In Baba Jalinoos, a centuries-old play shows us how faith can be misused
Baba Jalinoos—the manhoos or cursed—is how we are introduced to a character in the play Baba Jalinoos, who is detested by an entire family except the matriarch, dadi, who defends his ways like she's being paid to do so.
Based on French playwright Moliere's work Tartuffe, the title means ‘Imposter’ and this is the theme around which the play revolves. Directed by Fawad Khan, the script for Jalinoos has been written by Khalid Ahmed who has effortlessly translated the true essence of the play by retaining its style in Urdu i.e. rhyming couplets.
Who is Baba Jalinoos?
We don’t meet Baba right away; he's built up overtime so we are well informed of his crooked acts. As the name implies, Jalinoos reeks of fakeness and duality and in a society where hypocrisy and religiosity exist side by side, he represents our everyday cleric. The story is set in Karachi during the 70s when society was going through an upheaval with regard to the imposition of religious laws.
Opening with the matriarch Bari Begum Sahiba (Asma Mundrawala) lecturing the family members including her daughter-in-law, Alveena (Mehwish Farooqi), grandchildren, Danish (Hasan Raza) and Maryum (Irum Bashir), Alveena’s brother Kaleem (Hamaad Siddiqui) and Maryum’s caretaker, Marjeena (Mazeena Malik), the play starts on an evident clash of opinion.
|Bari Begum Sahiba gives a tight scolding to the family members. — Photo by Zoya Anwer|
Bari Begum Sahiba refuses to acknowledge that Baba Jalinoos has hypnotised her son Azam (Farhan Alam) and is insistent upon building a holier than thou image for Baba whose reverence is talk of the town. When she is told that he finds fault in everything she gives a snarky reply that keere hotay hain jo nikale jatay hain (faults are present hence they’re pointed out). However when none of them budge she uses the ultimate manipulation -- she leaves the house.
|The rest of the family members listen to Bari Begum Sahiba's praises about Jalinoos. — Photo by Zoya Anwer|
Here is when we find out that Maryum is engaged to Waleed (Kaleem Ghauri) and that although Azam has given his word he isn’t too eager to marry her off to her lover. Pushed by Danish, Kaleem who happens to be Azam’s sala, summons courage to discuss the matter with Azam.
Azam, who is mesmerised by Baba’s piety, refuses to listen to Kaleem. The blame is conveniently shifted to Kaleem’s books, which have supposedly fill his mind with notions about ‘atheism’ whereas it is Kaleem who insists that the true believers act on God’s word instead of imposing it on others.
Soon enough it is revealed that Azam, blinded in his dedication to Baba now wishes Maryum to marry Baba. Despite strong protests by Marjeena, Maryum gives in and gets a tight scolding by her caretaker.
|Azam tries to convince Maryum to marry Baba as Marjeena intervenes. — Photo by Laila Raza|
Enter Baba Jalinoos who chants holy names to suit his persona but Marjeena is present to set him straight as he gets sleazy about her attire. However as soon as Alveena comes forward, Baba forgets and makes it clear that he wouldn’t for the world miss an opportunity to show his unwanted affection.
|Baba Jalinoos eyes Marjeena and deems her attire unsuitable. — Photo by Zoya Anwer|
Danish, witnessing all this, gets enraged only to be stopped by Azam who refuses to believe wife and son regarding Baba’s advances. But before the worst can happen, Azam decides to wait and see if Alveena’s version of events is plausible but not before handing over his estate to Baba Jalinoos for which he does suffer at the end -- albeit for a while only.
Does Baba live amongst us?
Although Tartuffe was written in the 17th century, it is as relevant now as it was then. While Azam’s allegiance to a man who puts on a façade by playing the cleric card shocked many, it’s not wrong to say that there are many people who will still fall for those adopting the persona of the faithful.
|Alveena tries to get away from a lustful Baba. — Photo by Laila Raza|
During the play one get frustrated at Azam’s attitude toward his family, whose word he’s supposed to trust above all, but at the same time one is also angered at Maryum’s silence which is broken only by Marjeena. Shown to be of a lower stature, Marjeena becomes the voice of reason as she does not only answer her master she also tries to find a solution to the issue at hand.
Marjeena is what we all want to be as she refuses to coddle Maryum and reminds us that love is not for the faint-hearted and one has to raise their voice to be counted.
Just ‘not’ for laughs:
Given that it’s a comedy, Baba Jalinoos has its comic moments. The entry of Maryum’s lover Waleed, Marjeena’s cutting comments, Azam’s unquestioned loyalty to Baba and Baba falling on his knees left all in fits of laughter.
|Danish looks flabbergasted as Azam falls for Baba's tactics. — Photo by Laila Raza|
Following an excellent script, the actors have also given a wonderful performance especially Marjeena and as expected Baba Jalinoos.
Baba Jalinoos is a must-watch for all those who love the stage because it not only portrays the bitter truth, it also makes us chuckle with amusement.
|Baba gets the police to help him. — Photo by Laila Raza|
Yet everyone leaving the theatre should also remember that all the while we were not just laughing at Baba, we were laughing at ourselves.
The one-and-a-half hour play starts at 8pm and will be staged till September 20. The tickets, priced at Rs1000 each and Rs500 for students, will be available at NAPA, T2F and Alliance Francaise.