- Stage Drama with Reference to Some Personal Experiences
In talking about playwriting, I am in a difficult situation. It is considered appropriate for someone to talk about his personal experience in an art form only after he has accomplished some worthy feat. But in my case, each time I made an attempt to write a stage play, the outcome was the result of many circumstances outside my own efforts. So with reference to stage plays, if I have any claim to speak at all, I must say that I got into writing plays very much by accident.
I became a dramatist in quite a run-of-the-mill manner. I was a writer of short stories and following that path; writing plays was a side step. To explain, I will quote a contemporary of mine, Ashfaq Ahmed, who became famous writing not for the stage, but for television and other media. He said—and he was a master at composing quotable quotes—that the chicken knows how to lay an egg, but has no knowledge of how to prepare an omelette. So stage production, when I came along, was such that there were many who knew how to prepare omelettes, but there was no chicken to lay an egg. What I mean is that theatre groups in Lahore kept forming and then breaking up, even though they included many good actors. And many members of the groups understood the art of directing. But there were no playwrights. This is what it means to have experts in preparing omelettes but no chicken: without the egg, there can be no omelette. It’s the same with staging a play: without a script, what good is it to have skilled actors and directors? Shakespeare, Molière, Ibsen—God be praised—were wonderful dramatists. As a result, their plays have been adapted and staged many times over the decades. But you cannot do anything creative by simply borrowing other people’s ideas; you must bring to them something of your own. However, the theatre groups in Lahore had the notion that the plays of Ibsen and Molière were right at their fingertips and could be readily produced. Furthermore, there was the belief that no one around could hold a candle to these Western playwrights.
Now, this assumption about the quality of Ibsen, Molière, and others like them was more or less correct. What the theatre groups weren’t considering was that these playwrights had conceived of and written their plays in the context of a particular society and culture. If there were no playwrights in our eager theatre groups who could write original plays, then it might have been enough to have someone with the skill to transplant the Western dramas from their cultural and social contexts into our own. However, if even [End Page 202] this could not be done, then our cart would not move forward. Meanwhile, there was much noise to the effect that we’d had enough adaptations of plays from the West.
So attempts to create original plays were made, and that’s when I got involved. When one theatre group approached me, I decided to take up the role of the egg-laying chicken. After all, I would be trying to write a stage play and not a television serial. Naturally, it took me some time to write. Meanwhile, as the group was waiting for me to finish my play, its members started quarrelling passionately among themselves. By the time I’d finished writing the play, the group had disbanded.
About eighteen months later, Kamal Ahmed Rizvi came to ask if I had written a play. Yes, I had. So if you saved a copy of the manuscript and have it with you, then give it to me. I handed him the manuscript and didn’t think anymore about it. After about two months, he returned, livid with anger. He said that the Scrutiny Committee of the National Arts Council, where he had taken the play to have it produced, had disapproved because the play’s dialogue was in the vernacular language (boli tholi) of Delhi and Lucknow. Here...