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Nida Butt, KopyKats and NAPA keep theatre alive in a landscape where television dominates

Sania Saeed was a breath of fresh air as an aspiring acting student in the play Mein Adakara Banungi.

A flurry of high-octane numbers. Bright, dazzling lights that danced with the stars. Eye-catching sets that carried the audience to another time, another place. The year in theatre kicked off with brilliant razzle-dazzle as Nida Butt brought Broadway to town in Karachi with the Made For Stage production of Grease in January. Extended a few nights beyond its intended run, Grease enthralled audiences en masse, who not only had the pleasure of seeing their favourite stage stars like Sanam Saeed belt out some moving ballads, but also greatly enjoyed the hidden talent that Nida discovered, like the now famous Sarah Haider and Mustafa Changezi and newcomers like Parishae Adnan. Grease’s production was also an important first, in that it was the first international licensed stage production to be put up in Pakistan.

KopyKats Productions regaled us all year round with a series of entertaining productions. Their stage adaptation of Anwar Maqsood’s classical teleplay Haaf Playt’s ran into the beginning of this year; KopyKats then collaborated with the Katha theatre troupe for the very well-received Mein Adakara Banungi in July; and finally, to close the year, Anwar Maqsood is currently staging a dharna, complete with a container, for a play on Pakistani politics. All in all, KopyKats enjoyed a prolific year, and we’ve enjoyed it with them!

The annual NAPA Theatre Festival went international this year with troupes from India, Nepal, Germany, and England flying in for two-day performances in March to enact stories inspired by and adapted from subcontinental literary figures Ismat Chughtai and Tagore, classic Greek tales, South American contemporary literature and original abstract plays. It was like a mini-world trip through the stages around the globe – and moved us all with the moods, ideas and passions of writers and thinkers from world over.

While theatre troupes kept our schedules chock-a-block, individual performers like Saad Haroon also gave us a cause to celebrate. After several rounds of stand-up stand-offs against comedians from around the world, Saad Haroon was the runner up in the international The Funniest Person in the World competition, organized by US comedy club The Laughing Factory, proving to the world that we aren’t such a scary bunch after all!

The Broadway import of Grease saw TV actress Ayesha Omar take centrestage and enthrall audiences with her acting skills live.

The Broadway import of Grease saw TV actress Ayesha Omar take centrestage and enthrall audiences with her acting skills live.

As the year comes to the close, we hear of a joint Pak-India stage production in the works, masterminded by Mahesh Bhatt. Intended to bring the two neighbouring countries together at a time of increasing political tensions, the play will be a collaboration between directors, actors and musicians of the two countries. Milne Do is a love story between a Pakistani girl (Mehwish Hayat) and Indian boy (Mahesh’s protégé Imran Zahid) at a time when the two countries are at loggerheads. Pakistani band Laal has been roped in to compose the music and perform live for Milne Do in collaboration with Palash Sen from the band Euphoria. Moreover, the play is being jointly directed by Danish Iqbal from India and Pakistan’s Malik Aslam of Azad Theatre. Rehearsals are being planned in both countries, and the play will visit Lahore within the first half of next year.

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