Going beyond the fourth wall
LAHORE:As one of Pakistan’s most prolific theatre troupes, Ajoka Theatre is renowned not just for its solo plays but also for many cross-border collaborations. It has spread the message of oneness within the subcontinent and provided opportunities for theatre enthusiasts from India and Pakistan to work together in the worst of socio-political scenarios. This time around, Ajoka has opened its doors to Indian director Usha Gangoly, who will be directing a play entitled Ani Ma da Sufna.
Written by Ajoka’s founder and director Shahid Nadeem, Ani Ma da Sufna depicts the story of Partition. “The play is about the separation of India and Pakistan, so the stories and circumstances shown in it revolve around the repercussions of Partition,” said Ajoka Theatre artistic director Madiha Gohar, while speaking to The Express Tribune. It highlights the sentiments of an elderly man and woman, both of whom migrated from one side of the border to another and are now unable to revisit their childhood hometowns due to visa troubles. “Ajoka is reputed for presenting quality entertainment to those who love theatre and Ani Ma da Sufna is a wonderful play,” added Gohar. The play will be performed on April 14 and April 15 at Alhamra Hall, Lahore.
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In this connection, Gohar and Gangoly have already begun preparatory workshops and are currently busy training their artists. Classes are being conducted in the Ajoka offices and cover a variety of topics pertaining to performance art, such as language, diction, movement and dialogue-delivery.
The ongoing sessions mark Ajoka’s second round of workshops as they have already completed the first round last month. Prior to this, the theatre troupe was last seen in Kon Hai Yeh Gustakh, which they performed at the Punjab Naatshala Theatre Festival, held in Amritsar in light of World Theatre Day (March 27). Gohar described the trip as a “wonderful experience” and went on to say that the timing for a play like Ani Ma da Sufna could not have been better. “Kon Hai Yeh Gustakh is about the life and works of Saadat Hasan Manto and we received tremendous applause in Amritsar. There are as many fans of the great Manto in India as they are in Pakistan,” said Gohar who has recovered from the illness that kept him hospitalised for months.
Ajoka’s media adviser Qasim Ali also spoke of the warm welcome extended to the troupe by its Indian hosts. “We are well-known for our performances across the world and especially in India,” he said. “The Indian audience greeted Ajoka with honour and respect and gave Madeeha due credit for her wonderful services to the field of theatre. This time, we are presenting Ani Mai da Sufna and hopefully, it will be performed in other cities of the country as well.”