From stage to screen
Cinema and theatre have always complemented each other. Bird Cage staged in Alhmara Lahore was an example of a play that has been made into a film
By Sarwat Ali
It has become a wont that the plays that have also been made into films are staged in Pakistan as was the famous play Bird Cage at the Alhamra recently. The list of such plays is long and includes some of the popular productions staged here from the Phantom of the Opera to Miss Saigon to Chicago.

The story of M
Dear All,
Ten years ago, one frosty October afternoon, I joined a small group of people standing outside the Pakistan embassy in London to protest against the imposition of military rule by General Musharraf.
We were there because it had been one year since the army chief had removed the civilian government, and had accused the PM Nawaz Sharif, of 'hijacking his aircraft'.

Militants next door

Cross-border movement of Afghan Taliban continues to threaten peace and security in Chitral

By Zia Ur Rehman

On September 30, some 250 Taliban insurgents entered Chitral's tehsil Arandu from Nuristan in bordering Afghanistan and tied the Pakistani security personnel deputed at a Gudibar checkpost with rope and snatched their rifles. According to press reports "about 70 masked men armed with weapons looted the equipment including uniforms and weapons from the security personnel of the checkpost after injuring them and fled to Afghanistan". This frightened the wits out of the otherwise peace-loving and civilised Chitralis.

But, in a normally calm Chitral, a district of Malakand division of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, which borders Afghanistan's provinces Nuristan and Kunar, this was not the first incident of its kind: On August 29, six men, logging forest wood in the Upper Dir district, were kidnapped allegedly by the Taliban and taken to Nuristan. A few days later, the throat-slit bodies of the three men were found in Arandu.

Incidentally, the kidnapped men belonged to Dhog Dara, an area of Upper Dir where the locals of 25 villages formed an armed anti-Taliban militia and killed many militants including two commanders in June last year. The confrontation was triggered on June 5 "when a suicide attack at a local mosque in Dogh Dara killed 40 local tribesmen", states Javed Sheikh, an Upper Dir-based journalist.

Haji Motabar Khan, a leader of Dog Dara's militia, says the network of Taliban militants kidnap the people from Chitral and its surrounding areas and then haul them to Nuristan. Khan criticised the local police and the administration, "They do not take action against the militants present in the valley".

According to him, another three labourers were kidnapped as a protest against the formation of the Dhog Dara militia.

Reportedly, Omar Hasan Ahrabi, spokesperson of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Malakand Division, while claiming responsibility of kidnapping the Dhog Dara's men, said all those joining the anti-militants militias would not be spared -- as they are government agents and oppose the enforcement of Sharia in Swat and Malakand Division (The News September 2).

Later, the Taliban set the three labourers free and handed them over to the Chitral district administration.

On September 7 last year, a Greek social worker Athanassios Lerunis was kidnapped by Taliban militants from Chitral's Bambouret Valley and shifted to Nuristan. The abductors killed a policeman and injured two others who tried to foil the kidnapping. Lerunis was released in April this year in exchange of two Afghan Taliban commanders, one of them Maulana Rahmatuddin Nuristani. They also got millions of rupees in ransom, revealed an elder who was part of the jirga which went from Chitral to Nuristan to seek the recovery of Lerunis.

Authorities deny such a deal. A local elder, requesting anonymity, says Zahir, a former Afghan Taliban leader living in Chitral, played an important role in the release of Lerunis.

Nuristan, Afghanistan's north-eastern province, is considered a stronghold of the Afghan Taliban. "Afghan Taliban govern the area. The Taliban Shura appointed Sheikh Dost Muhammad as a shadow governor of the province," says Ali Afzal, a member of the local Sheikh tribe. Sheikhan tribesmen live in both Nuristan and Chitral and therefore Chitralis blame the locals for extending assistance to Nuristani Taliban in Chitral.

Some media reports also suggest that head of TTP Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, is hiding in Nuristan. Few months ago Afghan officials claimed Fazlullah had been killed in the Barg-e-Matal area of Nuristan but later Mufti Munibullah, head of Afghan Taliban in Nuristan, denied such reports. Faqir Muhammad, the TTP leader in Bajour agency, also said that Fazlullah could be in Nuristan because the Taliban have been moving back and forth along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

In an interview with BBC in November last year, Fazlullah said he had escaped to Afghanistan after a Pakistani military offensive against the Taliban in his Swat Valley stronghold in April last year.

