March Issue 2013

By | Arts & Culture | Published 11 years ago

Recreating Anwar Maqsood’s classic 1983 teleseries is no small feat. This is especially the case when the majority of the cast of the play, as Anwar Maqsood noted himself at the media night of Aangan Terrha, was not even born when the original comedy series aired on television sets for the first time.

The show did not rely on a large budget, jingoism, melodrama or glamour; it was, in fact, the opposite of all those things. Quite simply, it was the sheer strength of clever and witty dialogue scripted by the peerless Maqsood and the inclusion of a brilliant cast that made it so popular. It brought new actors to the forefront as well as solidifying the acting credentials of already well-known names such as Shakeel, Bushra Ansari, Salim Nasir, Arshad Mehmood, Moin Akhtar, Qazi Wajid, Badar Khalil and Durdana Butt. While many of the actors such as Salim Nasir and Moin Akhtar have since passed away, the young cast in Dawar Mahmood’s version brought them back to life on stage for 100 days at the Arts Council.

In his introduction, Maqsood said that every play of his is like a child, and Aangan Terrha is the best of his children. He was hesitant to write the script at first, but seeing the passion and line-to-line knowledge of Aangan Terrha by the actors, he decided to do something for the younger generation.

As the curtains open to the sound of a familiar jingle, the audience is transported back to simpler times with the familiar names of Mehboob Ahmed, Jahan Ara, Chaudhry and Akbar being heard. To make up for their financial shortcomings, Mehboob and Jahan Ara rent out a room to a series of oddball characters that include an impoverished journalist (Bilal Yousafzai), an unappreciated poet (Wassam Wahid), a qawwali maestro (Nazar Hussain) and a morning talk show host (Sana Khan Niazi). Each of these guests run away before the completion of their tenancy. Finally, the room is occupied by Jahan Ara’s overbearing mother (Zahra Vayani), whose conflicts with Akbar and infatuation with Chaudhry sahib are hilarious to watch.

Yasir Hussain who plays Akbar, the dancer-turned-servant (“hum mulazim nahin, funkaar hain”), emulates Salim Nasir to perfection with the frivolity of his movements, hand gestures, sudden bursts into alaaps and Kathak and snippets of English in an affected accent. Talal Jilani plays the mild mannered ex-civil servant Mehboob Ahmed and Hareem Farooq plays Jahan Ara, his short-tempered and feisty wife. Chaudhry sahib is played by Khalifa Sajeeruddin who imitates Arshad Mahmood’s character perfectly.

Audiences can expect many of the same jokes from the TV series, with some additions. Bushra Ansari, upon being invited on stage after the play to share a few words, joked about how Anwar Maqsood managed to fit in more risqué jokes now than he could have in the ’80s.

Exactly 30 years after the teleseries first aired, many were skeptical whether the young actors could do justice to the iconic roles. However, judging from the standing ovation they received from the audience on the media night, and the difficulty in attaining tickets, it is safe to say the cast, production team, and director  have certainly delivered.

This review was originally published in Newsline’s March 2013 issue under the headline, “A Classic Revived.”

The writer is a journalist and former assistant editor at Newsline.