Na Mukammal: An engrossing and kaleidoscopic experience
It has been a long time since an original Urdu script was written by a Pakistani playwright and Hasnain Raza manages to make his mark. He hits the right note with audiences, for the second time after his play received ample appreciation at the Young Director’s Festival in March this year, held at the National Academy of Performing Arts. This Director’s Cut version of the play was staged by The Theatre Laboratory and produced by Hani Taha.
The play is situated in the past and the present and shuttles across decades and characters and between three settings. The cast includes Rachna Kirplani, Zulfiqar Ghouri, Shahrukh Arif, Moazzam Malik, Hussain Abbas, and Rana Kazmi. We’re introduced to an old stubborn man at a library and a young librarian Bilal who argue over a lost red diary and get stuck together on a rainy night. After arguing they banter which inevitably leads to flash black within the play and shuttles back and forth in time. The play is about an unexpected connection between the boy and the old man. Watch out for Zulfiqar Ghouri who makes his cameo appearance as a short-tempered man waiting for his turn outside a therapist’s office: he is the much-needed comic relief in this emotional saga.
The play has been produced by the striking and proactive thespian Hani Taha, who we just witnessed in NAPA Repertory Theatre’s recent production, Ullu Aur Billi as Naina. Hasnain Raza has written and directed the play as well as conceived the lighting and sound design. It is heartening to see original, first-hand scripts get a platform to be staged in Urdu, a rare happening in the niche theatre scene in Pakistan.
The play tends to lag a bit at the beginning and the middle but picks up pace in the second half. The sound design incorporates some beautiful Jazz blues and piano, while the stage design has been done meticulously, transferring you across time and space. The sequence with rain and thunder will leave you with goose-bumps and make you feel like you are stuck on a rainy night as you watch real rain droplets shower across the window sill, seated in the theatre.
Theatre in Pakistan needs support, just like other art forms, and the best way to support it is to buy a ticket and see every performance possible across the country. The Karachi theatre scene is picking up after a hiatus of two long years and NAPA has been instrumental in introducing trained talent into the theatre circle.