Local political analysts are of view that Chitral has been steadily becoming more conservative and the influence of religious political parties has been on the rise. A development expert, who wished not to be named due to security reasons, confirmed the presence of both Malakand and Nuristan Taliban militants in the valley, and said these militants are also fanning sectarian violence in neighbouring Gilgit. He recalled that offices of the Agha Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), sponsored by Ismaili leader Prince Karim Agha Khan, were attacked by religious extremists in late 2004 while two workers of AKRSP were killed in December 2004.

Consequently, the relations between Sunnis (that constitute 65 percent of the Chitral population) and Ismaili Shias (35 percent) have become strained because of the influence of religious radical groups in the district. A small portion of the non-Muslim Kalash community, famous for its traditional dances and beautiful dress, are based in the south of the district.

Shehzada Mahiuddin, member of National Assembly elected from the district, admits Chitral has felt the effects of insurgency going on in Afghanistan. "In a bid to stop the incursions by the Afghan Taliban, we (the local government) are sending a local tribal jirga to Nuristan to meet the Taliban leadership," he says, adding that contingents of paramilitary forces and police have been deployed at the borders and all the entry and exit point along the Pak-Afghan border following the incidents of incursion of Afghan Taliban.

The writer is an independent journalist and works on militancy, development and human rights.



Film Guru

Exactly 46 years ago a strong pillar of the Bombay film empire suddenly collapsed -- and left everyone in a state of shock

By Arif Waqar

Yes, he is certainly a thing of beauty, a joy forever; his loveliness increases and he'll never pass into nothingness… not in the foreseeable future, I'm sure.

He died 46 years ago but awareness about his art and craft, and recognition of his real place in the history of commercial Indian cinema has been increasing with each passing year.

October 10 is a sad day for Guru Dutt fans. It was exactly the same day in 1964, when at 10:30am, Geeta Dutt, his estranged wife, asked the servants to break open his bedroom door… and they found him lying in eternal peace. So, he had done it again and this time, successfully.

The news of his suicide spread like a jungle fire. Dev Anand was the first to arrive at his flat. Raj Kapoor was informed, and sent messages to Nargis, Prithviraj and Meena Kumari. Two of his close associates, Johnny Walker and Wahida Rehman, were shooting in Madras. The moment they heard it, they rushed to Bombay and made it to the funeral just 10 minutes before the cremation.

A strong pillar of the Bombay film empire had suddenly collapsed and everybody was in a state of shock. The newspapers next morning were full of Guru Dutt. The prestigious magazine Filmfare published a cover story on Guru Dutt, which included Kaifi Azmi's tribute in Urdu verse:

Rehnay ko sadaa dehr mei~ aata nahi koee

Tum jaisay gaey aisay bhi jaata nahi koee

(No one comes here to live forever, but no one leaves the way you did)

The 39-year-old filmmaker had left many stories behind -- finished and unfinished.

Born in 1925, Guru Dutt became an assistant director at the age of 20 and worked with some of the most respected and revered directors of his day, like Gyan Mukherji and Amiyya Chakarvorty. During this apprenticeship he came across a handsome young man, a graduate of Govt. College Lahore, who was surveying the film studios all over India in search of a job as an actor. The two instantly became fast friends. The other young man was Dev Anand, who later on played the lead role in Guru Dutt's directorial debut Baazi.

1951 was a highly productive year for the Bombay film industry, Deedaar and Hulchul, starring Dilip Kumar and Nargis, were in the market and so was Taraana (Dilip, Madhubala). Zia Sarhadi's trendsetter Humlog had stunned cine-goers, and Raj Kapoor was beating them all with his flagship production Awaara.

But despite this cutthroat competition, Guru Dutt's Baazi -- -a light-hearted crime thriller -- did fairly good business and established Guru Dutt as an authentic film director at 26. He didn't look back after that and directed/produced as many as 12 films in the next 10 years, including light romantic comedies like Aar Paar and Mr & Mrs 55, and masterpieces like Pyaasa, Kaaghaz ke Phool and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam.

In 1953 he got married to the famous playback singer of that time, Geeta Roy. They were living a happy life with their two sons, Arun and Tarun, when something unexpected, something extremely undesirable happened. Accidents have no logic, and they can't be rationally explained.

