Anwar Maqsood’s “Pawnay 14 August”: Review

-File photo

“Parayshan ho kay meri khaak aakhir dil Na ban jaye, Jo mushkil abb hai Ya Rab, phir wohi mushkil na banjaye”

As Maulana Shaukat Ali sang these thoughtful words in his melodic voice, the show commenced.

When I was first told about the show, my initial instinct –like on everything else– was to get out of having to go and see it. Despite being aware, that it was written by Anwar Maqsood (who is undoubtedly among the finest writers Pakistan has ever produced) I felt lethargic to the idea of driving all the way; just to see a theater performance about PAKISTAN?

But, as luck and quite a bit of constant verbal and physical persistence of a close friend would have it, I was destined to attend last night’s show of Pawnay 14 August, performed at the Arts Council Auditorium in Karachi.

So we reached the auditorium, took our seats and thirty seconds into the show, I was hooked.

Anwar Maqsood, –who wasn’t even in Pakistan– had worked his magic on me and it took him only thirty seconds to do it.

As the show progressed, I realized that it wasn’t just the sheer brilliance of his writing that was so gripping and undeniably entertaining. It was actually the right mix of actors who were skilled to the bone and executed each and every line exactly how they were supposed to be executed.

To talk about the show itself, the whole concept of the show is based around three main characters: Maulana Shaukat Ali Johar, Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In the beginning of the show, Allama Iqbal had written a letter to Anwar Maqsood, informing him about their arrival in Pakistan to catch-up with the country they so eagerly conceived. And so, the three pioneers are seen stuck on Karachi airport sparking up random conversations with everyday Pakistanis and waiting to board their PIA flight so they can go to Islamabad.

Through out the course of the play, modern-day stereotypes of various characteristics of Pakistani people are portrayed at their best and worst. Characters ranging from a Sindhi Wadera, dressed in typical Sindhi attire going on about his typical Sindhi rhetoric, to a Mohajir, Urdu Speaking man, who is blindly in support of his Quaid in London.

Anwar Maqsood successfully captured the true essence of today’s Pakistani and what his priorities have become, in Pawnay 14 August.

Sitting in that auditorium observing faces in the audience; as their expressions went from uncontrollable laughter to hair-raising and teary-eyed stares, I couldn’t help but shake the goose-bumps off of myself a couple of times.

There were moments when an outrageous or politically incorrect joke received huge applause from people who were the very target of it.

Anwar Maqsood’s corrective sarcasm targeted people who arrived at his show in their huge truck like cars, with their dozen guards and tinted car windows. “Dunya ko dekh saktay hein, Magar in ko koi nahi dekh sakta. Wah Wah…”

It spoke about the semi-narcissistic approach of a typical Punjabi minister who believes tsunamis only appear in toilets after a plate full of Nihari. Who believes “Soz-e-Dimagh” is a “Maghaz dish” served at roadside restaurants in Lahore.

The Sindhi who had mistaken Iqbal’s Shaheen for a vacant plot at Khayban-e-Shaheen. Who became a minister by the “Grace of Asif”.

The modern-age woman who believes Imran Khan is the leader that she needs, more than Pakistan. The massive gatherings (Jalsa) where 2 lac PTI men come to see the 1 lac PTI women.

The separated Bangali who reminds us of what we did to them in 1971 and then insists that Shakib-ul-Hassan would have been Pakistan’s captain if it wasn’t for the partition.

The Mohajir, who has a love-hate relationship with his Sindhi neighbor. Who has found an explanation for calling himself a Mohajir, -because it’s not like he can call himself a Chandio or a Bhutto.-

The flamboyant Veena Malik still defending her right to nudity. And the inane PIA air hostess who is the equivalent of a switched off computer at an airport ticket counter.

And last but not the least, the Army General, who believes Army’s duty is to stay inside the borders, not on them.

As a whole, the show acts as a true mirror to our society, a mirror that displays our own image with our three pioneers standing behind our shoulders and weeping with sadness and a hint of hope. That maybe… just maybe “Baat abhi bhi ban sakti ho” “Mulk abhi bhi bach jaye”. If anything, we can laugh and learn from this play, learn about ourselves and what we were supposed to be and what we have become. I alone, can only hope that more of these thought provoking theater acts will manifest from within Pakistan and educate our people.

P.S If you were lucky enough to be a part of this show and then went home without running over the first three red lights on your way. Congratulations, you did it!