Ajoka’s Summer Festival opens with ‘Bala King’
By Shoaib Ahmed
LAHORE: Ajoka Theatre’s Summer Festival (May 20 to 28) opened at Alhamra Art Center on Friday with ‘Bala King’. The festival presents some of the theatre group’s best productions.
Alhamra Art Centre was bustling with people to see the opening play. Ajoka had set up a stall displaying its publications on famous plays and productions such as ‘Aik Thi Nani’ and film ‘Mujahid’. Shirts with the theatre’s logo imprinted on them were also on sale.
The festival is being held to commemorate Ajoka’s 21st year, Madeeha Gauhar told Daily Times. The Lahore Arts Council (LAC) is helping in the festival, she said. “Bala King is an important play because of its political implications in today’s world.”
Shahid Nadeem adapted Bala King from ‘The resistible rise of Arturo Ui’, a play written by Bretolt Brecht in 1941. Bala King was staged by Ajoka in March 1998 to mark the Brecht’s 100th birthday.
‘Arturo Ui’ is a savage and witty parable on the rise of fascism and Hitler. History is recast through a small-time gangster who takes over the city’s green grocer trade.
In Shahid Nadeeem’s Punjabi adaptation, Ui is replaced by Bala King, an unemployed pehlwan gang leader who leaves his Taxali Gate adda to try his luck in the Badami Bagh world of intercity road transport.
Badami Bagh is ruled by self-righteous businessmen, ready to trade all principles for business gains and lucrative contracts. Bala and his gang exploit the vulnerability using muscle. He bribes, black mails and intimidates the businessmen and shopkeepers to accept his protection at a heavy premium.
Bala pehlwan changes his name to Bala King, receives lessons in public speaking and political science, and eliminates all opposition. He circumvents law and public opinion and eventually establishes total control over the area.
Gauhar said that the play was meaningful for the Pakistani audience in which “the spectre of autocratic rule looms large, where violence and crime appears to pay politically and where complacent and acquiescent majority seems helpless against the forces of corruption crime and violence”.
“Our plays are on issues of religious intolerance, growing fundamentalism, political corruption, violence against women, terrible condition of bonded labour and general apathy towards the problems of the society,” she said.
The festival features seven plays – Bala King, Dekh Tamasha Chalta Ban, Bari, Itt, Merya Hoyia Kuta, Chal Mailay Noon Chaliye, and a special performance of Bullah.