Guru Dutt's discovery, his dear protégé, Wahida Rehman, entered Guru Dutt's film world like a soft gust of morning breeze but turned out to be a devastating tornado in his domestic life. Geeta, the wife, became so paranoid that she started spying on her husband and after a bitter fight with him, moved to a separate house along with the kids.

At this point some close friends also severed relations with Guru Dutt. When Wahida Rehman felt that everybody was blaming her for her guru's broken home, she also stopped seeing Guru Dutt, and thus, at the peak of his film career, Guru Dutt was a lonely man. He took to heavy drinking and was hooked to sleeping pills.

Like the domestic scene, his professional life also wasn't a bed of roses. In 1963 he wrote an article, 'Classics and Cash' for the magazine Celluloid in which he described the trauma of a true artiste who has to choose between gaining cash and creating classics. The writer seems obsessed with the idea of posthumous fame when he cites the examples of Tulsidas, Kabeer, Narsinh Mehta and others who became famous only after their death. In this regard Guru Dutt writes, "…Coming to recent times, unbearable frustration curtailed the life of Miss Amrita Sher-Gil, one of India's greatest artists, at the age of 29 in 1944. Shortly before her untimely death she wrote 'I am starving for appreciation. I'm literally famished. My work is understood less and less as time passes..."

Quoting the lady, Guru Dutt seems to be saying something about himself, as if this posthumous acclaim was his own tragic fate. Guru Dutt had successfully exploited the theme of 'fame after death' in his masterpiece Pyaasa and according to Abrar Alvi, his dialogue writer and long-time associate, Guru Dutt was overwhelmed by this obsession in his last days.

In the ominous evening of October 9, 1964, Abrar Alvi was at his flat till late and they had been discussing, in a light mood, of course, the various ways of committing suicide. They had agreed that swallowing whole sleeping pills sometimes did not work and it was important that the pills should be crushed and then dissolved in a liquid.

Then in the morning when Guru Dutt's friends and dear ones were gathered at his flat, wondering what had happened to him, Abrar Alvi noticed a pale pink liquid in a glass beside his bed, and knew exactly what had happened.

The dream of posthumous acclaim did come true in the case of Guru Dutt, his films enjoyed renewed popularity in the late 1970s. In 1980 a French film scholar wrote a book on his work, after which a festival of his selected movies was held in Paris. Later on similar festivals were held in Germany, England, Spain, Italy and other European countries, and also in Japan.

In 1987 a London-based journalist, Nasreen Munni Kabir, made a three-part documentary on the life and works of Guru Dutt, which was shown on Channel 4. Some years later this valuable documentary material was published in book form by Oxford University Press. The same researcher also collected Guru Dutt's letters and published them under the title Yours Guru Dutt in 2006.

Nausheen Saeed turns her personal tragedy into a collective and shared narrative in her recent works at Canvas Gallery in Karachi

By Quddus Mirza

Bomb blasts, target killings and other terrorist attacks have consumed so many lives around us that these are now taken as normal ways of dying; more so because other attention-grabbing events take up media space and time. This indifference aside, the brutal killings leave in their wake a unique, deep and insurmountable grief and an uncertain future for their loved ones. Yet, each survivor devises a way to deal with it in his or her own manner.

What happens when the person who has borne this kind of a loss is an artist? There are multiple choices for creative persons: to either forget it by concentrating on their routine work; or to focus on it solely and making it the main content or reason of their work. One comes across both sorts of reactions in the works of a few artists who have unfortunately witnessed the loss of their family members or friends.

There is also a middle ground preferred by some including Nausheen Saeed. Her father was brutally shot in a terrorist incident in Lahore. The experience of seeing off her father for his prayer and then in a couple of hours seeing him all wounded, struggling for life in a hospital, and soon turning into a corpse has changed the artist, who, not long ago, had suffered the death of her mother in a fatalistic illness. The sculptor who had been engaged with the depiction of female body and its association to a vessel with all its psychological, sexual and societal connotations is forced to tackle personal grief through her art.

Significantly, Saeed's position on private loss has not converted her into a pessimistic or sentimentalist artist. On the other hand, art becomes a scheme of negotiating with personal grief and a way of transforming it into works which not only relate to a specific incident in her life but allude to other ideas as well. In her recent solo exhibition, 'Intentions/Interventions', held from Sept 28 to Oct 7, 2010, at the Canvas Gallery in Karachi, works were not confined to one kind of meaning or incident and were open to multiple interpretations.

