A review on Pakistani Epic War-Drama theatre play, Jadl-e-Azal (2019). This play was performed at NAPA International Theatre Festival 2019.

 

 

+ Crew

  • Written (Adapted) & Directed by Masood ur Rehman
  • Music Composed by Ahsan Bari
  • Costume Designing by Ali Qazi & Rachna Kirplani
  • Production Design by Anjum Ayaaz
  • Produced by Black Box

 

 

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+ Dancers

  • Rachna Kirplani
  • Kiran Siddiqui
  • Maha Hasan
  • Abeera Pervaiz
  • Noreen Mumtaz Gulwani

 

 
+ Note

Jadl-e-Azal is an adapted play from The Tragedy of Rostam & Sohrab, a 10th century classic Persian epic Shahnameh which originally written by Firdausi. Respected Zain Ahmed is the creative head for this grand war-drama, performed at NAPA.

Other crew members include Bazelah Mustafa, Ubaid Iqbal, Syeda Maha Ali, Kiran Siddiqui, Mohsin Babar, SM Muntazir, Areeba A, Aisha Bakhtiyar, Husnain A, Rejja Sehla and Malik Farhan Aziz.

Previously, Masood-ur-Rehman has directed his debut play By Mistake which was performed in NAPA’s Young Director’s Festival 2017 and commercially performed at Arts Council of Pakistan.

 

 
+ Main Cast

  1. Vaajdan Shah as Rustom
  2. Raheel Siddiqui as Sohrab
  3. Erum Bashir as Aasia
  4. Syeda Maha Ali as Gurd Afreed
  5. Samhan Ghazi as Raja
  6. Zain-ul-Abideen as Jotshi
  7. Naz as Lajwanti
  8. Abeera Pervaiz as Amooli
  9. Ejaz Khan as Kikaous
  10. Zain Nazar as Behraam

 

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+ Supporting Cast

  1. Aqeel Ahmed as Wazeer
  2. Jahanzaib as Sawanth
  3. Amir Naqvi as Senapati / Borha
  4. Maha Hassan as Damini
  5. N/A as Raqqasa
  6. Danish Abro as Dehati / Godarz
  7. Ansaar as Dehati
  8. Rao Shahnawaz as Sardar#1 / Wazeeri
  9. Ahad as Sardar#2
  10. Wasay as Hajeer

 

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+ Minor Cast

  1. Mahesh as Darbari#1
  2. Essa Khan as Darbari#2
  3. Hunaid as Darbari#3
  4. Saud as Darbari#4
  5. Ali Raza as Darbar#1
  6. Usman Siddiqui as Seeta
  7. Asfand as Homan
  8. Waleed as Toos

 

 

 

+ Plot
Following the traces of his lost horse, the legendary warrior Rostam wanders into the kingdom of Samangan where he falls in love with and marries the princess, Aasia. They have a son, Sohrab who Rostam has never met – until the day they face each other in the battle.

 

+ High Points
i – Taking such an initial, bold step to come up with such grand, epic play, does need one, guts to do that. The hard work behind its making could be witnessed by the spectators by taking a good look at its long list of cast and crew members for making this play possible.

ii – Erum Bashir is a talented actress with great dance ability as one of her strengths. No theatre actress in Pakistan I have watched, who can outmatch her dancing skills in combination with her acting talent.

iii – A confident, senior actor, Vaajdan Shah plays the role of Rustom, a fearless warrior with honest heart. He was one of the best choices to play this part and performed it equally well.

iv – Raheel Siddiqui gives a energetic performance as the young blood warrior, Sohrab. Yet, he still has a long way to go and needs to climb more steps to be standing in the ranks of good actors. Other Honorable Mentions: Syeda Maha Ali and Samhan Ghazi.

v – The costumes were suitable as per the characters that the performers played.

 

 

 
+ Low Points

i – By conducting such a grand, epic play does not seal the label of ‘Achievement’. It merely establishes the fact for taking the ‘First Step’. Yes, we do want such plays to be performed more in quantity. However before this, learn from your mistakes and perfect this play before performing it at NAPA International Theatre Festival. I am sure, that the people who were directly involve with this play, already knew where Jadl-e-Azal stood before it was performed. It is suggested that such plays should be performed only when it is perfected / well established and recognized by the senior artists as to say leveling the play is of ‘High Quality’. If we still let such plays performed (without playing it at other smaller festivals/different occasions first) at NAPA International Theatre Festival, we are only decreasing the value and standard of this festival.

