The Auratnaak Show, a comedic performance by an all-female comedy troupe, has been causing quite a storm in Pakistan since the last year. With the credible Kuch Khaas (a not-for-profit social enterprise) hosting its first show in the capital, all it took was a simple social media campaign and some good old word-of-mouth to get a full house event at the London Book Company in Kohsar Market.
A group of five dynamic and gut-wrenchingly funny comediennes flew over from Karachi on the 23rd of December to present The Auratnaak Show in Islamabad – an early Christmas present of sorts. Since this was the first comedy show I had ever attended, my friend and I made our way to the venue with little expectation from the night.
As the fabulous five made their way to the front of the hall, the crowd cheered ecstatically. I immediately spotted Faiza Saleem amongst the presenters. A lawyer by profession, Faiza has quickly become a female icon in Pakistan. She has previously worked with internet sensations like Mooroo and Syed Shafaat Ali, and has amassed an overwhelming fan following.
The show commenced with Annie Shamim’s comical jibes at female drivers. An architect, a witty conversationalist and a merciless comedienne, Annie had us in stitches with her mimicry of the female teachers at the Al-Huda Driving School for women.
Next up, Ayesha Tariq, an innocent-looking girl took up the floor to shout at the attentive crowd: “Islamabad! Do you want to pee?”, and everyone burst into laughter. A published author of the graphic novel, Sarah: the Suppressed Anger of the Pakistani Obedient Daughter, Ayesha soon had the crowd eating out of her hand and became my personal favorite within a matter of minutes. Amidst the humor, she addressed the issues of female stereotyping and the need for more unity among women, but managed to keep us laughing throughout.
By the time the third comedienne took hold of the mic, the crowd was high on laughter. Sana Khan Niazi, a theatre actor, entrepreneur and founder of Paimona – a brand that creates hand-crafted furniture pieces – entertained the crowd by discussing her constant career jumps, before she finally settled on the field of comedy. She mocked Islamabadis for their accents and early sleeping habits, and also discussed an issue that all females her age can relate to: constant family pressure to get married!
Up next, Faiza Saleem took the stage, to the delight of several cheering fans in the crowd. “I tried running from fat jokes”, she explained, “But I can’t run!” Faiza discussed how, from the media and brand advertisements to your very own friends and relatives, everyone in Pakistan will make life unbearable for you if you are fat. Engaging intimately with her audience, Faiza’s talent and experience in the field was clearly evident on the stage as she took the crowd by storm.
The last performer challenged the audience with her dark humor. Fatima Shah packed the feminist punch in her words and gave a short but outrageously funny account of what it’s like to be a woman in Pakistan. With topics ranging from child molestation to the ungraceful aging of women, Fatima had us wriggling uncomfortably on our floor cushions. She discussed the grand idea of love, only to end it with the image of a woman letting out a fart – a fittingly humorous conclusion to a show that remained bold and hilarious throughout its duration.
The Auratnaak Show had previously entertained large venues in Karachi and Lahore, receiving great reviews. Given the ear-numbing cheers from this crowd of a mere hundred, it is clear that their tour of Islamabad has been a major success as well. My friend and I left the show with jaws hurting from laughter but heads full of challenging ideas brought forth by this group of truly avant-garde women.
All images have been provided by Kuch Khaas.
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