Tum Kaun: Exploring Shared Identities across the India-Pakistan Border

    Written by: Madiha Shekhani
    Posted on: March 30, 2015 | Post your comment here Comments | 中文

    Cast of the play 'Tum Kaun' - Play 'Tum Kaun' at NAPA International Theatre Festival 2015 Karachi

    Cast of the play 'Tum Kaun'

    The remarkably successful NAPA International Theatre Festival produced yet another smashing success – 'Tum Kaun’, which not only left the audience in fits of laughter, but simultaneously made them rethink their clichéd views about their neighboring country, India. The play seamlessly portrayed the psychological and stereotypical boundaries dividing the Indians and Pakistanis, perfectly embellished with tinges of humor, satire and drama.  

    Zain Ahmed, faculty member at the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) and director of 'Tum Kaun, introduced the play as an endeavor that became possible after a year's struggle by actors from both sides of the border. Out of the many themes that exist in the vacuum between the two countries, they chose to focus on identity. As the director so effortlessly and aptly described, “We wanted to portray how we Pakistanis view ourselves, and how we view the other; our so-called enemy”.  These ideas were molded within the setting of a wedding, a seminal event that brings to light the plethora of similarities between the two nationalities and cultures.  

    Play 'Tum Kaun' at NAPA International Theatre Festival 2015 Karachi

    Adorned with vibrant fairy lights and marigold flowers, giving the common vision of a wedding in both countries, the set immediately struck a chord in the hearts of the audience. The story revolves around an arranged marriage between two main characters, Rubab from Karachi, and Adil from Delhi. Strangers from different sides of the border, they are only aware of the typical stereotypes about each other’s cities. The story unravels as the extremely anxious Rubab tells her best friend that she only agreed to the marriage because she did not want to disappoint her parents. How could she marry a man who lived all the way in Delhi and of whom she knew nothing about?

    With the mesmerizing set and the classic Bollywood songs, the play perfectly captured the essence, beauty and exhilaration of wedding ceremonies in both cultures. Each character brought to the stage a twist of their own, as their emotional and dramatic escapades were pierced with candid humor that was repeatedly applauded by the audience.

    Play 'Tum Kaun' at NAPA International Theatre Festival 2015 Karachi

    The play tapped into several significant themes that were relatable to people from either side of the border. Socially and historically constructed stereotypes that Indians and Pakistanis have about Karachi were perfectly woven in the fabric of the story. The bride's best friend is sternly warned by her mother about the dangers of Karachi, with statements like “Aray bombs, muggings, kidnappings, shady people; it is no place to visit!” In the same setting, the groom's best friend realizes that apparently it is not safe to be an Indian in Karachi.         

    A decorative clip from the play

    While highlighting the misconceived differences between the two populations, the play effortlessly depicted the often ignored and untapped layers of similarities between the two, ranging from overlapping traditions and rituals to touching love stories. Most importantly, it conveyed that the most effective way to bridge this ill-founded barrier between people on either side of the border is through the arts. The director marvelously summed up this idea by expressing to the audience how wonderful an experience preparing for this play had been, since on that stage, “they weren't Indians or Pakistanis, but were simply artists”.

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