by Mehru N Nisa
SRINAGAR: Bochi, the Kashmiri word denotes hunger – hunger of food, wealth, authority or of fame. Hunger simply is hunger, but a poor or an underprivileged person cannot afford to be hungry for fame or for authority. Once you conquer the hunger of food, then you have the privilege of arriving at the next level – hunger of wealth, then hunger of authority and so on.
In today’s play at the Annual Drama Festival, which is going on at Tagore Hall Srinagar, Boch was the central idea of the story. Directed by Dr Reyaz Ul Hassan, Majeed Majazi’s Kashmiri play with Wahab Cultural Society’s all-male-cast opened with a Kashmiri song “pouz wanun, neeki karin hyechnaaw tam” by Syed Waheed Jeelani in the background which the artists lip-synced.
The story takes place on a roadside, which the set design of the play plainly portrayed. A hungry beggar (played by Rayees Ahmad Shah) who hasn’t had anything to eat for five days and isn’t even in a condition to stand up asks for food from the passers-by. His hunger makes him crawl towards a nearby trashcan from which he eats some crumbs of food. Then with the help of a stick, he tries to stand up, fails miserably and falls on the ground – dead or not, the audience doesn’t know yet.
A few moments later, a child beggar (played by Master Shuja Bin Noor) finds the beggar lying down at his allocated place of sleep – on the roadside – for which he even pays ‘tax’ and tries to wake him up. All in vain, the kid starts looking for money in the pockets of the elder beggar, finds nothing and dozes off.
Is the beggar dead? This question or rather the curiosity of knowing its answer kept the jam-packed hall full hooked till the end. The play introduced some new artists along the way whose acting was as intriguing as the story itself.
Manzoor Ahmad Shah who plays the role of another beggar did justice to his role in addition to Sagar Sarfaraz who plays a drunken man in the play and kept the audience busy with applause for his acting as well as his delivery of frequent poetry verses.
Bochi, in every sense, reflected the opportunistic nature of society. Every character in the story found the hunger of the beggar as a prospect for satisfying their own hunger – of fame, authority or wealth. The play had another three major characters, a reporter (played by Riyaz Ahmad Bhat) who clicks the pictures of the beggar but does nothing to help him, an opposition leader (Altaf Ahmad Shah) who finds it as a chance of overthrowing the government and a minister (GN Shaheen) who tries to help the beggar for his benefit only.
Later on, in the play, a typical TV news debate takes place where the opposition leader and the minister start shouting and which finally ends with them both screaming “be zaanath na” (don’t I know you!) at each other. This sequence had the audience laughing for a while in addition to nonstop clapping and whistling.
The dialogues hinted towards the worldly norms of our society such as extravagant weddings, wasting money and other things. In addition to that, the background music also matched the ambience of the scenes.
The play had other performances by Irfan Ahmad Bhat, Irfan Ahmad Shah, Mehraj ud Din Rather, Mohammad Yaqoob, Wani Firdous, Shabir Ahmad Rather, Waseem Ahmad Parray and Hilal Ahmad Shah most performed for the first time in front of a live audience.
Symbolism, metaphors and wit used in the dialogues and sequences were commendable especially for the fact that towards the end, Bochi came a full circle around, narrating the same story just of a different person now.