by Mehru N Nisa
SRINAGAR: Written in 2013 by Sheikh Haneef and directed by Gul Javaid, the Secret Plan was enacted by the artists of Kashmir Valley Theatre on March 24, 2021, at Tagore Hall, Srinagar. While the comedy overdose entertained the audience, the message was lost in the din.
Secret Plan looked more of a skit than a theatre play and despite trying to talk about the issue of human values in society through its satirical approach, as the brochure distributed to the audience said, it came out as an ordinary slapstick comedy.
The story is about a government employee, Lal Seab, played by Ashraf Khan, who is about to be pensioned off from his job. In the greed of acquiring his pension after retirement, his two sons, Javaid (Hilal Khan) and Altaf (Shabir Hakak), try to flatter him individually by taking care of him. His daughters-in-law, Nusrat (Jozy Mir) and Ateeqa (Tamseel Khan), also help their respective husbands in this strategy.
Instead of mutually sharing it, both his sons had the intention to usurp Lal Seab’s entire pension money. Their greed increases to such a level that they start to hatch a secret plan in order to win over their father in the hope of getting his pension. But their hyped-up secret plans didn’t create much interest in the audience.
The story starts off when Nusrat and Javaid talk about Lal saeb’s retirement and Nusrat claims that Altaf and Ateeqa are planning to take his entire retirement fund. A conflict arises when they get to know of the possibility that his retirement may get postponed and he might have to work for another few years. This fear leads them to their father’s office to talk to his superior officers in order to not delay his departure from work.
The humour and comedy of the story received appreciation from the audience and kept them busy but the play lacked in sending the ‘message’ across. Though the themes it touched were greed, materialism and lack of concern in the current times it did not take the viewers’ interest in that direction anywhere during the performance.
While all the actors were good in their respective roles, the fact that their characters were one-dimensional and shallow; they could not connect more seriously to the audience. The play also had a long, almost unnecessarily dragged ending, which seemed as if it was overdone. There was a requirement of toning down the lighter moments to help the story walk better and ensure the message getting clearer and audible.
Secret Plan had additional performances from Sheikh Mushtaq and Ashraf Razgeeri.