By Faizan Hussain - Recently a play Haaf Playt was staged at Alhamra Hall, Lahore. It is the fourth play which Anwar Maqsood has written for Kopykats Productions and directed by Dawar Mehmood. This stage play is based on the famous long drama Half Plate that was telecast on PTV decades ago.

The basic story revolves around the life of a columnist and poet Mirza Nafees Barelvi and his wife Bano. There are five other characters who are part and parcel of the play but they are directly linked to these husband and wife. The play reveals that Mirza and Bano are bound in a typical husband-wife relationship. They constantly taunt each other about their respective ancestors. Their son, Karim Barelvi, also aspires to be a poet like his father and grandfather. Butt Sahib is the owner of the house in which this family is living. He is paying regular visits for the last ten years in order to collect the rent of his house but every time he has to face disappointment. Tamanna is also a poetess who often comes Mirza Nafees house, her mentor. The family has a loyal servant Waheed, who is living with them for a long time. At the end of the play the story reveals another aspect when Iftikhar comes back from Canada and comes to Bano’s house. He is her cousin who wanted to marry her but due to certain reasons they could not marry. He lives in Canada, works in a bank but never got married.

It is a comic play but what distinguishes it from other comic plays is that it not a situational or action comedy rather it is purely a dialogue based comedy. During the seventy five minutes performance the audience kept laughing and there was not a single person who could restrain himself from laughing loudly. The hall was jam packed with the audience who gave a standing ovation to the actors and the whole team. In many shows Anwar Maqsood also made special appearance and dedicated this play to actors Moin Akhtar, Khalida Riyasat, Jamshed Ansari, Latif Kapadia and TV producer Mohsin Ali, who did it for PTV. All the actors have passed away now.

Dawar Mehmood said while talking exclusively to Sunday Plus that he was happy that the audience liked the play. When asked about his satisfaction with the performance of his actors, he answered in negative. “If I say something about actors’ performance after observing the response of the audience then actors performed very well still they have to learn a lot. There are many weaknesses which they still have to overcome,” he stated. He also revealed the fact during his conversation that his previous three plays did more business than Haaf Playt but this play was enjoyed most. It became a laughter roller coaster.

 

THEMES

Haaf Playt is apparently a simple comedy telling the story of a couple but in reality it has layers and layers of meanings and themes. These meanings range from real life to abstract world. In this seventy five minutes comedy Anwar Maqsood not only make people laugh but also make them realise about the grim and tough realities of life .

The play is about the hard core fact that literature and educational matters never got importance in our country. People are happy to spend lot of money for dinning out but they are reluctant about spending money for books and other reading materials. Those people who are affiliated to the work of writing are either underpaid or unpaid that they find it difficult to make both ends meet. Mirza in this play writes columns for newspapers but he does not get his payment. Bano taunts him many times that had Mirza been affiliated with food business then he would have been earning the amount of money only from haaf playt of kababs which he gets from one column. At the end of the play, Bano takes the receiver of telephone and tells to the editor that he will have to pay in advance for the columns.

The play also highlights the fact that one should realise his inner passion and the qualities with which he is blessed by God and should not jump into another field just for the sake of money. Mirza is a writer and poet who doesn’t quit writing just because he is earning less.

The play describes the plight of white collar people who are facing financial problems but they never accept any help from their friends or relatives. They keep their worries to themselves in order to maintain their dignity. For them respect and dignity is most precious wealth. In the play Iftikhar offers Bano a handsome amount of money which he has saved for her. But Bano not only refuses to accept that money but also ironically offers him that he can borrow from her if he needs. She doesn’t let Iftikhar assume anything negative about her husband.

Similarly, the play is purely a story of our eastern tradition in which arrange marriages take place and children obey their parents in matrimonial decisions. In the play we come to know that Iftikhar and Bano are attached to each other since their childhood but they could not get marry because of refusal by Iftikhar’s father.

There is also reference of East Pakistan which was separated in 1971. It shows the grief which the intellectual class still feels in its heart. There is an exchange of few dialogues in the play:

Bano: Jitna jaheez laa kar aye thee us main sa adha chala gia ha

Mirza: Adha Pakistan bee to chala gia ha

(Half of my dowry has gone which I brought)

(Half part of Pakistan has also gone)

There are also many dialogues which refer to the badly governed Pakistan.

Bano: Ghar kee kiaa haalat bana rakhi ha...

