In the past years we saw plays such as 'Chicago' and 'Mamma Mia' and even though they both received critical acclaim, one couldn't ignore the fact that they lacked the 'desi' element. From the storyline to the costumes, these adaptations reflected ways of the West. Which is why the play 'Avanti', loosely based on an Indian film, is attracting large crowds including those who already know the storyline.
The play currently being performed at the Arts Council Karachi has earned instant popularity from the day it opened up and all the praises the production is receiving are well deserved. Read on to find out more about the play and a review that will help you decide whether it's worth your time and money.
'Avanti - the grand musical' was first performed in Islamabad and Lahore before it finally came to Karachi. Directed by Javed Ahmed Saeedi and produced by Abdul Moiz Siddiqui, the play is an onstage adaptation of the popular bollywood film 'Aaja Nachle'. The Madhuri Dixit movie that failed to create cinematic magic has surprisingly managed to do wonders as a theatrical presentation.
The play opened with the song 'O re Piya' that introduced the audience to Khwahish, one of the students dedicated to the love of dance and performing arts. During this performance, we see Khwahish dancing away her teen years in the Avanti theatre till the day she meets the love of her life. With no choice left, she runs away and her bold step pushes the town people to close down Avanti and the theatre stays empty for years. But Khwahish returns one day, only to be welcomed by the horrifying news that Avanti is being demolished and a shopping mall is to be built in its place. Deciding to fight back, Khwahish accepts the challenge that requires her to hold a successful play with actors that are residents of the area. Here we are introduced to other characters such as Sheela (a transsexual) and Rana Sahib. They both help her out with the auditions and the selection of actors for the 'Laila Majnu' play that is to be performed.
The plot is simple but the comic dialogues and the hilarious situations created by the actors are the essence of the play. Also incorporated within these scenes are splendid dance performances. The story continues with the selection of the cast of the play and the rehearsals with all the actors that refuse to cooperate as they have their own comical issues to worry about. Rehearsals continue till the day 'Laila Majnu' is to be staged and then a play within a play is what the audience is exposed to. Even though Avanti is a musical comedy throughout; the play takes a serious turn in the end as the story of 'Laila Majnu' being presented takes a tragic end.
For those who have seen the movie, you will be pleased to know that the play is not an exact copy and there are several twists and turns that are sure to shock you. What is the fate of Avanti? Does Khwahish succeed in saving the cultural heritage of the town? Well, you will have to see the play to find out these answers!
Even though the storyline of the play isn't astounding, it manages to capture the attention of the audience and everyone is sure to leave the theatre pleased. What is appreciated is the fact that the dance moves from the movie weren't ripped off and new moves were choreographed in accordance to the play. The choreography used was a creative blend of classical, Indian and contemporary dance moves. One flaw that we noticed was that the coordination amongst the background dancers was a little off. Some dancers weren't performing a particular move with complete accuracy while others seemed to excel at it.
The set on the other hand, without any exaggeration, looked beautiful. The set design proved that a lot of effort had been put into its creation and it was made sure that the set stood out. The costumes used in the dance performances were striking, especially the three dresses worn by Khwahish during the final performance.
Coming to the acting now, after viewing this play, we couldn't help but feel proud of the miraculous talent that exists within our nation. It is talented people like these that can move the audience with their performances and in this play there were several actors that deserve a mention. Rana Majid as Sheela put great energy in the character and played the part so well that one would forget that it's a play and not a scene from real life. Saqib Sumeer as Rana Sahab was the favourite of the audience and received a standing ovation from all; his portrayal of a tharki, power hungry individual was the soul of the play, whereas, Ammar Ahmed as Majnu did wonders playing a cranky man who hates the mere thought of love. Mariam Ansari as Laila played her role with much conviction while Hashim Imran as SHO Gulfaam proved to be a pro at the mimickery of several bollywood actors. The main lead played by Zarmeena Yousuf as Khwahish however, was the least impressive of all. Even though she danced well, her expressions were far away from appearing real and it seemed like she was trying hard to act with no fruitful result. Overall, Avanti was a delight to watch.
This play is a must watch so hurry up and get the tickets guys, it will surely make you laugh till your face hurts.
* The play is on till 25 June at the Arts Council, Karachi.