Saturday, July 24, 2010

Theatre in Lahore: Khatra-e-Jaan (22nd- 24th July 2010) ****

Day 1: House Full

Day 2: House Full


Theatre in Lahore is primarily divided into three categories: the traditional Punjabi (not for families), the Urdu artistic kind and finally the new breed of English plays. The last kind attracts a mass youth following; but the problem with these plays is that the culture they present isn’t ours, the language isn’t ours and finally over time they have become excessively similar to their Punjabi counterparts save for the language…amidst all this Khatra-e-Jaan is a welcome break. Talal Ali Jan (director) and Hell Box production with a team of young talented actors took Dr. Enver Sajjad’s script and turned it into an evening full of spirit and light hearted laughter. The best part about the play for me was that it was funny without the usual lewd comedy and actually had some moral worth.

The play is set in a typical ‘undroon shehr’ clinic, the story revolves around a greedy mal-practicing doctor who doesn’t have a degree and is responsible for the deaths of many. His daughter Bano is in love with her cousin Khalid a poor clerk, but Doctor Sahib is against their marriage. Majeed the dispenser at the clinic wants to one day become a doctor like his boss, through hit and trial to eventually win the hand of his love interest Naila, a small town girl.

The doctor one day on his return from a house call, throws one of his usual tantrums, gets rid of everyone and starts drinking, until lights flash and there is complete blackout, he presumes it’s just merely power failure until from amidst the audience a ghost steps forth and onto the stage. The ‘Ajnabee’ tells him that he is here to take him to hell; initially the doctor assumes he’s just a patient with dementia, but on his dispenser’s return he realizes although everyone can hear the ghost they can’t see him. The identity of the ‘Ajnabee’ is revealed towards the latter half of the play. During the course of the play you will be introduced to various other characters, each one of them funnier than the next.

The actors were a group of extremely talented youngsters, whose age you would not be able to guess until the curtain call and you will be surprised to say the least. Ajnabee played by fifteen year old Hamza Kamal gets the most laughs, what’s amazing is the fact that his improv of the original character is what drew most applause and appreciation. Majeed played by Farrukh for me was the strongest and most consistent character. Truth be told I wasn’t expecting much out of this play, in fact I was sure that it would be yet another typical wannabe angraiz comedy performed by a bunch of young bucks who don’t have a clue but I was amazed, the content and the performances far exceeded my expectations. Maie Haseena, Naila, Khalid, Bibi Majeeda, Muna, Bano, Ainak wala Baba and Maulvi as supporting characters were amazing. Talal and the rest of the Hell Box team you guys did a great job… two thumbs up!


A little criticism is a must, what was missing were brochures…so, writing this review was a memory test as far as the cast and character names were concerned. Oh and a shout out to the hall management and security team: great crowd control!

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