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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The movie and the moment

It has only been just a week since I made the journey to North London, and finally picked up my television from my Aunt's place. My old television had been lying in her basement since the fall of 2009, which was when I finished my last MSc degree from King's College London. Though I have been back in the UK since September 2011, it must seem strange to some that I waited till my last few months in this country to go pick my television up. As much as I wanted my television back in my possession, it did not become possible up until now. Due to some reason or the other, picking it kept on getting delayed. Even as I write this, I am back in the world of Free-view television and at the same time I am being bombarded by dozens, if not hundreds of television commercials every evening as I flick through channels.

As I am writing this quick blog, their showing the Will Smith starer Hancock on one of the Free-view television channels. Will Smith is neither my favorite actor, nor this movie among my favorite ones, but this movie does plays some minor significance in my life, in the sense that it is recollection of a moment from my life from about 4 years ago around the same time this movie hit cinema's around the world.

It was Late June or early July, I can not remember the exact date, it was around the time I finished my Undergraduate degree from the University of Sydney in Australia. It was winter time in Australia but Hancock was an eagerly awaited summer globally released block buster, like every other major movie that came out in 2008, me and my friends were eager to catch it at the cinema. Our local cinema which was a chain of Hoyts Cinemas in Australia offered half price movie tickets to all cinema goers on Tuesdays, a ticket that would normally cost 15$ costed about 7 or 8$, the exact figure I do not remember at this moment. I am guessing it was a Sunday or a Monday that we decided that on a Tuesday we were going to watch this movie on half price Tuesdays at Hoyts, this was to be my last cinema outing with my Undergraduate friends. It had been a while since we had our last movie outing, we had all been preoccupied with exams which went on for about a good 3-4 weeks. I was looking forward to one of my favorite things in the world, going to the cinema. Little did I know that it was an outing that never happened.

The plan did not end up getting cancelled, even though I was a central figure in that evening which should have happened, I could not participate in the evening's outing. Due to some very personal reasons, I had to very unexpectedly pre-pone my departure out of Australia by an entire week, and I only learnt about my departure just over 24 hours earlier. I would say this was the point in life where I was seriously seriously pressed for time. Just a day I had a whole 7 day week to wrap up my life and everything, and now just 24 hours in which to close my bank account, cancel my internet subscription, end my mobile contract, clear out dues with my land lord and also get rid of tons of stuff just so I can meet my airline's baggage allowance. An evening which was supposed to be a final ritual visit to my local cinema never happened, and instead I broke bread with my Undergraduate friends for the very last time. Before I knew it, I was saying my Goodbye's to everyone as I would have been at the departure lounge of Sydney airport even before most of my friends could wake up.  It was an unexpected to 4 glorious years spent on that continent, in that amazing country, surrounded by such fantastic people, it is because of the unexpected twists and turns that life took around those few days that every time Hancock is shown on television, it sort of takes me to a brief trip down memory lane and brings back memories of final good byes and a cinema outing that never happened. Hence this is a movie for which there to it, is attached a moment. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Adaa e Shakespeare in London



Adda, it is a simpler and shorter Urdu language word for style and mannerism. It's use has become somewhat popular over the years relative to the conventional Urdu word for Style which happens to be 'Andaz'. So when I use the expression Adaa-e-Shakespeare, it would mean the style and mannerism of Shakespeare. On this occasion though my focus is directed not to the theatrical story telling style of Shakespeare, but the recent Shakespearean festival that was held in the British capital at the iconic Shakespeare's globe theater in London's South bank. I would say this was a fitting venue for what was a remarkable, multicultural and multilingual theatrical festival, where thousands of spectators in London were audience to various Shakespearean plays including Twelfth Night, Hamlet and As You Like It.

The Non English language adaptations of the plays were more than just a linguistic adaptation, they were a complete cultural insight and experience courtesy of the visiting theater company performing and organizing the play. I had the opportunity to watch two Shakespearean adaptations during this festival, which included 'The Comedy of Errors' in the Dari dialect of Farsi which is spoken in Afghanistan. The Afghan theater company behind the play gave the story of two lost twin brothers and their twin personal servants an Afghan twist. Since Afghanistan is next door and we are home to a large Afghan diaspora, their culture is not too distant and alien to my own native culture in Pakistan, so there was some degree of cultural familiarity. This made for a remarkable evening at the theater even though I could not speak a word of Dari.


I also had the opportunity to watch in this festival a Shakespearean play in my native language 'Urdu' which I am deeply passionate about. For me, my native tongue is more than just a language of communication, for me it is a part of who I am. The Urdu adaptation that I had the good privilege of seeing was 'Taming of the Shrew' which was organised by a theater company based in Pakistan and featured some well known theater and television acting talents from Pakistan, which included Nadya Jamil.



This Urdu language adaptation was given a localized Pakistani flavor to it, and an ideal back drop with which the story proceeds. The Urdu version of the play is set in inner city Lahore which makes for an idea setting since the city is regarded as the cultural capital of Pakistan. The story of this version revolves around the character 'Kiran' (adopted from Katherine in the original English language version) who is the elder daughter of a wealthy native of Lahore. In the play, Kiran's father is shown as a man troubled by the fact that because of his elder daughter's loud mouth and outspoken attitude, he can not find a suitor for her, this results in delays with respect to the settling down in life of the younger daughter Bina, who as we come to know has no shortage of potential suitors.  As it so happens, a Khan saab of Mianwali happens to visit Lahore and comes to learn about the fiesty red hot Kiran and that her father will offer a generous dowry to who ever would dare to ask for her hand in marriage. The more this man learns about Kiran's fiesty attitude, the more interested he becomes in courting the woman known through out Lahore for being the one no wants to court. The character makes it his personal mission, not just to ask for Kiran's hand in marriage, but will also show a thing or two to the world that even the biggest 'shrew' is indeed tamable.

I am not going to go into further details of the play or the story, as knowing myself I am likely to give a lot of spoilers away. What I will say is, being some one who is a regular follower of Urdu Language theater, this was truly the greatest theatrical experience of my life. I could never in my life ask for a more complete Theatrical experience in the British Capital, a Shakespearean comedy play at the Globe theater in London in my native language, and to compliment all of that, it was a beautiful warm sunny day in London. Considering such weather is a rarity in London even during the summer months, the weather provided the perfect setting to make it my perfect outing at the theater. As my time in this dynamic city comes to a close in a few months, this experience is likely to be one of those I will treasure for many years to come, this for me is more than just one of the wonderful experiences of life that one can experience in a city that rightfully deserves the title of being the World's capital. After all great global experiences from great global cities. If only the weather was amazing as the memories this city leaves you with.