Two-day Manto Drama Festival, that was in the news two weeks back due to the postponement, on works of Saadat Hasan Manto, stated to be the one of the greatest, if not the greatest, short story writers of Urdu, started at Alhamra Art Centre, The Mall, on Tuesday.
The festival organised by the Lahore Arts Council (LAC) pulled in a large gathering of Manto lovers and theatergoers alike. It witnessed a large attendance on the inaugural day.
The curtain raised with Ajoka Theatre’s famous play Toba Tek Singh, based on a famous short story of Manto. Nirvaan Nadeem, the director, gave a brief introduction of the play, saying that all the artistes performing in the play were newcomers in the field of acting.
“All these new faces joined Ajoka’s acting classes and now they have turned into precious talent, starting their acting career at the stage of Alhamra,” said Nirvaan. He thanked the LAC for holding the drama festival, featuring different theatre groups and giving meaningful and socially relevant theatre its much-needed space.
The moving spirit behind Ajoka, Shahid Nadeem, said Ajoka was paying a tribute to Manto by staging this play. He said Ajoka had a busy schedule ahead as theatrical performances were due in Karachi and Lahore. “We shall stage the play, Bari, on Feb 8 at the Punjab Institute of Language, Art and Culture (Pilac). Feb 8 is also the late Madeeha Gauhar’s birth anniversary,” he added.
The second play, titled Manto Sey Milye, was staged by Aks Theatre, an eight-year-old theatre group, doing performances in many cities.
The director of the play, Afzaal Nabi, told Dawn that Manto Sey Milye had been staged twice in Islamabad, once in Karachi and once in Faisalabad. “The play was first staged in Islamabad in 2010 and got a great response from the audience.”
Mr Nabi said the play was based on a collage of stories by Manto. The three-act play was more focused on Manto’s life in Pakistan and difficulties he faced for being a bold writer.
Both the plays were highly appreciated by the audience. The Hall 2 of Alhamra was jam-packed with the audience and many could be seen sitting on the hall’s side stairs.
LAC Executive Director Athar Ali Khan said the festival was the continuation of the council’s old tradition of staging a theatre festival every year. He said drama festival was the regular feature of the council.
On Wednesday (today), the closing day of the festival, the Azad Theatre would perform, Dafa 292, and Mass Foundation will stage, Yeh Tha Manto.
Originally published in Dawn, January 30th, 2019