Dhaani ~ Review of a Theater Play

imageGenerally my trips to the motherland are prefaced by thoughts of relaxation, good food, and catching up with friends and family – beyond this there are no plans, nor do I make lists of must-dos. This time around though, beyond the usual milna milana, sona aur khana, I did have one specific thing I wanted to do while in Karachi – go and see Dhaani.

For a while now I’ve been hearing the buzz about the revival of theater in Pakistan, and many a friend has raved about the impressive quality of plays. Coming to Dhaani specifically, I had watched the cast interviews, read a newspaper review, and caught the promotion on the various FB pages, so my interest was piqued. That the play was penned by Imrana Maqsood and Amra Alam was an incentive in and of itself, but to be very honest, above and beyond all I really wanted to see Sanam Saeed and Sarwat Gilani perform live. After the recently concluded Talkhiyan and Zindagi Gulzar Hai, there is no questioning Sanam’s talent. Similarly, Sarwat Gilani is fabulous as Zoya in an otherwise average Dil-e Muztar, and how can we forget her other recent outings in Mata-e Jaan and Mere Dard Ko Jo Zubaan Mile. So, yes expectations were high, and Dhaani was very much on my mind as I prepped for my trip.

Once home, because Dhaani ends its run tomorrow, there was no time to get acclimatized, or sleep off  jetlag, and so within 24 hours of landing I found myself at the Arts Council Theater, fingers and toes crossed hoping to not be disappointed. And, let me just tell you, it took less than ten minutes and I was blown away – Sanam and Sarwat were fabulous!

image_6Rashida Fatima and Ruqaiya are two housewives who live next to each other in a lower middle class neighborhood. Quibbling over minutiae, wanting to one-up each other about every little thing, and driven by the insane desire to always have the last word, these two ladies live to fight and fight to live. Children, husbands, close relatives, or even the firak wali maim, all have to take a back seat, as these two ladies duke it out. Alas, these two have been bickering for so long that neither remembers the original disagreement – arguments just keep flowing, one thing leading to another, spawning a never-ending list of grievances. Nonetheless, despite all their behas mubahisa, if one does not hear from other there is evidence of genuine concern, albeit expressed in their unique way. Hence we see Ruqaiya worrying about Rashida’s leg injury, and Rashida promising to help Ruqaiya in every which way to help her fight her husband’s growing interest in the firak-wali-maim. Sadly though, it doesn’t take even a few seconds before their good intentions fly out the window and its back to the same old, same old again.

image_7Sigh!! Ruqaiya and Rashida have been at it for so long that they have forgotten the art of completing a sentence without running the other down. Their children have it right – the grownups have proved themselves to be useless at letting go of the past and resolving issues amicably. It is now up to the next generation to look past older grievances and forge new paths for moving forward.

Produced by filmstar Shaan and ArtTainment Productions, this sweet little humorous story is aptly used by the Imrana and Amra duo to drive home a larger, very pertinent issue. Isn’t it high time that we as a nation stop looking behind at the divides and look for innovative ways to build bridges? We cannot move forward and address our pressing and perhaps more real problems till we resolve our neighborly disagreements. The writers’ meaningful script is ably brought to life under Umar Sultan’s direction, and the two leading ladies bring the text and subtext beautifully alive as they transform themselves into the two jhagralu housewives, bound to each other through ties of friendship, gossip, rivalry, kinship, and all else that lies in between. Apart from their superb acting, their take on the fashion industry, models and their catwalks was hilarious, their individual dance performances were stunning – an excellent job by the choreographer.

While Sarwat and Sanam were the stars, the two kids, Hooriya and Shahzeb, playing Munni and Babloo were just fantastic. We expect great performances from the older actors, but to see kids doing so well is really heartwarming. The other actors, Sundus Tariq, Kamal Hussain and Umar Sultan, all added their own flavor as the smitten ammi jaan, the tharki chacha ji and the fed-up shohar sahab. The set design stood out for its attention to detail as little things like the expensive khes, a Sindhi bed cover, was used to highlight Ruqaiya’s relatively higher social status as the saicorty wala’s wife. The excellent technical facilities, lighting, sound design, etc, all went a long way towards making this a memorable experience.

image_4I was lucky enough to catch this because I happened to be at the right place, at the right time, but for those not so fortunate, I really wish there was a way theater could become so mainstream that it becomes commonplace to have plays touring, not just in Pakistan, but abroad as well. I would be first in line to buy tickets if a play of Dhaani’s class and quality came to the US. Pakistani TV drama is already acting as a fabulous cultural ambassador for Pakistan all over the world, wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could talk about Pakistani theater in similar glowing terms as well?

Finally, before I end, a huge personal thank you to the director for being so accommodating and arranging for tickets (for a desperate fan from the US!) at such  short notice and hand delivering them – Umar Sahab, much appreciated! 

Written by SZ~

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32 replies

  1. Great review SZ. I’m so jealous you got to see this. During my last trip, Karachi the Musical was playing and we managed to catch it. What a treat to see such high quality live drama on stage in Pakistan. Have to say I was expecting something akin to a high school production in the States, so was blown away that what we got was more close to something seen Off Broadway. The production value was just out of the world. Excellent writing and original score to boot. Tickles me pink to see and hear of good art coming out of the homeland. 🙂
    Sad though that only an elite minority can afford to attend such things. When we went, the theater was not packed at all, and what crowd there was was mostly the middle aged literati. Overheard someone saying that if they offered a student discount or something, they’d get more young people into the theater. And, of course, getting young people interested in any venture is the key to longterm success. Hope the arts in Pakistan learn this lesson soon and are able to survive and thrive.

