True to the traditions of NAPA, the young directors opted for Urdu adaptations of plays from foreign lands—Russian, French, Indian, English, and American plays of different genres were staged in the festival
One thing that I have noticed in my teaching career is that students can surprise you. They surprise you with their questions, with their answers, and most importantly by a mature way they act in their assignments. So, I was well prepared for brilliance when I went to see the plays at the National Academy of Performing Arts-Napa’s Young Directors’ Theater Festival. The young directors, however, still surprised me with their handling of some of the very difficult scripts that they had chosen.
True to the traditions of NAPA, the young directors opted for Urdu adaptations of plays from foreign lands—Russian, French, Indian, English, and American plays of different genres were staged in the festival.
Babar Ali’s choice was Badal Sircar’s celebrated play Evam Indrajit (original Bangla title Ebong Indrajit meaning And Indrajit). This play is an Indian answer to European tradition of Theater of the Absurd. The most difficult part of handling this play is working on its tempo, and Babar Ali did a remarkable task at that. His cast, Mujtaba Rizvi, Syed Arsalan, and Raana Kazmi supported by Waqas Akhtar, Ramis Munir, Ameed Akbar, and Manal Siddiqui, too were brilliant. The play is mainly a dialogue between the Writer and Indrajit — the two main characters of the play. While the Writer is looking for characters for his play, Indrajit shows him that his life will remain monotonous and perhaps this monotony is the purpose of life for average people. That is why he does not want to stand out from the crowd and is introduced as … And Indrajit.
Neil Simon’s ‘The Prisoner of Second Avenue’ was Pakistanized as Khoya Hua Aadmi by Kamal Ahmed Rizvi who had directed it too. But when young director Sibtain Ali handled this script, he infused a new life into this play. He showed that it is not age or experience that matters when it comes to handling Simon’s most honest work; it is understanding the spirit of the script and putting that spirit in the cast. His actors, particularly Kiran Siddiqui as Syeda Binish Naqvi and Syed Qasim Shah as Syed Danish Naqvi, showed a lot of depth and maturity in playing their roles.
‘Shaam bhi thi dhuan dhuan’ was directed by Samina Sehar. This Indian adaptation of Alekseĭ Nikolaevich Arbuzov’s play Old World (original Russian title Stahry Mir) is a very difficult play to handle because it has only two characters, and to carry such a play for its entire duration requires some exceptional performances. Kainat Muhammad as Oma Roy was outstanding and Zulfiqar Ghouri as Dr Daniyal Shah was also worth praising. The director used musical interludes of live piano and violin to keep the mood of the play as well as to ensure that the pauses between scene changes did not become boring.
Two other plays in the festival were Bichhoo (Moliere’s Les Fourberies de Scapin, meaning Deceits of Scapin) and Loot by Joe Orton. We all know handling comedy is no joke. While Aisha Bukhteyar’s direction of the former left much to be desired, Rao Shahwaiz’s direction of the latter was very good. His script was full of comical innuendos but his understanding of staging British humor could be seen in the way he handled the action of the play. His cast, especially Bazelah Mustafa, Husnain Falak, and Ahad Touqeer, showed us how comic situations must be played with a lot of straight face.
The five directors were the recent graduates of Napa. These were mostly their first productions after completing their diploma programme. But the maturity they showed promises that we will have some very excellent directors in the market for some good plays. One hopes that they also start looking into the prospects of directing local contemporary plays, as NAPA usually ignores this field. After all, NAPA only teaches performing arts and cannot focus on works that have been written during the last half a century in Pakistan.
But for these directors, their professional lives have just begun.