Art, with its diverse branches, deals with higher truths. It beckons to imponderables and flows on the icebergs of the untouched and deep recesses of human soul. It raises pity and pathos and leads the spectators to a new region of experience where he asks himself questions. One undergoes a process of metamorphosis.
Drama or natak is a form of art which lets the audience enter a silent dialogue with their own selves, and at the end of the performance they are no longer the same people. “Sassi”, the annual play of Lahore Grammar School, 94-B/1 M.M Alam Road Gulberg-III, provided an opportunity to the people of Lahore to enjoy the story of Sassi enacted by the final-year students. The lovers of serious theatre rushed to ChenOne and relished the feast-like performance of the amateur artists for three consecutive nights.
The real skill of a director lies in utilizing the limited resources to obtain the maximum results. Ms. Huma Safdar uses her craft well. The dexterous change of scenes according to the requirements of the atmosphere on the stage of Sassi established her as an artist who hankers after change. Quick changes in the fate of Sassi led to a METAMORPHOSIS, demanding a true metamorphosis in our attitude towards “woman”.
Hashim Shah has portrayed the age-old conflict between two different philosophies, i.e. folk wisdom and the Semitic view of woman. Both of these lifestyles are so juxtaposed that reconciliation is almost impossible without a proper dialogue. The successive invasions of the subcontinent and the imposition of the philosophies of the invaders, with the help of ruthless power, have left the land with a malaise. The invasions not only exploited resources but also affected inter-human relationships, especially that between the opposite sexes.
Woman in the indigenous culture was “devi”, the sacred one. Devi was turned into a “devdasi”, a kind of nun, or a “tuwaif”, a kind of prostitute, and was no longer able to raise a voice against the inhuman attitude towards her. She was no more worshipped and adored but rather looked down upon as an evil incarnate and a shameful phenomenon. The rational, balanced and human attitude changed into an irrational, unbalanced and inhuman attitude where woman became the passive victim of the anger and wrath of the male, who had in turn been humiliated and subjugated by the invaders. As the male debased, distorted and deprived of his true self, he took his vengeance on, not the invaders, but on woman by depriving her of her true human identity. She was no more an independent individual but was transformed into “awurat”, something to be covered and protected even at the cost of female infanticide.
As a proper dialogue on the issue was almost nonexistent, so the situation deteriorated to the extent that “Shakti” was turned into weakness and a permanent source of embarrassment. The symbol of fertility and power sank to the emblem of shame and weakness. “Frailty thy name is woman,” uttered Hamlet in the hours of madness and impotency.
The real tribute undoubtedly goes to the young and talented performers who stirred so many questions in the minds of the audience, in particular, the resonant narration of Sadia Jamil and Anam Zafar who provided a link between the audience and the performers. As a whole the night was enchanted due to the magicians and musicians of Lahore Grammar School, who cast a penetrating web of great theatrical performance on the spectators and they found themselves in the clouds of ecstasy wallowing on the waves of Najam Hussain Sayed’s music compositions. “Sassi”, like the mythical Circe, led the audience to the island of introspection and they left wondering whether “Sassi” is, in fact, still wandering in the desert of life.
(Published in School Times, the annual magazine of Lahore Grammar School, Ghalib Market, Lahore)