June Issue 2010

By | Arts & Culture | Published 14 years ago

The Karachi theatre scene seems to be at its most prolific lately. In the last couple of months, Karachiites have been entertained with a healthy dose of dance performances including Tehrik-e-Niswan’s Peace Dreams and Sharabeel’s Moulin Rouge. In the midst of these veterans, a young choreographer’s directorial debut heralds a fresh addition to the burgeoning talent pool.

Take a peek inside a magical forest and eavesdrop on the contemplative ponderings of birds, a cat and earthworms. That’s the hour-long journey that Joshinder Chaggar (a.k.a Josh) promised us in her experimental dance drama Conversations.

Held at the Arts Council mid-May, the show comprised verbal and modern dance conversations attempting to explore man’s primitive desire for internal freedom. The show moved rhythmically with individual dance pieces interspersed with monologues and woven together by ensemble performances.

The troupe comprised Joshinder Chaggar, a promising choreographer, Khalid Malik, Shezi Khan, Muhammad Ghani, Shaan Sheikh, Sunil Shankar and Abdul Aleem Shekhani.

The show started off with a competitive verbal exchange between the two birds (Shaan Shaikh and Muhammad Ghani) introducing explicit conflict at the onset. Their performance served as a preamble to Joshinder’s monologue. She successfully portrayed the existential angst of a bird trapped in her body, yearning to fly. Her performance was layered with feminist undertones and exhibited great emotional truth. She was joined later by Shezi Khan, who convincingly played the owl symbolising wisdom.

Khalid Malik followed with his Rock Star Cat act and had the audience in fits of laughter. He deserves special mention for his charismatic stage presence and nimble movements. The audience adored him! Earlier, he won accolades for his entertaining portrayal of a Lahori film hero in Mohabbat Bhi Qayamat Bhi by Katha Productions. Definitely someone to watch out for.

Sunil Shankar and Abdul Aleem Sheikhani rendered potent performances as earthworms. They represented creatures stuck in repetitive, self-defeating cyclical patterns and yet unable to break free. Theirs was the most introspective and abstract piece and the young performers handled it with great aplomb.

Another highlight of the performance was Shezi Khan’s soulful rendition of Sufi poetry. The audience sat spellbound as his voice engulfed the silent auditorium. This young man is quite adept with his pirouettes and baritones, a rare and valuable combination indeed.

The show reached its resolution with a cacophony of the characters’ voices overpowering each other, revealing our self-imposed isolation.

Overall, the performers showed terrific mastery of their craft and the choreography was an eclectic mix of various dance genres. However, there were some elements in the overall production that could have been executed better.

The choice of music was unoriginal and lacked thematic cohesion. While the musical score had familiar tracks, they didn’t seem to be the right fit for the production’s tone.

The script also needed more work. The dialogue seemed sparse and, on occasion, clichéd.

The costume design by EGO and Fayez Agaria was colourful and innovative, but the colour overload in the lighting plan seemed to be vying for attention with the rest of the production design. The minimalist set design wasn’t helped by the overly dramatic lighting either. There were moments when the performance seemed completely eclipsed by smoke machines and misdirected lighting cues.

Overall, Conversations made for an entertaining night, mainly because of its very talented performers. It’s refreshing to see our youth keeping the art of dancing alive and introducing a contemporary dimension to the craft of movement.

Click any photo to begin the slide show.