accessories used by male artists were make-shift and it showed. The original music was composed by Nafees Ahmed and beautifully performed by the Napa music ensemble.

Talat Hussain turned in another stellar performance. His dialogue delivery was impeccable and the shift from an arrogant emperor to a senile old man in rags was flawless. Among the young actors, Paras Masroor had the best lines and did full justice to his role. His costume was perhaps the best in the play and was designed keeping in mind his sinister character which added a new dimension to his character. Bakhtawar Mazhar and Aymen Aly played their parts with conviction. It was a pleasure to listen to such lyrical dialogues in Urdu with correct diction. It shows the hard work put in by the director Zia Mohyeddin and the young actors. The only weak performance of the play was from Maria Rabab who played middle sister Dil Ara.

Among the actors in the comedic part of the play, Uroosa Shamim Siddiqui as the cheeky maid was a winner and drew most claps. Farhan Shah and Syed Athar Abbas were excellent and carried their roles with requisite chutzpah.

NRTC deserves all the credit for staging this Agha Hashar play as their maiden venture.

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