There are two kinds of theatre plays staged in this part of the world; those who educate and those who entertain. Rarely do we come across a theatre play that both entertains and educates the audience, making them realize something important that wasn’t on their radar till then. Music producer turned playwright Arieb Azhar’s The River’s Daughter is one such play where the audience is likely to be both educated and entertained while understanding that sometimes it's important to stand your ground for whatever you believe in.
The play is presented in partnership with the British Council under the Gender Ecologies Programme and is produced by Arieb Azhar and ALL4ONE Communications (Private) Limited Pakistan, with Yasmin Whittaker-Khan and Insaan Culture Club as UK partners. The play is dedicated to “tackling the pertinent subjects of ecology, economic exploitation, permaculture, and climate justice”, and empowerment across genders.
The play which will have its opening night on May 25th, features the characters of Umar and Marui who are part of the Sindh folklore, but this time they are in the present-day Sindh instead of the past. The story seems to revolve around the rural-urban divide which confuses the villagers but they stand by their leader Marui who believes that by staying close to their roots, they can achieve the impossible, even if it meant taking chances. The relationship between Marui the charismatic leader of the village, and Umar the director of the real-estate project (who is torn between his loyalty to his project and his growing attraction towards Marui and her ideas) is a modern day twist to Shah Lateef's folk tale Umar Marui.
The script has been written by Arieb Azhar who is making a comeback in the world of theatre after 30 years, having grown up in the Dastak theatre group of Karachi, which had been set up by his father Aslam Azhar and Mansoor Saeed (Sania Saeed's father) in the 80-s. The play is directed by Kulsoom Aftab, and Nasir Mehmood has translated the English script into Urdu.
The play features Amna Ilyas and Fawad Khan as the main leads, the two had earlier worked in a film titled Gardaab which was released a few years back, and where the chemistry of the two actors was noticed by all. They are back again, this time on opposite sides but with the same intention of giving the people what they deserve, in their own way.
Amna Ilyas, the seasoned film and TV actress, will be making her stage debut with this play. Not only will she be playing the strong role of a village girl who stands for their rights but also highlights the importance of education in any person’s life. While talking to HIP, she expressed her delight at being part of a platform that would give her the chance to connect with the audience and be there to receive their initial ‘good’ response.
‘Theatre is something that I hadn’t done in my career as an actor but I always wanted to be on stage so that I could talk to the audience directly. The River’s Daughter gives me the chance to do that where I not only get to play a strong character but one that delivers the message of loving your land, standing for what’s right, and caring about your friends and family. The way our writer Arieb Azhar has penned the script and director Kulsoom Aftab has called the shots, I am sure that this stage play will end up making an essential contribution to our lives.’
Kulsoom Aftab is not new to theatre and has been associated with the platform as an actress, playwright, and director for nearly 2 decades. With The River’s Daughter, she hopes to both entertain and educate the audience, which is exactly what a theatre play should do. When asked about the play’s prospects, she said that if the audience gets the essence of what they want to convey, it will make her and the team happy who have worked hard on the execution of the thought-provoking script.
‘With The River’s Daughter, we hope to tell the audience that not all steps forward are meant to be progressive and that sometimes it's better to stop and access the situation before moving ahead. The way our writer has borrowed characters from our folklore and incorporated them into the script is commendable and I hope that it sends the message across to those who matter.’
NAPA regulars Vajdaan Shah, and Samhan Ghazi will also be part of the stage play which will be on stage at the Zia Mohyeddin Hall NAPA (National Academy of Performing Arts) between the 25th and 31st May 2023. Playwright Arieb Azhar will also be part of the cast while veteran actress and theatre legend Sheema Kirmani will also be seen here in a pivotal role.