Pak theatre’s message of peace

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By SUBHASISH CHAUDHURI
  • Published 28.12.14
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Faizan Naveed and Zoya Uzair rehearse in Nadia. Picture by Abhi Ghosh

Santipur, Dec. 27: A Lahore-based theatre group has travelled all the way to Nadia’s Santipur to spread the message of peace in the wake of the massacre of children in Peshawar.

The 10-member Independent Theatre Company, which staged Saadat Hasan Manto’s Kamra Number Nine tonight, spoke of how theatre activists and members of the cultural world in Pakistan were raising their voices against terrorism.

The group was invited to the Rangapeeth theatre festival at Santipur before the December 16 attack by Taliban fighters on a military-run school in Peshawar.

The artistes, who arrived here late last night, spoke of how they had joined other theatre groups on the streets of Pakistan to protest against militancy, ignoring threats.

Of the Independent Theatre Company’s 10 members, five are actors and the rest are production assistants.

All the five actors are students. Among them is the director, Azeem Hamid, who is an undergraduate student of visual communication. The group has four female members.

The visitors said that theatre activists and musicians in Pakistan, many of whom command mass appeal, have come up spontaneously against religious fanaticism and tried to convey that a country cannot be labelled “unsafe” because of a handful of people.

“Most theatre artistes in Pakistan are professionals. They are committed to the theatre companies. Nevertheless, they have risen beyond their personal obligations and raised their voices against militancy. Many of them are often being threatened. But such threats and intimidation cannot stifle their voices,” said Uzair Sultan, the art director of the Independent Theatre Company.

Lead actor Namwar Ayaz, a graduate in film and television, said: “This is the trend not just in Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan. Cultural activists from other parts of the country have joined the protest without prejudice or fear.”

Zoya Uzair, the lead actress, said the theatre had been politically active in Pakistan for some time but the Peshawar killings had galvanised it.

“For the past few years, the theatre and cultural activists have been protesting in various ways against fanaticism, trying their best to educate people in rural areas, organising workshops in schools and colleges and staging street theatres. We were hopeful that a peaceful atmosphere would gradually emerge. The Peshawar killings have come as an eye-opener,” Zoya, who is in her early twenties, said.

“But the killings have strengthened our commitment to society. As a result, to the young generation and the theatre activists, there is no way left but to speak categorically against militancy and terrorism.”

Art director Sultan said several Pakistani films condemning terrorism were coming up.

“The upcoming play Hotel Mohenjo-Daro and the film War deal strongly with militancy. This was unthinkable even a few years ago,” he said.

“The reason (for the change) is that everyone, except a handful of militants, have realised the embarrassment Pakistanis face across the globe. People have understood that politicians are playing a double role.”