The storyline features a dynamic eight-person cast, with most actors transitioning through multiple roles. Played by Kashif Hussain, Hatim Tai is an honest, magnanimous prince from Yemen who embarks on a mysterious journey to right some wrongs done to his friends and countrymen. Dumroo, his trusted companion, is a fairy from Paristan who is always by Hatim’s side when he encounters thugs, looters and degenerates along the way. Together with Dumroo, Hatim Tai seeks to answer seven riddles which would break free his people from an evil magician’s spell. Haris Khan, Hammad Khan and Fraz Chottani are some other cast members who quite spectacularly take on duplicate roles, depicting citizens, thieves, kings, drunkards and villagers. Alam’s decision to contextualize the play to a modern setting was well-received by the NAPA crowd, who would crack up uncontrollably at the occasional humor carefully inserted in the script.
A number of significant and culturally relevant themes such as honor, selflessness, greed and desire were addressed in each of the seven riddles. Alam’s script demanded observation and imagination from the audience. The use of eclectic Eastern music as the soundtrack perfectly complemented the scenes played on stage. Moreover, the minimalistic stage décor was made up for by the suspense-building plot twists and dramatic fighting sequences. Alam also avoided using too many props, relying entirely on the tremendous abilities of the cast to keep the audience engaged, with heartwarming dialogues and genuinely enthusiastic acting.
Hatim Tai effortlessly fulfills the original purpose of the NAPA Young Directors Theatre Festival: to bring out uncommon storylines to the fore through innovation and bold experimentation. Farhan Alam’s dream of directing a fantasy play is borne out of his desire to recognize and re-evaluate the distinct roots and unparalleled potential of the fantasy genre in Pakistani theatre. With an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience, this desire seems to have been fulfilled.
The NAPA Young Directors Theatre Festival concluded with its final installment, Ghosts, on 29th November.
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