It is not justified, by any means, to quote a line from a classic drama to review a piece of comedy. It is unfair to both.
But the idea is to contextualise, or to put it simply, to define what we understand when we hear that a ‘play’ is being put up on stage for an audience. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Hamlet gathers a bunch of actors to do a playlet in order to ascertain his uncle Claudius’s (the murderer of his father) reaction and says: “The play is the thing/Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” In technical terms, it implies a ‘conflict’ that’s essential to every drama; or every story, for that matter, told in any genre.
KopyKats Productions’ presentation Kyun Nikala written by Anwar Maqsood and directed by Dawar Mehmood that premiered on Monday evening, and in fact had two performances without a long breather with audiences packing the Arts Council auditorium like there’s no tomorrow, had some really funny moments. The question is: Will I categorise it as a play? The answer: I’m not sure.
Anwar Maqsood is the country’s foremost humorist. His lines make you laugh and sometimes smile — he is an extremely witty and intelligent person. Monday night was no different. There were some lines and tit-for-tat situations that were genuinely amusing and made the audience marvel at the man’s inordinate talent.
However, the 70-odd-minute setting had a linear progression that left me wondering about the plot, and, more importantly, conflict. What kept happening was that the audience eagerly waited for a rib-tickling line, and that’s exactly what they got. So, it can be deduced that the production is a successful one.
The problem with constructing a story around ‘current affairs’ is that those who have come to watch it are already aware of the political goings-on, so the element of surprise goes out the window. Kyun Nikala is about a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz man, Chaudhry, (Sajid Hasan) who is disturbed by the current happenings with general elections to take place on July 25. He has a Bengali cook, Mujeeb, (Mohsin Ejaz) who is wiser than any other character in the play, and his wife, Modi, (Sarah Saifi) keeps trying to convince him to join the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
Early on in the play, a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) worker (Tanveer Gill) comes in to try and buy Chaudhry’s loyalty. The PPP worker walks with a limp, and the reason for it is that ‘main ne aik dafa Zardari sahib ke kaam mein taang ara di thi’. Then there are other political and semi-political characters, writing about which would spoil the fun for those who wish to watch Kyun Nikala.
Coming back to the plot: the creative team behind any such effort should pore over the script once its first draft is finished. I’m sure it was done. However, things like just a single entry of the character of a lawyer indicate that the makers of Kyun Nikala were worried about the duration of the ‘play’.
The counter argument against what so far has been written is that the entire effort has been put in to give the audience a nice, fun-filled time. In that case, the play is a more than worthy attempt. It is guaranteed that whoever goes to see it will have a very good time. And boy, do we Pakistanis need to laugh and loosen up! Kudos on that count.
Originally published in Dawn, August 15th, 2018