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    • @Zarqa: Thanks 🙂 Yes, I too had heard a lot of good stuff about Karachi the Musical and a few other plays, so my expectations were pretty high and was hoping to not be disappointed. While the production/direction/acting etc was all top notch, I was seriously impressed by the crowd turn out. It was jam packed and the audience was really appreciative and respectful. Apart from three girls sitting behind me, who were giving a non-stop running commentary on all and sundry issues, the rest of the audience was thoroughly engaged. I know I’m repeating myself, but I was bowled over by the entire experience!

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  2. hey where were you seated?? audience on my side was good even youngster bhe. i was in third row on right side.

    and agreed Usman is so helping. He arranged mine tickets too at the eleventh hr.

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  3. SZ ! I wish I could be that lucky next month when I am there! Reading your review is making me wanting more to watch it .. I hope GEO people would like to make more money and either telecast it as a special play or a DVD release . After watching all the morning shows in which these two amazing ladies patiently answering to REPEITITIVE questions , I am sure the theatre would be jam packed . A light hearted comedy with a deep message is all what the audiences want . I wish I was there to appreciate the writers one liners ( runs in the family ) as there one liners have more meaning then our so called leaders 3 hours Jazbaat kee Ro Mai beh jaanay wali speeches .

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    • Imrana Apa: It is an absolute pleasure to hear from you! I am honored and flattered that you took the time to read and comment on my review. It was an absolute pleasure to watch Dhaani 🙂
      Can we hope for something new from you on TV as well?

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      • @Amra Alam: Apa, lovey to hear from! Humbled and flattered to know you took the time to read and comment – much appreciated 🙂 Please continue writing such meaningful stories – we are all really tired of all the formulas and the mazloom aurats!

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  4. Thanks for the review SZ I think they can bring theatre plays via video streaming to a greater audience. The council can set up show times and charge for each ticket purchased; charge a high enough price to cover the cost for the video stream. It won’t be like sitting in the audience but a great way to reach a broader base of viewers.
    Glad you got to enjoy the live performances -theatre is always so much FUN to watch! My aunt and uncle go to most of these and love it. Last one they attended was Angan Thera and said it was great too.

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  5. SZ, what fun it must have been !
    Theatre is an amazing experience. I had watched Sanam Saeed in Mamma Mia and she was fabulous !!!!

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  6. Thank you Naz for the clips … Allah tumhara bhalaa karay behen !!! And Allah thature waloon ko taufeeq day Kay poora dirama release karain ! Honestly speaking feeling helpless Kay ” Kaaaash ” I was there too 😦
    The girls did an amazingly unbelievable job , the one liners were so good Kay I wonder how did they managed not to laugh and kept performing ! Loved there ACCENT ! It’s viral as I feel like taaalking that way !! Lol
    Thank you once again as Sunnay Mai Kay Dhaani is brilliant and actually watching it ( even for seconds ) is something else. Finally Karachites was given something to laugh about … The whole team deserves ” SITARA AY IMTIAZ” along with “JURRAT” !!!

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    • LOLs.. Sheema it was my first ever theater experience, and seriously it was amazing. Both Ladies were really fabulous, whether its accent or body language !!

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    • @Sheema: Awww.. I’m sure when you get here there will be something else on … seems like there is a lot of this kind of stuff going on in Karachi these days.

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  7. thanks for sharing SZ!

    Now I have a question completely unrelated to the post, but I have no idea how to contact anyone from the site other than posting a comment. I totally understand that email addresses are kept private, but sometimes I’m not sure where to go other than the comment section

    Anyhow, I hope you don’t mind my asking, but when does Behadd air on Hum tv? Other than checking into this website for a review, I have no idea how to figure out when it is airing. Can someone help me out? And if there is another way to communicate and ask questions other than posting them on the comments section, please let me know, thanks!

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    • @Twinks: hey!! So according to Humtv and facebook updates Behaad was originally supposed to play this Saturday (June 1) but it has been postponed until June 8. Lets see if they will play it this time around.

      As for your other question about contacting someone or asking a question regarding current plays and all, here is the facebook page for SZ. You can inbox or post a comment on the wall! Or send a Tweet! 🙂

      https://www.facebook.com/desirants.nraves?ref=tn_tnmn

      https://twitter.com/sz_rnr

      Hope that helps!! 🙂

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      • @Ash: thanks a bunch for answering my question 🙂 As it happens, I think I am the only person on planet earth not on facebook ha! ha! I think I am little too freaked out about everyone knowing my business 🙂

        But I will keep an eye out for Behaad next week!

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  8. Zabardast Review SZ!! Wish, Dhaani was played at Arts Council while I was in Karachi for holiday :/ Though I got a chance to watch Anwar Maqsood’s copycat prodction “pawney 14 August” last year..the whole family is so talented!!! Thanks once again 🙂

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  9. You are in Karachi?!?? You lucky lucky woman ! Enjoy! I heard about Dhaani from a number of people and everyone seems to have loved it thus far.
    chat soon 🙂

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  10. Wow!.. it seems really great that hearing lots of praises about Dhaani were actually worth of it.. i envy you lucky girl 😀
    i wish even theater plays could be uploaded on internet too… but oh well the real fun is actually watching it live 🙂
    Its good knowing that theater in Pakistan is still showcasing awesome work~

    Enjoy to the most SZ! 🙂

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