The young Hamza Bangash is a man of many talents, renowned for his documentaries, short films and independent video projects. He believes in the ability of theatre and cinema to bridge divides and overcome preconceptions. His first short film, Badal, was shown at the Cannes Court Métrage at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also accepted into the film market program at Palm Springs International ShortFest.
The first day of the show catered to an audience consisting of invited guests, sponsors, as well as the families of the cast. A small stage was set up, adorned with traditional umbrellas, dupattas and fairy lights, and the scenery was complete with an artistic set of boxes that were also used as props.
The play commences with Suhaani and Hussein playing Baraf Paani (like most of us did in our childhood) and amusing the audience by playing in between the seats. Suhaani is courageous, hyper and full of fire, whereas Hussein is calm, composed and silent. The tomboyish Suhaani, who wanted to be a cricketer and an astronaut, is shunned by her father for “playing with boys”. Similarly, Hussein’s mother tells him to accompany his male friends to the playground instead of roaming around with Suhaani. They face the same kind of discouraging behavior when it comes to career choices. Eventually, the two become distant, as Suhaani is left to take care of her widowed father, and Hussein is laden with the responsibility of his entire family after his father’s death. Both their parents also fall victim to terrorism in Karachi – another pertinent issue raised by Bangash.
Life ticks monotonously, with Suhaani and Hussein falling prey to its dullness, until Hussein’s mother sends a word for marriage to Suhaani’s father, and they meet again. They strike the right chords instantly, and emotions develop on both sides.
After days of imagining their lives together, and feeling ambivalent about their love for each other, Hussein finally comes to meet Suhaani with the intention of professing his love for her. Unfortunately they suffer an accident, but survive, and eventually get married. The play concludes when Suhaani, in a graceful orange gharara, walks from the back of the aisle towards the sherwani-clad Hussein. Having experienced a suppressed childhood, they promise each other that they will never impose their decisions on their children, and will always support their choices.
Hamza Bangash’s lighthearted attempt to raise issues that we conveniently ignore, through a simple boy-meets-girl love story, deserves due credit. Amtul Baweja set the stage on fire with her intense transformation from a hyperactive tomboy to a conventional, dupatta-clad homemaker. Hadi bin Arshad complemented her with his boyish charm and heartwarming expressions. The show was a complete package, with emotions ranging from sorrow and restlessness to love and joy. The talented Bangash should also aim for more intense plays to raise awareness regarding our society’s imposed shackles, which are often disguised as norms, traditions and rasm-o-riwaaj.
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