Theatre of change

Takreema Aurooj describes a day in the life of a theatre activist and actress with the Azaad Fankar collective

Theatre of change
I grew up in a society in which women are discouraged from making a contribution to theatre and students generally are criticized for actively discussing or participating in political matters. There have always been repercussions for bringing these two together.

In Pakistan, it started in the budding years of Pakistani theatre with legendary writer Manto’s work, which was intensely gritty and imbued with dark political overtones. But over the past few decades, Pakistan has lost this form of activist theatre.

I believe a major reason for this has been the de-politicization of young people and students. They are not allowed to cultivate a sublime sense of discipline, which is one of the essential requisites of democracy. They are not allowed to have a political consciousness. And all of this has reduced the art of theatre to myths and fairytales.

However, since the past two years, some students in Pakistan have been working to change this mindset. Two groups have spearheaded this effort. One is the Progressive Students Collective, a student organisation based in Lahore with members from various educational institutions. The other is the Women’s Collective: another student-based organisation that educates, organises and agitates on the basis of feminist principles.

Yet another example of student-based activist theatre was seen recently, in collaboration with the Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement (HKM). The theatre work has been led by the Azaad Fankar collective.

Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement (HKM) itself is an organised effort at addressing Pakistan’s hollow democracy. The movement aspired to change the current system that neglects the socio-economic demands and needs of the people even during a time of intense election campaigning countrywide.

A performance by Azaad Fankar

The Progressive Students’ Collective and the Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement collaborated to hold a meaningful discussion regarding that burning question which gripped Pakistan for the past few weeks: “Who should we vote for?” .

The event was held at Barkat Market on the 21st of July, just days from when the country went to the polling booths. It aimed at discussing various issues revolving around the sanctity of democracy as well as the hollow experience of democracy that we Pakistanis live. The goal was not just to talk about which party to vote for or which to reject, but to develop a way of responding to the electoral process. For a long time I was looking for a resource devoted to adult games for PCs, but all my attempts to find were not successful. Then I decided to make a blog of porn games for PC and android devices myself and put only the best hentai and porn games in it using only the two best file hosting services. PORNOVA is a constant novelty of hentai games and adult games that I played myself and which are the best in my opinion. If you are interested in playing different porn adventures, go :) And if you liked the blog, leave comments that you liked more in the world of porn games for PC

It became a big gathering of young activists, journalists and students from a number of different ethnic backgrounds.

The event was divided into two parts: a theatre performance by Azaad Fankar and a seminar. For the latter part, Raza Rumi, Hina Jilani and Ammar Ali Jan were the main speakers.

For me personally, as the founder of Azaad Fankar, it has always been a huge responsibility to make sure everyone is on the same map! It is tough to write a script that suits the cause as well as the actors and to direct every minute detail.

This event was no different!

As more and more people arrived, the Azaad Fankar team became yet more excited. Last-minute reviews were carried out and the team went over their dialogues and positions again. The growing audience was requested to settle down.

The play started with slogans chanted on the beat of the turbuka: “Maqsad kia hai? Theatre hai. Theatre kia hai? Social change.” (What is the purpose? To perform theatre. What is theatre? Social change).

The opening had its typical effect on a boisterous audience.

The audience soon became silent. A few spectators pulled their phones and started recording the play. Students from various universities went live from their pages. Once the audience was in control, the play started with a monologue which highlighted the issue of fake promises that politicians make and the need to stand up to them. The audience was informed during the monologue that the play is not merely a piece of fiction but that all the stories that are about to be disclosed are real.

Students are not allowed to have a political consciousness. And all of this has reduced the art of theatre to myths and fairytales

The play highlighted four different issues embedded in four different stories that were addressed to the actor who was playing the role of a politician. The scene revolved around the issues faced by the local citizens including a lack of employment, a weak educational system, sewage problems and electricity load-shedding. With every promise that the politician made, the citizen handed over their future to the politician. But as soon as the politician gets the votes, all the voters are symbolically pushed to the ground.

From the perspective of the writer and director of the play, it becomes necessary to conclude the play in such a manner that the idea of the performance is firmly planted in the mind of the spectators. Hence, the play ended with the poem “Sawal uthane ke din aa gaye hain” (The days of raising questions are here).

The play ended with slogans again but this time they were different. The actors asked the local audience to stand against injustice by insisting on their right to question the powerful. The play ended and the audience showed their appreciation with much applause. The guest speakers, it seemed, were also moved by the peformance.

The event then turned towards the talk by the three speakers, which addressed the history of Pakistani democracy, the role of unelected institutions and political parties, the process of voting itself and so on. In the highly charged political environment that prevails in the country currently, the discussions and questions and answers generated were insightful, dynamic and thought-provoking.

The students present, for their part, appeared determined to play a leading role in public life in the years to come. And activist theatre will be a vital tool for them to open up new debates – whether those in power approve or not!