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Hope for harmony

Tuesday, October 10, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

Even at a time when theater-going audiences are looking for entertainment, it is heartening to see a play like Ank’s 'Jis Lahore Nahin Dekhya' complete 300 shows this weekend.

It was Dinesh Thakur’s favourite play, and when he was alive, he played the role of a poet. The serious and thought-provoking play, based on Asghar Wajahat’s novel, is set during the Partition, when an old Hindu woman (played marvelously by a much-younger Preeta Mathur) is abandoned by her family in a Lahore mansion when they leave for India.

When Sikandar Mirza and his family migrates from India to Pakistan, and are allotted a haweli by the custodian in Lahore, they are shocked to find a doddering old woman, who goes simply by the label of 'Ratan ki Maa,' still in the house. Even though she has been betrayed by her own family, she has not lost her capacity to offer affection to the ‘intruders’ in her home.

The old woman refuses to leave and after the initial discomfiture and attempts to get her out, the Mirzas come to love her. She is eventually accepted as a mother figure by the whole mohalla. But trouble is fomented by the hooligans in the area, who stir up communal trouble.

The warmth and humanism of the story is timeless, and Thakur always believed that there should be more plays like this one done, sending out positive messages of communal harmony. His wife Preeta is carrying his legacy forward by continuing to perform the play in Mumbai and elsewhere.

A Nida Fazli poem used in the play has a line, “Do aur do ka jod hamesha chaar kahan hota hai; Soch samajh waalon ko thodi naadani de maula,” which is more relevant today than ever before.

When the play completed 200 shows (in 2010) Ank released a book on the journey of the play, with the experiences of the cast and crew, as well as comments from audiences who have seen it over a period of time.

They also released a CD of the music of the play, on demand from fans of the production who wanted to source the songs. Hopefully,  the book and CD will still be available.

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