Ajoka’s four-day festival kicks off in Lahore

LAHORE: A four-day festival marking the 32nd anniversary of Ajoka Theatre, titled Reclaiming History festival kicked off at Alhamra on Monday.

Theatre play “Kaun Hai Gustakh?” was presented during the inauguration of the festival.

Ajoka started its journey 32 years back in 1984 during General Ziaul Haq’s military rule, from a house lawn with a small group of cultural activists. It has been part of the struggle for a secular, democratic, just, humane and enlightened Pakistan for the last 32 years and has now become an internationally-acclaimed theatre group.

“Kaun Hai Gustakh?” was based on the life and works of short-story writer Saadat Hassan Manto. The play was written by Shahid Nadeem and directed by Madiha Gauhar. The cast included Usman Raaj, Uzma Kharal, Kamran Mujahid, Qaiser Ali, Sohail Tariq and Shahzad Sadiq.

The play presented various aspects of Saadat Hassan Manto’s life after migration to Pakistan from 1948 to 1955. It also revealed the unending efforts of Manto for his survival without compromising his rules and disciplines, how he fought with conservatives and how people reacted to his novels.

The play also showed Manto in different characters, which he had written, in his stories including Khuda ki Qasam, Khol Do, Kal Jo Ankh Meri Khuli, Toba Tek Singh and Thanda Gosht.

Talking to Daily Times on the occasion, Shahid Mahmood said that completing 32 successful years not only highlights Ajoka’s contribution to the industry but also signifies the role it played to promote peace, culture and theatre.

Mahmood was of the view that Ajoka not only raised voice against the oppressors but also highlighted issues being faced by a common man. “Ajoka started working in an era, which was too hard to work in; Zia’s era was the toughest time being faced by Ajoka,” he added.

Mahmood said that Ajoka theatre started its journey with a small group of volunteers under a strict martial law with the play ”Jaloos”. “During the last 32 years we have produced 50 to 55 original plays and have represented Pakistan theatrically all over the world. We have gotten appreciation from everywhere especially from India, UK and the US. It is a time of celebration for Ajoka and we will present our four plays for the audience, two of which are recent and two of them are classics. We should celebrate good news from Pakistan as such news does not come often. We have initiated a new wave of meaningful theatre in Pakistan and this mission will only continue,” he added.

Ajoka will present “Lo Phir Basant Ayi” today (Tuesday), “Anni Ma Da Supna” tomorrow (Wednesday) and “Kabira Khara Bazaar May” on Thursday. All the plays address issues relating to cultural identity and heritage projecting a message of peace, tolerance and religious harmony.

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