Mirza: Kharki kholo dikhao mulak kee kia haalat hoo gai ha...

(What condition you have turned this house)

(Open the window and look at the condition of this country)

There are aspects of this play which represent the true nature of human beings, for example, Mirza Nafees Barelvi has soft heart for Tamanna . She is also breath of fresh air for his son but she is a major problem for Bano. That is why she doesn’t like her arrival. Similarly, Bano has soft heart for Iftikhar and when he comes to know that he is coming to her house, she looks herself up in the mirror to see if she needs quick makeup and to make sure her hair are made-up nicely.

 

CHARACTERISATION

Dawar is a director who works less on lines and script and emphasises more on characterisation. It is one of the basic reason that his every character portrays a real life images to the audience. According to Yasir Hussain, who is was playing Mirza Nafees Barevli, said about him, “Dawar is the only director I have ever worked with who not only gives direction but also trains the actor. That training is useful for the play and also for future.” Haaf Playt has seven characters. Every character’s role has lot of margin and not a single character dominates the other.

Mirza Nafees Braelvi (Yasir Hussain) is a character of simple hearted person who is a writer and a poet. Unfortunately his writings can’t fetch him enough money to meet his domestic expenditures. He is constantly under pressure from his family and from his landowner. He is unable to pay monthly rent of the house in which he is passing the remaining days of his life . In spite of all these he is dedicated to his ancestral trait of writings. This role was previously performed by Moin Akhtar. According to Yasir it was a challenge for him to perform this role, but he was happy from the feedback which he received from the audience. He also gave its credit to makeup artist and costume designer who made him exactly look like Moin sahib.

Bano’s (Maryam Saleem) role is that of a helpless woman whose husband is a poet. Her only hope is her son, who also becomes a poet, which is quite disappointing for her. She has passed her life in quarrelling with her husband. But still she doesn’t let anyone to say anything about her husband and maintains his dignity by refusing the money offered to her by Iftikhar. Bano represents those wives of our society who suffer because of their husbands; those husbands who are either drug addicted or don’t do anything tangible to earn for their families. She is also the portrayal of those ladies who are not allowed to do any job. In PTV play, this character was played by Khalida Riyasat.

Butt Sahib (Zahid Ahmed) is the owner of the house in which Mirza and his family is residing. He is a simple person. His only worry of life is the rent which he has never received from the last ten years. He loves literature and literary personalities. He is very keen about reading Mirza Ghalib, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Allama Iqbal etc. and that is why he respects Mirza Nafees Barelvi because he writes about such great personalities. His love for literature is also obvious from the sherwani which he gets stitched in Rs. 20,000 to preside over a Mushaira. The pure and innocent aspect of Punjab and Pakistan is portrayed from his character that he never crosses his limits while talking to Bano, realising the fact that she is a lady. Even though he isn’t getting his monthly rent but he had never forced this family to vacate his house. This character has lot of entertainment value and remained a hit because of Zahid’s fabulous dialogue delivery.

Iftikhar (Gohar Rasheed)’s character is very much related to love and emotions. He represents the unfulfillment aspect of every famous love story in which two love birds never meet; be it the story of Romeo & Juliet, Sassui Punnhun or Heer Ranjha. This unfulfillment is the essence of true love. He doesn’t get married even though he knew that Bano has got married and she has a grown up son. Love is the purest form of any emotion and this purity keeps Iftikhar bound to his love. When Iftikhar comes back to Pakistan and meets Bano, both see each other and their love for each other rekindles, and their early days spent together flash in their memories. Gohar Rasheed performed this role very well. He made the audience emotional with his acting and dialogues.

Waheed (Muhammad Nazar Huusain) is a loyal servant of Mirza Nafees Barelvi and Bano. He had spent his life by serving this family. He is more loyal and near to Mirza. He often gets scolded by Bano. He is an introduction of different character and works as a bridge between them. His role is also of a communicator.

Mirza Karim Barelvi (Bilal Yousaf Zai) is the son of Mirza Nafees Barevli and is following in the footsteps of his father and wants to be a poet. He talks, walks and argues like a poet but pens horrible poetry. He also represents the unfulfilled desire of Mirza Nafees Barelvi. His role is full of amusement for the audience and Bilal performed it well.

