Dastoor – Main Naheen Maanta

Dastoor, the theatrical debut of Justuju Productions, kicked off on the 3rd of July at the Arts Council, Karachi.

The play is, quote, ‘about a young man’s struggle to adhere to the truth.

I was able to finally catch a performance today and have returned with decidedly mixed feelings. I walked into a nearly empty auditorium and the play began with an audience of under 50 by my estimate. I was later relieved to hear that this is the worst turnout this production has had so far, and this might be because of the scheduling – a total of 7 shows split over the first two weekends of July is a recipe for confusion. Generally, if plays have multiple performances, the shows are on consecutive days. Capturing weekends was a good idea but as far as the audience is concerned it’s difficult to communicate the disparate dates.

For a first time production, and with several debutant actors, it was pretty decent, I felt. I had no real complaints with the acting, considering their inexperience – the performances were largely smooth and the delivery was good. Excellent work by the vocal trainer on the newbies – the voices were clear and even complex vocabulary was clearly articulated. Body language was average. There were a few stiff moments, though, and I noticed several times that the rest of the characters seemed to freeze while others were speaking.

The music of the play was absolutely brilliant – with an original score, the play featured several tracks with excellent vocals and acoustics. Dastoor was a good musical with lyrics telling half the story – Jaffer Zaidi and Rahat Ali did a great job with the songs and their performances. Two thumbs up! Here’s a sample clip:

Unfortunately there seems to be some problem with the HTML coding on the embedded audio, which I can’t, for the LIFE OF ME, fix. So here’s a link to the 2mb clip: Dastoor Sample.

The sets, designed by Moiz Kazmi, were functional but well designed – I loved the simple graveyard set at the end, of which I have no picture unfortunately. There was a nice subtle touch which had wall fixtures tilted out of position after things went awry for the protagonists.

The major disappointment for me centered around the story and the writing. It was cliched and predictable – nothing new. There was more than an echo of Rang De Basanti in the monologue by Imran (which was very well delivered by Adnan Haroon, by the way). The dialogues were a cacaphony of high-class Urdu, but largely trite and witless – flowery language more than anything else. In addition, the writer’s admiration for Iqbal was quite obvious in the opening sequence.

Clearly, it was meant to be a stirring play, but the words used were too stale for any excitement and there was no action at all – in the sense that the play mostly consisted of the audience being informed of what had happened, instead of any actual events being portrayed. This formula depended on extremely powerful dialogue and a heart-rending story, but both were – you guessed it – formulaic.

All in all, a commendable effort by an inexperienced team, and a cause worth supporting – I strongly feel Karachi needs more theater. Pakistanis are entertainment starved, which has helped sensationalist journalism flourish and encouraged the rise of news channels (far and away the most popular media in Pakistan). For our diseased society, sports and arts are the perfect medicine – one builds health in the body, one in the soul. Looking forward to the next Justuju production!


Adnan Haroon as Imran Mirza
Asif Raza as Mirza Hatim Ali Baig
Samia Azmi as Saima
Shahid Mahmud as Ahmed Alvi


1 Comment

  1. I haven’t seen it, so I wouldn’t be critical for on reason.

    But what’s this sudden obsession with Habib Jalib of the *it* crowd. I just don’t get it.

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