Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tennessee William in Karachi (The Glass Menagerie)

What do you get when you combine a whining son, a nostalgic mother, a crippled sister and a prospective suitor? No, not a soap on Star Plus (although I’m sure there must be something like this going on in one of the dramas) but a theatre play. With the wedding festivities over, hubby dear and myself managed to catch the play, ‘Dil ka kya Rang karoon’ by the NAPA repertory company.

The play was an adaptation of William Tennessee’s, ‘The Glass Menagerie’. It revolves around four characters (five actually if you count the father who is omnipresent in the form of a portrait) set in the 1930s. It portrays the life of an American household during the Great Depression. The Urdu adaptation was set in Karachi during the 1960s.

As the curtain lifted and the lights came on, the set came to life and I was blown away. I have seen many NAPA plays but this set was breath taking. The attention to detail was so true to life that it actually seemed like the interior of a house in Karachi. It was not just the set which was impressive but the lighting was perfect also. The transition from day to night was flawless!

The play had a tragic theme. The protagonist, Salman, is the bread earner of the house but his meagre salary is not enough to make ends meet. His heart is not in his work but he must carry on his job in order to feed his mother and sister. To escape from the constant nagging of his mother and the depressive atmosphere of the house, he goes off to get drunk and watch cinema at all hours of the night. The crippled sister, Nafisa, suffers from an inferiority complex on account of her disability. She seeks solace and lives in her own world of porcelain dolls and glass figures. She tries to keep peace between the mother and son. The mother is a central character of sorts. She loves and loathes her children at the same time. There are moments when she adopts a very positive attitude and strongly believes that her daughter will get married off. At other times she loses all hope and starts blaming Salman for their destitute living and Nafisa’s spinsterhood.

It might seem frustrating for someone watching the play (especially someone who hasn’t read it) to accept the fact that this family can be so helpless and unable to improve their lifestyle. But in a society like ours where there are few jobs, yet rising inflation; many people live frustrating lives. Salman, at the end of the play, walks out on his mother and sister but not every frustrated young man can do that. There are many girls, like Nafisa, who keep waiting for the right proposal because they are monetarily, not physically, crippled.

Even though the play was adapted decently well and there was a stellar cast (with actors from both outside and NAPA), the acting fell short. Saqib Khan, as Salman, seemed quite similar to Constantine (a character from Seagull, a NAPA play in which he performed last year) and seemed to stress more on his diction than his emotions. Ali Rizvi, another NAPA graduate, acted the role of Amir (Salman’s friend). His makeup was done so bad he looked like a doll and his acting lacked the dandy attitude of the character as written by Williams. Hina Dilpazir, a popular TV actress, played the role of the mother admirably. There were fumbles by her also but she managed to keep the entire play together. Jamila Muhammad, who played the role of Nafisa was quite good also. It is not easy to keep a limp consistently on stage and, considering that this was her first play, she did an amazing job. Her emotions were stirring and even though there were mistakes in her diction, her overall performance rendered them meaningless.