The evenings this week in the city are abuzz with staging of plays by the Ajoka Theatre from Lahore. The ongoing ‘Theatre for Peace’ festival has drawn a lot of attention, mainly because of the guests from Pakistan and their experiment with different genres of theatre.
As the five-day festival progresses towards its second half, HT spoke to these artistes from across the border about their experiences in India and Pakistan.
“We were invited to Delhi for a festival in remembrance of Safdar Hashmi. We staged the play ‘Eit’ (brick) in Delhi and it was a front page news,” said Shahid Nadeem, who runs the theatre group with his wife Madeeha Gauhar.
“It was in 2004 that we brought ‘Bulla’ to Punjab and it was a huge success. We were overwhelmed and people here were surprised as we were just like them with same language and legends. We travelled all the way to Kerala and Hyderabad after that,” he said.
“There are few good theatres in Pakistan and we do not get any subsidy from the government. We feel we have a responsibility to give different flavours of theatre to the people in our country,” said Madeeha.
Madeeha says she finds Indian people supportive of artistes while she faces challenges in Pakistan.
“People here are warm and wonderful. They love theatre but we are not accepted easily in Pakistan,” says Uzma Hassan, an upcoming television actor who feels like home in Chandigarh.
“In India people have respect for performing arts but in Pakistan we have to explain ourselves all the time. They often ask me “aap kya kaam karte hain’ (what do you do) as if acting is not enough,” said Nirwan, son of Madeeha and Nadeem.
The couple is organising festivals like ‘Humsaaya’ to bring theatre groups of both the countries on a single platform.