Yet, looking at the works, mostly mixed-media sculptures and installation, one felt the disappearance of a living person. Dressing table layered with blocks of concrete, writing table covered by a square form made of building blocks, pillars interjected with pillows and a bed with two television sets placed as if the heads of a couple were resting on the cushions, all refer to death in one way or the other. For example, the television sets on a double bed (Sleeping Partner) might have a link with the usual relationship between a married couple who spend their lives around television, not only to seek hours of entertainment but also as an excuse to avoid each other's company. But more than replacing the human companion, television has also turned into an organ to announce the death of a loved one, particularly when that death is part of a public massacre.

Likewise, the installation titled 'Blockade' comprising five cement pillars with different cushions inserted in their mid might have reminded of Roman and Greek elements of architecture so popular in our urban surroundings but these invoked a morbid sensation. The cushions, representing a human being or comfort, are trapped inside a building block; much like a body wrapped in cloth is placed inside a grave, to be filled with slabs of cements and bricks. The fact that there was more than one column (four standing and one lying on the floor) could have a connection with rows of graves that one witnesses after every incident of mass bloodshed.

Other works contain similar connotations. For instance, furniture pieces in The Maze of Justice (her father's writing-table topped with building blocks), The Last Look (dressing-table hidden with identical blocks), and In Between (drawers of a chest filled with cement) initially belonged to her parents and are transformed into metaphors for the relationship between a thing and a living being. Humans have a special connection with their possessions or objects around them. They are fond of their accumulated objects, which they've selected after much search, and keep them in good conditions. However, as soon as the person leaves the world, his possessions especially the ones of personal use become irrelevant and a sort of burden and are generally donated.

In that sense, Nausheen Saeed's work, initiated from a personal tragedy, has turned into a collective and shared narrative, mainly by modifying the actual and unique items of her parents. Thus, these particular pieces do not belong to a specific personality but to humanity at large; like graves -- which irrespective of the individual buried --have a common and uniform appearance; representing our society at present!


From stage to screen

Cinema and theatre have always complemented each other. Bird Cage staged in Alhmara Lahore was an example of a play that has been made into a film

By Sarwat Ali

It has become a wont that the plays that have also been made into films are staged in Pakistan as was the famous play Bird Cage at the Alhamra recently. The list of such plays is long and includes some of the popular productions staged here from the Phantom of the Opera to Miss Saigon to Chicago.

The most successful Le Cage aux Folles was made into a film in 1996 by Mike Nichols. This play written in French by the celebrated Jean Poiret originally was filmed and screened all over the world. The medium of the film is such that it is portable and it can be made in one country and shown all over the world, with the prints developed from the original shoot. The rest of the world becomes familiar with the film as it could not with theatre, which is totally space bound.

It is far more difficult and expensive to carry an entire stage production, and then it can only be shown at one place at one time. The intermixing of television, internet and video is resulting in new art forms conditioned by technology that are challenging the existing boundaries of say theatre and cinema. Cinema and theatre have complemented each other in one way at least -- that the films made on plays are shown worldwide and the local talent converts them back to stage plays for local audiences in theatres.

It was not long ago that one only heard of musicals on Broadway and West End but now much has changed as some of these blockbuster musicals are films, and the people, for example, in countries like Pakistan get to see them at home and a few are inspired enough to put up a production of the musical or the play in their own country and city.

This, still, is no mean achievement because the scale of these productions especially of the musicals is quite big but it would be a more worthwhile effort if the play is reinterpreted and directed according to the understanding of the director and the local artistic concerns. It may be asking for a very indigenous production; the entire play has to be recast and then produced with the musical composition too being original and the entire movements including choreography to be redone and conceived as such.

At the same time, it would be far more authentic if the play or the production is given a local habitation and a name so that the production is localised rather than exude the impression of being plagiarised from the film.

This local production was directed by Dawar Lashari and the cast included many actors who have been quite busy in producing English plays on local theatre. The staging of English plays has been a common practice reinforced by the fact that very few original scripts are written here for stage. The yawning gap is usually filled by referring to a play in English or a play that has been translated into English from some other language.

Usually the plays staged here appear to be film translated on to the stage. How these plays have been originally staged is anybody's guess but the way they were made into films is then replicated on stage which then becomes a standard version to be emulated across the world.

