& occasionally about other things, too...

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Cancer, Lal Choona, Saree Stories: South Asian Theatre in Canada

Jawaid Danish

Theatre activist Jawaid Danish works tirelessly to keep South Asian theater alive in Canada. 
He has been organizing the Hindustani Drama Festival annually for over a decade, with a measured success. 

Although a low key affair this year, the festival made up in depth what it couldn't in diversity and variety.

Jawaid read his play Cancer where the protagonist murders his ailing wife who is suffering from cancer and is on her deathbed.

The protagonist is a poor newspaper employee who is not able to afford medicines for his wife, who implores him every day that he either he gives her medicine or murder her. In a fit of desperation, he chooses to murder her.

The play is an imaginary – or rather an anticipatory – situation where the husband’s lawyer walks him through the hearing to coach him to give proper responses on the day of the hearing, which is scheduled the next day.

Cancer is a much lauded play and has had much acclaim across the world; deservedly so, because it is remarkable in being able to bring the reader/member of the audience right to the middle of the debate over euthanasia – which, much like the debate over abortion, divides people into pro and anti groups.

Was the husband justified in murdering his wife? The playwright definitely believes so as much as he believes that the husband didn’t really have a choice because the society didn’t leave him with any.

Pithily, the husband tells the lawyer that the society (the government) that is willing to pay for a lawyer to represent a self-confessed murderer to ensure justice is ill-equipped and unwilling to pay for a sick woman’s treatment.

A lively discussion followed Jawaid’s reading of his play. Munir Saami moderated the discussion and Dr. Khalid Sohail read a critique of the play.

Before the play reading by Jawaid, Dr. Baland Iqbal read his short story – Lal Choona – a heartbreaking story of a poor wall painter’s tragic denouement. Unbeknownst to Dr. Iqbal, the story was made into a short film in Pakistan by a student. The film was also shown at the festival.

And the play reading was followed by a short but charming skit from Saree Stories - Storytelling with sarees where Jasmine Sawant of the Sawitri Theatre Group depicts the significance of the memory of an event that is imprinted on the memory of a woman who remembers meeting her future husband by the sari she wore that day.

The event was held at Open Space – a nice little space created by Nitin Sawant for play readings and other socio-cultural events.

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