This would make, other theatre productions or outsiders think that perhaps ‘Low Quality / Student Level’ of plays can be performed in this festival too. I personally don’t believe that this is the right decision. By doing this, we would only devalue this festival’s image. First perfect the play, make it stronger and of higher quality, before running it in this festival. This suggestion goes for any other plays with similar issues as well.  

ii – A proper adaptation of this script is gravely needed. The original script is a melodrama, as the author of this was a poet. The dialogues of the characters’ should have ended with rhymes. If you don’t want to use that, then change it completely and make it clear that the adaptation is not based on its melodrama. There were major changes in its story, on who falls in love with.

iii – Let’s just say that if this play was to be directed by Zain Ahmed or Sunil Shankar, even for them this play would have been difficult to execute it as it should have been.

iv – This play’s time length was more than 135 minutes long. The main question is why there was no interval? How can anyone expect that the audience would remain sitting calmly in their seats? The mind was screaming to exit whereas the stomach was growling with hunger.

v – Its understandable that there were budget issues, due to which the visuals were used to transit it to different scenes rather than using different production design. Although, it is also understandable that no visuals can replace the need for proper constructive sets…

At first, the visuals looked good with still images, played in the background… at that time it also seemed a good idea. But after half an hour, the visuals started to look cheap, of bad taste replacement. The clever usage of projection design with the lighting would have been a much better option. It would have lit the mood of the play.

vi – I believe that having a narrator to progress this epic, war-drama story would have been a very wise decision indeed.

vii – The chemistry between Vaajdan and Erum was so dull and boring. It was almost a dead love story. If it was developed in detail, more romantic scenes were added and by establishing the emotional link between the characters and the audience, the result would have differed greatly.

viii – For such long and dry plays, having playback singer/s is a must! Otherwise, the audience would lose their concentration very quickly.

ix – Mandatory requirement of having music in different scenes and beats would have helped the play to gain further interest.

x – The placement of the lighting was poorly placed and handled. Most of the time, the performers’ faces were hidden (almost entirely) by the shadows. When the performance is being played, their faces, especially their eyes should be clearly shown for the LIVE audience.

xi – When you are already promoting this play heavily to the public and it is to be performed at the NAPA International Theatre Festival then why the fight choreography & stunts looked kids’ stuff? Why there was no an actual, professional fight choreographer hired to train the stunt men and actors? The fight sequences even in a comic play look more believable than this.

xii – Same goes for the dance choreography. Really, I have no words, on how to describe this. The dancing sequences by the performers should be same and timely fashioned. Some dancers were moving faster, some slower while some looking at their fellow performers to know what they should do. Honestly, I have seen much better dance performances at private ceremonies.

xiii – Watching such a long play… without interesting scenes, the play would definitely end up to be a drag. If I were not to write a review on this play, I would surely have walk out just after 30 – 40 minutes later.

xiv – This is the reason why I did not have any expectations. Any director with prior good experience of conducting such plays may have achieved such a difficult task.

xv – The fight scene which takes place between Sohrab and Rustom, instead of requesting for another sword duel, this fight should have been only one/merged… since begging for another fight by either of the side goes against their characteristics. Regardless what the original script says, the adaptation should have made these vital changes for the stage performance.

Even the sword duel between Raja and Rustom should have impressive one, even if it was short lived.

xvi – Sohrab’s love happened at first sight, (much quickly than Romeo & Juliet fell for each other) where he forgot about his mission, the war, everything… just desire to have Gurd Afreed for himself. All in a day’s work and by evening, Sohrab saw the real picture. Naturally, I am not literally saying that it happen within the time span of one day nor I have any issue regarding Sohrab’s blind love. But to fall in love for his rival who he just met at the battle field is shocking! It didn’t look believable; the audience wouldn’t buy it and they didn’t.

xvii – Where are Aasia’s dramatic scenes? Her majority of the scenes are full of dance sequences. Mind you that I am not criticizing her dance skill. But in this play, she is playing one of the important leading characters; more light should have been given to her, for her character’s depth.

xviii – Why there were insertions of visual presentations for? Perhaps the director wanted to show realistic surroundings where Rustom marries and then farewells his wife, Aasia. Okay, I agree that you came up with this idea ‘Out of the Box’, except… playing this on-stage with proper build-up good set design instead; props could have accomplished it better.

xix – A properly constructed sound design during fight sequences, Sohrab’s scenes in the desert, etc should be included.

xx – Are you telling me that Rustom came to the rival’s kingdom looking for his valuable lost horse but left the place with a princess instead? What happened to the horse?

xxi – As for the stage management, the falling of the curtains should take place whenever the set is changed. It is more appropriate, better presentable. And that the production team, should be wearing black uniform, which camouflages with dimly lit background instead of wearing casual clothes.

xxii – Kindly note that the design of the Persian army swords is wide, pointed and curved. The swords that were shown were straight and long; similar to the ones which the medieval Christians and crusaders had used.

 

 
+ Overall

Sad to say, that even after such hard efforts & preparation, talented Masood fails to achieve it by a huge margin. As drama and as theatre play, Jadl-e-Azal consists of vast number of flaws. It clearly lacks style both in visual and in action.

 
Rate: 1.0 out of 5 stars