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‘Haseen’ gives voice to the victims of karo-kari

KARACHI: “Zaban se barh kar kuch nahi, na maa, na biwi, na beti, na behan [Nothing is more important than commitment, no mother, no wife, no daughter, or sister]“

The dialogue from the play ‘Haseen – A Gamble of Honour’ serves as a painful reminder to the Pakistanis that even though the world has progressed to newer heights, we as ‘free’ people continue to live under the shackles of patriarchy.

A debut effort, both in terms of direction and script, the play challenges the biased tribal customs, societal preference of sons over daughter and above all, the victimisation of women. It incites the people to stand up against the menace of honour killing and do whatever can be done in individual capacity.

Inspired from a village in the plains of Rohri, the story is as true as it can be. The writer, Omar Ghanchi, once witnessed a panchayat during his visit to a village and saw a woman pleading the case of her 16-year-old daughter against a 60-year-old man.

“Though I didn’t see the final decision, I could see the that odds were in the favour of the man as he was not only influential but the police and the village were on his side too,” explained Ghanchi adding that the incident shook him.

“Least to say, I was greatly saddened. I had stood there and watched it all happen before my eyes and I didn’t do anything,” he said. “I felt obligated to do my part and once I came back this script began to take shape.”

The story revolved around a female protagonist, Haseen, whose life is dictated by the men around her life. Her father, Makhdoom, loses all his land, possessions and daughter while gambling with a village influential, Raees.

A love story between Haseen and Dilawar is paced up when Makhdoom loses Haseen in the gamble and
Dilawar steps up to whisk Haseen away, incurring the wrath of the village panchayat, which declares it a case of karo-kari.

The actors of the play include Amtul Baweja as Haseen, Sumair Saleem as Makhdoom, Nabeel A Khan as Raees and the play’s director Hadi Bin Arshad as Dilawar.

The highlight of the play was its subtle, easy and yet impactful execution. There were side characters that would provide comic relief in the otherwise intense story. One-liners such as “Saeen toh saeen, saeen k kaghaz bhi saeen [Saeen is saeen but his paper is saeen too]” and “Meray school mein ustaad khayali makhlooq hain [In my school, the teacher is an imaginary being]” served to lighten up the 90-minute play.

The cast is all set to move the performances to Lahore, with Arshad aiming for a movie of his own in the long run. “I initially wanted to make a movie but was suggested to start with something small as this play,” he said. “For us, the aim was to keep the audience satisfied and the response was overwhelming.”

The play was held at Arts Council of Pakistan from December 2 to December 6.

Express Tribune