March Issue 2019
Brothers in Arms
Bhai Bhai, produced under Tahir Entertainments and directed by acclaimed Pakistani-American actor Faran Tahir, is an intensely absorbing and energetic family affair. The 90-minute production, an adaptation of Sam Shepard’s True West, was staged at the Karachi Arts Council last month.
The play takes on the original plot, a dark comedy that explores the dynamics of a sibling rivalry between two brothers, Buddy (Faran Tahir) and Bonnie (Ali Tahir). With their mother away on vacation, Bonnie – the younger but evidently more responsible brother – is told to house-sit while she is gone. Bonnie is working on a script for a producer who has to pitch an idea for a serial to Netflix, when his rambunctious, thieving older brother comes to stay with him.
Struggling to complete his work and to keep his brother — who has been steadily emptying a bottle of liquor as the night progresses — out of trouble, Bonnie engages in a spirited back and forth with his older brother, first to appease him, then swiftly loses his temper as Buddy mocks his younger brother’s profession, family and seemingly disciplined attitude.
The brothers arrive at a compromise, and Bonnie lends Buddy his car keys so he is left alone to complete his work in peace and to meet with the producer undisturbed. Buddy, for all his good intent and drunken promises, comes back to their mother’s house early, and disrupts the meeting. The producer (played by Aamir Qureshi), is discussing his Netflix-worthy expectations of the script that Bonnie has evidently fallen short of. Cue Buddy, whose larger-than-life personality steals the limelight and the producer’s attention; Bonnie is excluded as Buddy gives his own story for a script that the producer likes, and the two make plans to meet the next day for golf.
The producer decides to go with Buddy’s script idea, and expects him to write up a screenplay. With the producer no longer showing interest in Bonnie’s script, all hell breaks loose as the brothers swap roles, with Bonnie up on their mother’s table with a bottle in hand, singing loudly and off-tune, while Buddy struggles to put words down for his pitch.
With clever light and sound changes, it was easy to visualise time passing in the single set, two-act play. The set designers spared no corner of the stage, and created an IKEA-style adjacent kitchen and living room floor plan. The Tahir brothers share vibrant and real chemistry onstage, and it was a pleasure to see Faran Tahir’s theatre chops live, and Ali Tahir’s cutting one-liners, replete with impeccable slapstick.
However, what could have been a stronger plot falls short when the play does not delve further into their father’s absence — which is the punchline of many a joke — and how the relationship between the brothers became so tenuous. Also, there was not enough stage time for the brilliant mimic and comedian Hina Dilpazir, who makes an appearance as the mother, after more than half the play is over.