LAHORE - The Government College University Dramatics Club (GCDC) staged Bano Qudsia’s Mukhtarnama which will be remembered.
The play gained wide applause and critical acclaim from writers, actors, students and old Ravians here at the university’s Bokhari Auditorium.
Highlighting the dearth of true democratic values in our culture, the play was presented as part of GCU’s 150th anniversary celebrations. “The university’s Dramatics Club turns 124 this year,” said Prof Dr Khaleequr Rehman, the Vice Chancellor of GCU.
Mukhtar Nama is a play in three acts about a family led by a retired bureaucrat named Riaz Bakhtiar, who thinks he can run the country as efficiently as he runs his family. He thinks of himself as a democrat and an ideal leader; the irony is that he was not. Omer Dar deftly establishes Riaz’s messiah complex and his personal eccentricities through his nuanced performance. Dar manages to capture the audience’s attention in his witty exchanges with the packer played rather well by Hafiz Habib and the family driver Basheer played by GCDC president Zohaib Zafar. The chemistry between the two is both amusing and entertaining. Basheer delivers most of his dialogues in an amusing Seraiki dialect.
Other characters making their entries at regular intervals were Riaz’s spouse, the repressed housewife Gul, (Mariam Naqvi); their fickle daughter Fareeda (Rida Sheikh), and her effeminate brother Haroon (Umar Ijaz). We learn that Riaz has sought premature retirement to venture into the business of agricultural implements and wants the family to move to Karachi.
The second act opens with the arrival of Niaz Rasool, Riaz’s clever cousin who has come to help the family. Abdullah Hashmi steals most of the limelight in this part of the play by his masterful acts. He depicts different shades of Niaz Rasool’s character with a near professional flair. He is deceitful, deprived, lecherous, conspiring and very funny. Niaz Rasool presents himself as an alternative to Riaz’s autocratic dominance, but in reality he is a conniving sod who uses a different set of tactics to achieve the same ends. He gradually plants dissent in the family and convinces them to stand up to Riaz. The third act becomes highly symbolic with the final face-off between Riaz and Niaz Rasool resembling the strife between leaders contending for power in Pakistani society. At about this time, the chants of a procession are heard in the household. The procession is demanding the implementation of true democratic values in the country. Riaz and Niaz Rasool fight over who should lead the people. Bano Qudsia uses deliberate ambiguity to leave the play open ended for the audience.
Mukhtar Nama was written by Bano Qudsia during martial law. The play emphasizes the necessity of democracy, but perhaps more importantly; makes a point of stressing the dearth of true democratic values in our culture.
This increases the scope of the play and it becomes relevant not only because of our military-dominated history, but also for the autocratic values in place even during civilian rule. The directors seem to be emphasizing that intolerance towards dissent is part of our culture.
The set consisted of a traditional household interior. What added an element of pleasant surprise was faculty member Fatima Batool’s decision to create a retro look by dressing the characters in the fashion of the 70s. Batool arranged for men to be dressed in wide collar shirts, bell bottoms, and corduroy and suede vests. Farida’s character wore a Shabnam-style Jordache and carried a leather purse with beaded fringes. Riaz Bakhtiar and Haroon wore classical Waheed Murad era attire. This made the performance all the more colourful.
Most of the lines in Act 1 were delivered in an exaggerated manner. In Act II, the actors became more nuanced with Niaz Rasool conspiring and creating humour through the wit in the dialogue and sometimes through his own ingenuity in delivering even serious lines. All the characters assumed a serious tone by Act III. In all, the GCDC team managed to deliver a powerful performance augmented with lighting effects and music.
The play was directed by Dr Salman Bhatti, Sameer Ahmed and Dr Atif Yaqub. The production team was headed by Fatima Batool and Yousra Anwer. Lighting was managed by Hammad Safee Sohail. The music was handled by Muzamil Shabbir, Ali Afzal and Zukhruf Shokat.