Siachen: Did Anwar Maqsood's latest script leave us dewy-eyed?

Published 02 Nov, 2015 01:20pm

Bilal Agha

This theatrical endeavour to explore the human cost of the Siachen conflict was a good one, but could have been better

When Anwar Maqsood’s theatrical plays come to the Capital, his name is enough to draw a crowd.

Isloo-ites know they are in for a special treat. With chunks of satire and morsels of gravity garnished with a message for the youth, his plays serves as food for thought for the 300-plus literary-starved audience in attendance during each show.

His latest offering Siachen is no different.

Up on the world's highest battlefield

The play opens with a mother bidding farewell to her Siachen-bound son, a sister saying goodbye to her brother, a wife sending off her husband and a father promising a football gift to his son on his return – all against the aural backdrop of Anwar Maqsood's voice, who expresses their hopes of return. From the get-go, the play reminds us of the human cost of the war on the world's highest battleground.

We move to a snowcapped peak, where a young, courageous soldier delivers a monologue in Urdu, tinged with the Pashto accent, about destroying the enemy single-handedly.

He is however soon joined by a group of other jawans stationed on the Siachen base and the conversation shifts to their personal lives.

There is no doubt left with the audience that the jawans are very homesick as their dialogues revolved around the upcoming wedding of a sister, a mother’s letter, commitments with the fiancée.

But, their conversation also powerfully establishes that patriotism overshadows everything for these sons of the soil. Their motherland takes precedence even over their mothers, thus highlighting the quintessence of their obligation to the country.

The scene then moves to a light exchange between the Pakistani and Indian soldiers about a Pak-India cricket match. Each Pakistani soldier took turns to humour the audience with their witty repartee with their Indian counterparts. The lines were classic Anwar Maqsood.

The acts to follow included a visit of a young female BBC journalist, who lightens the mood of the soldiers with her presence and eventually forms a love triangle with the captain and a soldier. In the same act, the writer delivers a strong message for the audience when the soldier takes a bullet for her.

Some laughs, some tears

Anwar Maqsood also wrote in the character of an Indian Behari soldier, who has lost his way, stumbled into the Pakistani camp and became a Prisoner of War. One expected that Anwar Maqsood's satire would come out in full force in this scene, but the most of its humour drew from the accented dialogue delivery rather than content of the script.

The rest of the play packed the right punches, especially because its humour was not Karachi-centric, like KopyKats' past plays.

Born and bred Isloo-ites find it hard to understand the significance of Burnes Road or Guru Mandir or Kati Pahari because they are unfamiliar with the Karachi landscape.

Siachen, however, only focused on the day-to-day activities of the soldiers stationed at the peak, their human aspect and their love for the country. It gave a bird’s eye view to every Pakistani in attendance as to what sacrifices our jawans are giving to protect their country and the countrymen.

However, the emotional scenes in the play failed to bring tears to the audience, despite the melancholic musical score, as they ran for too short a duration.

Dialogue delivery at times lacked clarity as one could witness more laughter coming from the lower end of the theater than from the audience seated in the back rows.

Still, one must give credit where it's due. It hasn't been too long since KopyKats Productions was able to convince Mr Maqsood to rewrite a few of his idiot box blockbusters for the stage.

This nostalgic endeavour has not only brought back the golden era of PTV but also passes on the quintessence of good scripts to the next generation of playwrights and novelists, thus giving them a wake-up call.