by Mehru N Nisa
SRINAGAR: William Shakespeare continues to be the world’s most known playwright. On March 26, 2021, the ongoing Annual Theatre Festival saw the theatrical return of Shakespeare to see his characters deconstructed in the Tagore Hall. Interestingly, it was the third play written by Dr Sohan Lal Koul that was performed in this festival. Altaf Hussain directed the play that was performed by the artist of Young Dramatists Society, Srinagar.
The play narrated a story of five actors – Javid, Najma, Rashid, Irfan and Umar who are members of a theatre club and are currently working on a play named Shakespeare. The play opens with Javid, who also plays Hamlet in the play, rehearsing for the play when Najma walks in. In the same scene, when they start talking of their marriage, Javid tells her about his poverty. He speaks to Najma in such a bleak manner that she tells him, “cze chukh asliyat’as manz ti Hamlet banyamut” (you’ve become Hamlet in reality too).
Later on, Irfan who also acts as Othello in the play gets too lost in his role that he chokes his co-star Najma who plays Desdemona. Apart from talking about the common hardships of existence, the play gives a quick glimpse of an actor’s life and their struggles.
The play within the play is based upon the sixteenth century playwright and poet – William Shakespeare and his characters Hamlet, Desdemona, Othello and Macbeth. One by one his characters come to the writer to complain about the way he has written them and their life stories. They complain to him about their weaknesses, flaws and personalities. Although Shakespeare asserts that it’s because of his greatness and skills of writing that such powerful characters are alive even after more than 400 years, the characters whine about how their lives are nothing but tragedy.
The characters’ monologues are all about how miserable their lives are because of Shakespeare. Their monologues are full of introspective questions, with mentions of powerlessness and complain to the writer while Shakespeare keeps on lamenting how ungrateful and unhappy his characters are. These conversations between the writer and his characters were subtle but powerful metaphors pointing towards how humans act most of the times. People complain and whine to the Almighty in the same manner while doing absolutely nothing to improve their lives. Humans blame everything on the creator – their flaw, vices and even avoidable crisis. In the play, Shakespeare is the creator while the characters are his creation.
All the actors, who play these roles in the play within the play, are shown as distrustful of Rashid. Rashid is the president of their theatre cub and is not liked by his associates. Towards the end, as they realize their folly after getting aware of Rashid’s responsibilities and his struggles in keeping the theatre club alive, they feel remorseful.
The play ends in a tragedy while Shakespeare’s epilogue is going on. All through the way, the play did not lose hold of the audience’s attention. The background music, however, could have been at a lower volume because it was difficult at times to even hear the dialogues.
The actors who acted in the play were – Nisar Ahmad Rather as Javid and Hamlet, Abida Haroon as Najma and Desdemona, Mohammad Ashraf Mir as Rashid and Shakespeare, Gulzar Ahmad Nazki as Irfan and Othello, Intikhab Alam as Umar and Macbeth.