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Jis Lahore Nahi Dekhya

All those who know me, know how long I have been planning to watch this play. Every time, I decided to watch it, something or the other prevented me from watching it. In fact, even on 14th August, when I watched the show, when I reached Prithvi, the show was sold out. But I managed to get the tickets somehow. May be all those adversities/ obstacles were kind of hint of destiny to me, warning me that “Beware!”, “Danger!!” 

Jis Lahore.. has a very beautiful and simple story line. It’s about this old Hindu lady who stays back in Pakistan even after the partition in the hope that her lost son might come back to the “haveli” looking for her. She manages to escape the genocide of Hindus in Pakistan after the partition. The Pakistani Allotment committee, unknown to the fact that the house is occupied by this old lady allots the house to a Muslim family who had to migrate to Pakistan from Lucknow after partition. The story revolves around the relationship between the Muslim family and this old lady and their neighbourhood. The story has beautiful twists and turns about how the initial struggle of the family to drive the “Dadi” out of house turns into how to keep her safe and hold her back from leaving the house. Well, that is the storyline..

I am told that this play has been running for many years. I am not sure whether all the cast is the same till date. However, the show I saw I felt everyone was struggling to be in their character. Everything about the show was archaic, right from the storyline, the set, the actors and the acting. It felt as if I was watching one of the black and white movies of pre-independence era where actors had to be loud because the technique was underdeveloped to capture the subtlety.

The actors were over the top and it felt like they were competing with each other in who could be “the most melodramatic”. Their emotions were so superficial and fake. I did not feel the pain of the old lady in losing her son and having to deal with attempts of strangers to drive out of her own house. Neither did I feel the angst of the family for having to uproot themselves from the place they spent their entire life and to struggle to fit in new society and come to terms with the fact that they have to share their new residence with a person of different beliefs. Even the political and philosophical commentary on the then state of affairs by the poet and “maulvi” was hollow. I did not feel for the death of the old lady or murder of the maulvi by his “own” people. The whole thing was so verbose.

The only thing I liked about the play was the set which if I am not mistaken is designed by Dhanendra Kawde. There was a mishap during the show and thankfully no one was injured. A iron lamp-post which formed a part of the set in a far corner of the stage, somehow got loose and fell inside the stage (note my comment on everything about the show being archaic!). It fell on a wooden bench where the actors were sitting just a while ago. They were plain lucky to have survived that.

The experience of the evening was really excruciating for me, partly because of the fact that I had to sit absolutely squeezed between these healthy sardar families who had booked (read that overbooked) that particular show.  The only memorable thing in that show was the mishap and of course singing national anthem after the show on the eve of Independence day!