Critics claim that theatre in Pakistan have lost its touch, men feel that the last place they would take their family would be to a theatre whereas this scribe felt that watching theatre is a waste of time as long as it is held on Pakistani premises. All perceptions fell flat as soon as I entered the Arts Council in Karachi to view Anwar Maqsood’s Pawnay 14 August, which is by far the most creative play ever written for theatre in Pakistan.
Unlike other plays, this one is all about the Pakistan we live in, where minorities don’t have proper rights, where corruption is the norm of the day, where the rulers don’t care whether the public survives or not. Anwar Maqsood’s play has a story that will touch the heart and mind of all those who witness it, as it is better than the bhashan the politicians give – be it Imran Khan or Nawaz Sharif, be it Pervez Musharraf or Yusuf Raza Gillani. It comes straight from the character we all love – Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah who visits Pakistan for four days and is accompanied by Allama Iqbal and Maulana Shaukat Ali.
The play revolves around these characters who talk about Pakistan all the time. While Maulana Shaukat Ali claims it as a failed state, Allama Iqbal is dealt blows by the passers-by who don’t recognize him but claim to be working as per his poetic instructions. Quaid-e-Azam stands tall in all this and as the play ends, he delivers a speech which brings all to tears. He says he is still hopeful of a better Pakistan and the new generation will steer the country away from corruption and into a brighter time.
The actors Umer Sultan, Talal Jilani and Aamer Agha must be commended on their impressive acting, as the three founding members of Pakistan. The director Dawar Mehmood also needs special mention since he came all the way down from Islamabad to deliver the message we all wanted to hear. Be it Quaid-e-Azam criticizing the Army Colonel for taking advantage of his position or Allama Iqbal having a stroke on watching Ali Azmat singing Khudi on TV, the play is full of moments that will make you cry and laugh. Although Pawnay 14 August is about to end this week, it has given people a ray of hope for better theatre in general, and a better Pakistan in particular.