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Magic Moments on Stage


Edited by Sheema Kirmani , Asif Farrukhi and Kamran Asdar Ali 
Women Unlimited, Delhi, 2016, pp. 314, Rs. 795.00


Tehrik-e-Niswan, a pioneering performance group, working on gender and politics turns thirty in 2009. The group organized its first theatre festival in Karachi in 2009, followed by a Conference in 2010. The book at hand is an outcome of that conference. The volume has been originally published as Gender, Politics and Performance in South Asia by Oxford University Press, Pakistan and Women Unlimited has brought out the Indian version by arrangement with OUP. The volume has 14 papers divided into four sections, with an introduction on (Re)-presenting the Nation by Syed Jamil Ahmed. Gender is a predominant category of analysis in most papers, even though the definition of the same varies from writer to writer. Most of the articles are based on Tehrik-e-Niswan’s history, productions and reception. As such it is an amazing document of the group. The others deal with women who have paved the way for newer perspectives by their lives and works right from the late 19th century to the present. Syed Jamil Ahmed has documented the history of the play Kabar, an iconic play on Bengali Renaissance in Bangladesh in 1953. There is one article on archaeological findings of dancing and singing figures in Sindh region of Pakistan. India is represented by the introductory article and Madhu Kishwar’s article on Bollywood films. The documentation, process of work and critical analysis of Tehrik-e-Niswan’s work is of amazing value. Sheema Kirmani refers to the 30 years as ‘tilismati’—magical. It seems to have been indeed magical. With her exposure to the West and her Left, feminist commitment, she has been at the anvil of fighting for justice in Pakistan. The group was founded and named Tehrik-e-Niswas— Women’s Movement—to counter the military dictatorship. She mentions Dastak, a short lived experiment in theatre and Ajoka in Lahore that had similar visions. A short chronological account of Tehrik-e-Niswan would not be out of place here: beginning with Safdar Hashmi’s Aurat in 1980, Tendulker’s Anji in 1985, a ballet called The Song of Mohanjedaro in 1992, Thousand and One Nights in 1998, adaptation of Lysistrata in 2002, a script based on surviving war by women called Zakr-e-Nashumida in 2005, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House as Guriya ka Ghar and Asghar Wajahat’s Jinnay Lahore in 2007, Amna Nazli’s Doshala in 2009 with a solo show called Who am I?, and other mobile theatre performances interspersed with these plays. None of the accounts in the book however ...

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