Tamanna (Alizeh Rizvi) is a young and beautiful poetess who pays regular visits to Mirza Nafees Bralvi for correction in her poems. Although her role is comparatively short but she is referred throughout the play which never let the audience to forget her even for a second. She is portrayed as a wealthy lady who pays the passport fee of Mirza Karim Barelvi.

 

 

 

 

tête-à-tête with Anwar Maqsood

 

By Faizan Hussain

Sunday Plus: Tell us something about the background of writing Half Plate?

Anwar Maqsood: I wrote this play for Khalida Riyasat when she was passing the last few months of her life . She said to me, ‘Anwar, I will hardly survive till December and you haven’t written anything for me.’ It was September when she talked to me. Originally it was a stage play but since she was very ill and stage performance was difficult so it became a TV play. Producer Mohsin Ali initially found the script bit inappropriate because of its first scene which was a long conversation for about thirty six minutes between Moin Akhtar and Khalida Riyasat. But on my request the play was rehearsed and he was stunned to find that the very first scene has a complete story like of a play.

S+: There is change in spellings from Half Plate to Haaf Playt. What is its reason?

AM: I did not change its spellings. It is the production team who changed it. I was not happy with this change but they were of the view that these spellings are the literal translation of that colloquial word which is generally spoken in Punjabi or Urdu.

S+ Mirza Nafees Barelvi writes columns for newspapers but he does not get payments for his articles. Is this a subjective element of this play?

AM: There is pathos that a man doesn’t do anything. He kills his time only by quarreling with wife. He loves writing because it is his ancestral trait but he is also aggrieved for not getting his payment. He sees no future for writing about Hasrat Mohani, Allama Iqbal, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Faraz etc. As you asked about subjective element, yes, you can say there is somehow a subjective element.

S+: You worked with Moin Khan almost three and a half decade. Now Yasir is playing his role. Comment about Yasir?

AM: Yasir performed his role very well. He is the best actor among all other young actors performing with him. Moin Akhtar and Bushra Ansari were at home of doing all the roles either it is serious or comic. Yasir also shares the same trait. Give him any role be it serious or comic, give him any character either Sindhi, Memon, Mirza or any other; he does justice to his role and also to the script.

S+: A few words about Dawar and the cast?

AM: The whole team is very hard working especially Dawar. They rehearsed for this play almost three months. I feel good when I see these young actors working with dedication. I believe that either I may live or not but these people will keep performing and producing good plays. The whole cast of this play is very good.

S+: What is the central idea or the main theme of Haaf Playt?

AM: A man can spend his life easily if he limits his desires according to his income and resources. One spoils his life when cry for moon or desires rule over him. This contentment is diminishing in our society and that is why people use unfair means to fulfill their desires. Wishes beyond one’s resources destroy one’s peace of mind and finally the family life .

S+: Your every play carries a reference of East Pakistan. What do you say about it?

AM: Had the people of East Pakistan not voted for Pakistan, this country would not have come into existence. We never accepted East Pakistan as our part. Before the separation there were more products which were exported from East Pakistan. Bihari living there also considered themselves more of West Paksitan than of East Pakistan. The people of East Pakistan were very good people. In fact, East Pakistan was separated on the day when Prime Minister Nazmudin was removed from the post. Even the present rulers are not taking care of the remaining part of Pakistan properly.

S+: Is there any student to whom you passed on your writing skills?

AM: There are almost hundred TV channels and any young actor who performs in one play considers himself equal to Abid Ali or Qavi Khan; whereas in reality one has to dedicate his life to get that particular status. And as far as acting and writing are concerned, these fields have no final destination and have no end. I used to get seventy five rupees only for writing Aangan Tehra. When I was writing Studio Dhai and with that doing many other works like writing songs, making their musical compositions besides anchoring a program, I was paid Rs. 800 for all these. But I had no objection even though at that time I travelled by bus. But now-a-days people pay less attention to work and more about money.

S+: Your feedback about the play and the audience?

AM: The response which I get from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad is marvelous. Especially, it reflects the love for theatre that people of Lahore have that not a single day the hall remained half-filled. It is even packed in rainy evenings. Secondly, people were laughing even on those dialogues on which I was not expecting. So it is pleasure for me that people were constantly laughing for almost one and half hour in this time of tensions.

S+: Any message for the reader?

AM: People should stop telling a lie and always speak the truth. When one speaks the truth he forgets soon but a lie once told has to be remembered for the rest of one’s life . And never deceive to anyone.