September Issue 2013

By | Newsliners | Published 8 years ago

The main room in T2F reverberated with laughter on August 24, as the Zambeel troupe performed the second of four dramatic readings of Manto’s radio plays. The event, titled Aao Manto Sunein, featured four humorous plays by the famed writer: ‘Aao Chori Karein,’ ‘Aao Kahani Likhein,’ ‘Aao Taash Khaylein’ and ‘Aao Baat tau Suno.’
Those who have previously attended Zambeel’s dramatic readings would have recognised its founding members, Asma Mundrawala and Mahvash Faruqi, in the performance. Joining them were two guest actors, Mohammed Ehteshamuddin and Syed Meesam Naqvi, who, thanks to their more prominent roles in the four plots, nearly stole the show.

But back to that second reading. While all four stories, featuring the same characters, elicited laughter from the packed audience, it was the second play that brought the house down. Lajvanti (Mundrawala) and Kishore (Ehteshamuddin), a married couple, decide they want to write a story. With the help of their friend Narayan (Naqvi), they start piecing together a narrative of a woman waiting late at night for her husband to return home from a club. However, with their frequent interjections and constant bickering it soon becomes clear that the tale hits a little too close to home for the couple. Jealousies and insecurities all come to the forefront as the two squabble, but in the end it is Narayan who has the last word.

All four plays depict everyday spats and problems. In one, Narayan wants to show off a recently learned card trick but his friends are too distracted to pay attention. In another, a quick errand becomes an impossible task for Kishore, as neighbours and relatives keep adding items to his list of things to buy from the market. The plots may appear to be simple but they were written with such wit, not to mention performed with such aplomb, that they had the audience completely captivated.

And, as would be expected of Manto, in each story there was a very slight, underlying note of melancholy, which hinted at the frustrations and tedium of life. At the end of the performance, Faruqi read out Manto’s preface for these radio plays, which he wrote only to be able to feed himself. In his words, these stories “made people laugh, but did not bring the faintest smile to [his] lips.”

Zehra Nabi is a graduate student in The Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at Newsline and The Express Tribune.