Even though Rahat Kazmi
insists that he is not set out to give any social message in his third
directorial effort, ‘Khamosh! Yeh Adalat Hay’ (Silence! The court is in
session), the sensitive subject matter of Napa Repertory Theatre
Company’s tenth play does exactly that. Originally written in Marathi by
India’s celebrated playwright Vijay Tendulkar, the beautifully crafted
play has been adapted into Urdu by Intizar Hussain and is being staged
at the Arts Council Auditorium in Karachi until 25th of May.
At its opening night on
Saturday, the high-voltage performance successfully managed to rattle
the audience’s preconceived notions about morality and the place their
sub continental society gives to unmarried women.
The plot revolves around the fate of the flirtatious Miss Benare (played
to perfection by Bakhtawar Mazhar), who is a school teacher and part of
a theatre group that arrives in a village to perform. The intriguing
play within the play takes an ugly turn when the male actors conspire to
put her in the dock in a mock trial and charge her for allegedly trying
to kill a love child taking shape in her womb.
Sukhatmay (Owais Mangalwala), the vicious lawyer, leaves no stone
unturned in portraying the single unmarried woman as a blot on the face
of an upright and patriarchal society, despite the fact that all his
accusations are based on flimsy evidence. ‘But she was seen with a man
alone, my lord!’ exhorts Sukatmay, almost echoing the sentiments of
countless men in our own society who hold such views. The arrogant
Ponkshay (played expertly by Ali Rizvi) too joins in the fray and gives
his eyewitness account of how the woman begged him to marry her.
Ponkshay disdainfully asks: ‘how can I marry such a woman,’ who is but
seeking acceptance in a society that looks down upon women wanting to
raise a child on their own. The flamboyant Karnick played by Rauf Afridi
is perhaps the most delightful and comical of all the characters; he too
joyfully gangs up on Benare.
Benare initially plays along with her co-actors, but later realizes that
she’s been trapped and tries to get out of the mock courtroom when it
gets too personal. However, Mrs Kashikar (Uroosa Shamim), the judge’s
wife, puts Benare back in the dock by force.
The climax reaches when the judge, Kashikar (Ali Sheikh) reads out his
verdict based on the ‘overwhelming evidence’. Will he allow the woman
and her unborn child to live?
The Saturday night performance, however, was marred by some technical
glitches; the fountain on stage didn’t work and there was an annoying
buzz in the microphone used unnecessarily in the end. Also, the over two
and half hour long play was a bit of a drag. The extended monologues of
some characters, such as Karnick, affected the rhythm of the play and
could have been reduced.
The set design was not grand, but it looked elegant. Although there was
nothing brilliant about the costumes or the stage lighting, the
simplicity of it all gelled in well with the theme of the play.
If nothing else, the play is worth the Rs 500 price tag for its powerful
dialogues, especially that of Benare in the end which sums up the dark
undertones of our society. Students can avail a 50 per cent discount on