Parday kay peechay: A humourous unveiling of Pakistani society
Parday kay peechay starts off with a typical scene at a funeral—relatives, both close and distant, feigning sadness for the deceased, backbiting aunties, and, of course, as is custom in Pakistani society, talk of rishtas.
The play revolves around the family of the late Mr Kazmi attempting to gain a stronger financial footing by convincing one of his daughters, Alia, played by Shanze Hasan, to marry the son of an American businessman. However, Alia’s sister, Leena (Alina Salahudin), wants the American boy for her own self, and thus pursues Daniyaal, played by Saad Mirza, while comically setting up mean-girl-esque pitfalls for her sister. Ah, blackmail. Always entertaining!
Alia’s snarky and snooty character is vividly portrayed by Hasan, whose continuous jaw-dropping and sardonic comebacks upon being insulted by another character (usually Leena) made for a memorable performance. Humour is a prevalent element within the play, even when darker themes such as murder and societal critique are addressed.
Inspector Ahmed Motti played by Ahad Hussain was among my favourite characters. Though initially he comes across as placed in the play for (further) comic relief, his speech towards the end, about poverty and entitlement, is both inspiring and empowering, and is almost artfully articulated.
It is interesting to note how young the cast was; script-writer Elsa Sajjad elucidated that she wrote the play when she was 16, Hamza Zaeem, who is 17, produced it, and the two directed it together. Sajjad later told me in a follow-up interview that each character was meant to represent a social issue—oppression of women, the poor, expectations versus choice, etc. She also added,
“Initially we decided on a King Louis inspired plotline, but then we figured Victorian and Pakistani morals are so similar, why not put it in Pakistan? It’s just as scandalous.”
Caricatured-ly mirroring the Aliya-Daniyaal-Leena love triangle (or rectangle, as one would find) was one with the maids Basma and Basna (played by Iman Ali and Zebalda Solomon), and the cook, Shan (played by Salar Khan). When I later asked Iman Ali what her favourite part about her character was she replied,
“That I’m cheap! That I can be cheap openly without anyone judging me!”
Though the play as a whole was pretty entertaining, the scene that earned the most laughs was when Leena, in attempt to cajole Daniyaal, wore overtly fancy clothes and did a sort of tripping-dance-walk as her character tried to simultaneously woo Daniyaal and keep her feet attached to her heels.
All proceeds from the play went to Siratul Jannah Orphanage and, as actress Sadia Aminah (who ironically played Sadia Paracha) put it,
“If people can keep doing things like this in the future for causes, I think that’s what is going to solve what is wrong with the world.”
All photos: Danial Nadeem
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