Stage Nomad Productions are putting up their third play, Mulzim Ya Mujrim, at the Karachi Arts Council this July. With back to back shows from 14th to 30th July, the drama has been directed by Meesam Nazar Naqvi. An adaptation of the Golden Bear winning American Motion Picture 12 Angry Men, the story follows 12 jurors who need to reach a unanimous decision regarding an individual accused of killing his father. While most of them are adamant on declaring him guilty, one female juror, Juror 8 (Kulsoom Fatmi), brings in an argument of reasonable doubt, and spends the remaining play trying to convince her fellow jurors.
“An artist’s work should reflect his own beliefs and I subscribe to the principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty. Mulzim Ya Mujrim reflects the concept of reasonable doubt, an essential element of the Western judicial system, which entails that only evidence which is beyond reasonable doubt can be used for a conviction. The play aims to situate the concept within a Pakistani context,” shared Meesam Naqvi.
Beyond the innocent versus guilty debate, the play delves into several other themes. While the original film only had male characters, Mulzim Ya Mujrim adds two female characters to the cast. The interplay between the men and women highlights the patriarchal nature of Pakistani society. Furthermore, allocating the characters numbers (such as Juror 8), instead of giving them names, strips them of their distinct identities. The emphasis is on everyone being equal before the law and the jurors’ personal lives becoming insignificant in the court room. Another interesting element is the absence of the individual whose case is being discussed. The subject never appears on stage which keeps the audience in constant suspense. This technique proves that a significant character does not necessarily have to be onstage to make his presence felt. What initially comes across as a rather simple play ends up being an eye opener, revealing how much power one person can hold over another person’s fate, and emphasizing the importance of concrete evidence for life-altering judgments.
What is truly remarkable is the usage of a single set for the entire duration of the play, without the lights going off even once. This shows the confidence of the team, which pulls off a nearly two-hour long performance in one stretch.
Those who have previously watched performances put up by Stage Nomad Productions will definitely recognize a few familiar faces including those of Osman Sheikh, Shah Hasan, and Yogeshwar Karera, all of whom are final year students at IBA. However, the cast has new faces as well, such as the few final year students from NAPA, and this is in line with Stage Nomad’s promise to deliver fresh talent.
However, despite all its strengths there are certain areas of the production which could be improved. One element which lacks finesse is the use of comic relief. On some occasions, the comedy plays out quite well but is often distasteful in serious situations. To add to this, the audience also displayed inappropriate behaviour, such as when they laughed because a female character was being put down due to her gender. Moreover, Stage Nomad Productions has only been functioning as a platform for theatre enthusiasts since 2016. Perhaps, this is why the management haven’t done a good job at marketing and public relations. Despite their noble aims, can Stage Nomad succeed in the long-run, if they cannot pull together as a team? Only time will tell.
All photography by Ameer Moavia and Hamza Khan
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