Bird Cage is uproariously funny. It revolves round a gay couple who want to keep their relationship hidden or concealed in view of the love interest and intended marriage of the sons of one of the men. As the future in-laws also visit the family, the situation becomes even more complicated as the concealment has to be totally foolproof. This is the stuff of drawing room comedies and our theatre has had a surfeit of such drawing room comedies which have been adapted and readapted beyond recognition in the last sixty years of our independence.

The theme, and the treatment, is slightly out of synch with our sensibilities. Though homosexuality is not uncommon but to mention and acknowledge it is. There have been many caricatured representations of eunuchs but no well-rounded depiction of a homosexual. And this trait or idiosyncrasy has not been much dwelt upon. The element of sympathy disappears if one is not willing to accept something which exists and over which there is no control. It is more derision than light-hearted bantering that characterise our response to such issues, themes and characters.

The cast included Waleed Zaidi, Ian Eldred, Ayesha Akram, Hayat, Shahzad Shah, Iftikhar and Eesha Khan but the most outstanding performing was given by Ijlal Khan. He has been acting in English theatre in the past and has the gift of rhythm and movement with good timing, one of the most important elements in comedy.


The story of M

Dear All,

Ten years ago, one frosty October afternoon, I joined a small group of people standing outside the Pakistan embassy in London to protest against the imposition of military rule by General Musharraf.

We were there because it had been one year since the army chief had removed the civilian government, and had accused the PM Nawaz Sharif, of 'hijacking his aircraft'.

We were a well-meaning lot, galvanised by Arif Azad, and we reached Lowndes Square right after a large protest rally, led by Nawaz Sharif's son and peopled by coach loads of PML-N workers, had dispersed. Obviously they were a hard act to follow, but we chanted some good slogans largely thanks to Nafisa Shah's enthusiasm and cheerleading skills.

But why did we go there that day, a decade ago? Because the handful of us that had bothered to turn up actually felt strongly about the evils of military interventions and we were all of an age that remembered how General Zia's eleven-year-rule had brutalised Pakistan's society and psyche.

Fast forward to 2007: I attend a London function organised by the embassy for President Musharraf. It is packed with British Pakistanis who all seem to adore him. The man himself seems fairly drunk with power and makes a speech in roguish tones. He denounces anti-Pakistan journalists and berates (the well respected journalist) M. Ziauddin for having asked him an awkward question. He recommends that such journalists should be taught a lesson and slapped; the crowd cheers and claps, they love this military dictator and his 'no nonsense' demeanour.

Then Musharraf ends up in London in some sort of exile after having presided over the Lal Masjid crisis, dismissed the Chief Justice, scorned the judges and suspended civil liberties by imposing an emergency. The civilian government provides him with a form of honourable exit instead of trying to lynch him or put him in the dock. Musharraf then leaves his new-built palatial residence on the outskirts of Islamabad and moves to a flat on the Edgware Road.

Presumably he soon got tired of playing bridge and wining and dining, so he decides that he owes it to his thousands of Facebook 'fans' to enter politics in Pakistan... Presumably some peculiar western officials also encourage him in his ambitions...

Cut to October 2010: in the library of London Club, a suited booted Musharraf launches a political party in a style reminiscent of a rightist thinktank. Then he goes off to Birmingham to address a gathering of British Pakistanis.

Charming stuff. But I would just like to note here that this is the man who toppled a government to save his own job, who started a war with India without consulting the elected PM... The man who actively persecuted dissenting politicians and despite claims of 'enlightened moderation' ruled over an establishment that sponsored jehadi groups... This is the man who claimed to crack down on religious extremism yet who allowed the Sipah-e-Sahaba chief, Azam Tariq to contest -- and win -- the 2002 elections....

Pakistan's so-called liberals like this man and actually supported him in his do-you-want-me referendum. They loved his blunt demeanour and roguish tones and defiant words. They warmed to that early photo of him in his bush shirt holding his Pekingese dogs next to his Ammi jan in her sari.

But I have always wondered: what actually became of the little dogs? They sort of disappeared from view very soon after when Musharraf got cosy with the fundos and the crooks.

Can we read their disappearance, their being edited out of political biography, as a metaphor for the expediency that characterises General Musharraf's political career? Food for thought.

Umber Khairi



|Home|Daily Jang|The News|Sales & Advt|Contact Us|