Generally 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!
Rashida 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.
Sigh!! 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.
I 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~