by Mehru N Nisa

SRINAGAR: It was yet another performance-based in playwright Dr Sohan Lal Koul’s Sarkaar that Shafiq Qureshi directed as part of the ongoing Theatre Festival in Srinagar’s Tagore Hall.

A scene from Sarkaar, a theatre play written by D Sohan Lal Koul and directed by Shafiq Qureshi. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

The story follows Professor Bushan Koul (Qazi Faiz) and his daughter, Neki (Shafiya Maqbool). Koul stops a group of senior students from ragging a fresher (Amir Hussain) in college and asks them to apologize to their junior. The elder students are reluctant to do so but finally give in to the warnings of the professor. This incident leads the group to plan their revenge on their teacher.

These students come to his house one evening and take away his phone so that he doesn’t call anyone. In the next disheartening sequences, they gag the professor while tying him to a chair and then rape his daughter. All this while, the professor tries to free himself in order to save his daughter but is not able to.

Her father, on another front, tries his best to punish the criminals but all in vain. He asks the college principal (Rasheed Barki) to cancel the students’ admission who opposes on account of them belonging to influential families. Prof Bushan then goes to a minister (Yousuf Mir) who also is of no help because of the upcoming elections. Towards the end, the professor loses all his strength as he realizes that he has failed as a father and the play ends in a tragedy.

After the curtains fell on Sarkaar, the cast of the play came for a joint appreciation of the audience. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

The story and the acting of the protagonists kept the audience captivated all the way through. Sarkaar explicitly pointed at the silence of the public as well as the government when any such crime takes place around us. It was aimed at the established societal hypocrisy; at how people only take a stand as per our own convenience. It even talked about the irrational concept of victim-blaming and about how we put all the responsibility on fate and do nothing to help the victims.

The performance left behind a sense of shame and guilt in the audience because deep down the hearts they understood that at their own levels, they are also part of the system that the play raising fingers towards. The play reflected an ugly part of society in a very shattering but relatable approach.

Even though Neki was apparently denied at least one exclusive scene to communicate and retained in as a silent victim for the most part of the play, she conveyed her emotions through her body language beautifully. That perhaps indicated why the director denied her direct communication.

The play had additional performances from Fayaz Ahmad, Pervez Dar, Tabrez Madni, Ashik Hussain Bhat, Sagar Rafiq, Musalim, Meer Adil and Rafiq Mattoo.


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