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    Wednesday, 9 May 2012

    Shakeel: The legend returns to theatre

    Over the last three days, renowned television actor Shakeel has been enthralling audiences at the Alhamra Arts Complex in Lahore. Living up to and even surpassing the viewers’ expectations, the celebrated actor, who returned to theatre after a span of 25 years, once again delivered a flawless solo performance for his most recent stage play “Us Gali Na Jawin”.

    Dressed in ragged, torn clothes, the actor was not only able to connect with the younger audiences, but also received a resounding applause by leading actors and theatre veterans present in the auditorium.

    The play, written and directed by the popular playwright and poet Sarmad Sehbai, was a thought-provoking exercise, questioning the deteriorating situation of the country. The way the script has been written, Shakeel’s character is shown engaged in a monologue, during which he tries to explain the nuances of life and the everyday issues of growing up.

    One of a kind
    Although solo performances have been done before, none have come even close to this one, which stood out due to the abstract nature of the dialogue.
    Entering the stage with a bowl of bird food, Shakeel plays the role of an elderly man who has lost his memory and tries to reconcile with the world through his imaginary conversations. These conversations see him talking his heart out with a host of imaginary characters such as birds, people and the surrounding environment such as the sky. The conversation tries to understand how the country’s great principles and ideas are slowly decaying.

    For instance, the dialogue highlights how, in olden days, life was simpler and people cared and friendships were not determined by wealth or greed. However, things have changed and now greed, intolerance and terror are widespread in the country.
    “I don’t think that a solo performance of this nature has been done before,” said Shakeel. “I was just thankful that I had a chance for the role because when I read the script I was immensely inspired,” added the legend.

    Paying a tribute
    Following the play was a tribute to Shakeel’s 45-year-old career in the form of a video presentation featuring his acting clips from various TV dramas and films. In his youth, Shakeel was a bona fide superstar, known not just for his acting but also for his good looks. Despite having been typecast as an actor known for playing Casanova roles, Shakeel made sure that his acting talents were constantly challenged and the diversity of his skill set was proven by his portrayal of the famous character Uncle Urfi in the PTV drama “Uncle Urfi”.

    When asked why he decided to return to theatre after such a long gap, Shakeel replied, “I always said that I wanted to see the zinda dil Lahore and the support I received during the performance was very inspiring. “The play is abstract and not typical and the audience was sophisticated and understood the underlying message,” he added.
    Meanwhile, speaking about the play, the eminent Urdu fiction writer Intezaar Hussain, said, “It really was a learning experience because the way the script was written and the acting was done, it brought forth something I have never seen before.”

    It wasn’t only Hussain who was taken aback by Shakeel’s acting. Famed screenwriter Asghar Nadeem Syed also looked stunned at the performance. “This sensibility and timing that Shakeel brought delivered an amazing performance,” he said.

    Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2012.

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