The Arts Council of Pakistan will organise its first awami theatre (theatre for the masses) from April 16 to April 28, announced the council’s president Ahmed Shah on Thursday evening.

Mr Shah said there was a time when Karachi used to be the hub of theatrical activities. Awami theatre had its own charm in which great artists such as Moin Akhtar and Umar Sharif took part. Then other big names joined in. But things changed. Furthermore, the death of Moin Akhtar and the poor health of Umar Sharif (for who we pray that he recover swiftly) caused the genre a setback. Despite all that, there are people who are still associated with these kinds of stage productions (some of whom were present at the press conference).

Mr Shah said the tradition of awami theatre needs to go on. The Arts Council organises English and Urdu stage plays on a regular basis, but this particular type of theatrical activity has been ignored. The festival will be held in the open-air theatre which is being refurbished.

He said in all 14 plays will be staged during the two weeks. Apart from the bulk of Urdu plays that the audience will get to see, there will be dramas in Sindhi, Punjabi, Pashto and Seraiki. The reason for it is that Karachi is a cosmopolitan city. It is populated by people from all ethnic backgrounds. So the purpose is to do an all-inclusive festival.

The council’s president added since usually those lovers of art come and see awami theatre who do not belong to the affluent classes, the festival is free of charge.

The first play of the event that’s going to be staged on April 16 is titled Munda Bigri Jaey (Urdu) directed by Rauf Lala. The two Sindhi plays are Laila Chanesar (April 20) directed by Sindhu Ali Nawaz and Wali Daad Wail Mein (April 28) directed by Abid Naveed. The Punjabi play that’s lined up for the festival is called Dhiyan Ranian (April 19). Its director is M. Ali Naqvi. Pat Ghul Bacha (April 22) directed by Khan M. Sadiq is the Pashto play on offer and the Zahoor Malik-directed Bazu (April 21) is the Seraiki play to be staged during the event.


Originally published in Dawn, April 6th, 2018

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