“Drama starts where logic ends”—Ram Charan
Life itself is a huge drama. From birth to death human beings are constantly moving from one scene and one act to another scene and another act. Aptly portrayed by William Shakespeare in his pastoral comedy As You Like It Act II Scene VII Line 139: “All the world’s a stage, and all men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages”.
Others like the writer Edward Bond thinks: “The human mind is a dramatic structure in itself and our society is absolutely saturated with drama”.
In short, the truth is that this continuous action and reaction process keeps life invigorated that can otherwise become extremely dull. Yet despite the thrilling moments that we live in every day of our lives, nothing gives us more pleasure than similar fictional replicas as we spend time in theatres and cinema halls watching others perform roles we are already doing so or would like to do so ourselves. Whether it is the charming hero, hard-pressed victim, the abominable villain, the abandoned parents, the conniving relatives, the back-stabbing friend or the happy-go-lucky circle of fun lovers, they seem to catch our undivided attention. People coming from all walks of life not only re-live their own experiences, they also seem to fantasize other’s as well, through different enactments before their eyes. Perhaps those few hours of so-called entertainment give us escape from our own existence to relish that of others.
Some actors have been heard to say how overwhelmed they were while performing a certain role and how acting gives them an opportunity to temporary live in someone else’s shoes. The more sensitive they are the better is their depiction of whosoever’s role they may be playing. Dramatics as an art is as ancient as perhaps the humans themselves and has evolved into the present form from the Greek Thespians, Indian Sub-continent’s famous Nautankis to present day animations. With technological advancements this art has taken such a turn that some of the dramatization, like in science fictions, give the impression of real happenings. Whether on-stage or on the celluloid, drama today is on a totally different level.
Dramas have also been pivotal in expressing satisfaction or disgruntlement with prevailing social and/or political conditions and have therefore been subjected to great deal of censorship, sometimes even the playwrights are blacklisted for open expression of thoughts. These moves hardly deter small scale dramatists to continue with their mission. During General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorial rule from July 5, 1977 to August 17, 1989 when censorship was at its severest, clandestine dramas, representing the restlessness of that period were staged in private. So whatever may be the case one thing is definite that staged dramas need a story, script, actors, rehearsals and the actual performance. However, the political drama that is going on in our beloved country is perhaps the most spontaneous form of drama that we have had the unique privilege to witness.
For the last almost one year now and even prior to that, we have had the most suspenseful display of dramatic events that have kept the entire nation on its toes and glued to the television sets. From the chaos after 9/11 in 2001 down to imposition of emergency on November 3, 2007 followed by revival of judiciary and restoration of the Chief Justice of Supreme Court, a long unending trail of terrorism, assassination of the only female prime minister, decade of democracy and now again this direct confrontation with the establishment creating complicated situations for the entire populace living in this country.
Simultaneously, in all this furor, we are these days viewing real-life drama all around us. With multi-dimensional playwrights, the public is being entertained on a daily basis by scenes played against the national backdrop with the militro-civil-judicial bureaucracy acting as props for the principal actors. The written and unwritten dialogues by themselves are reflective of the amazing ‘(il)literary aesthetics’ with which they are adorned. The indiscriminate volley of verbal fireballs, light up the stage arousing public awe at its representatives’ fine-tuned, unedited vocal capabilities. Who would want to watch fictional plays when reality with its glitz is masquerading before one’s eyes. The Constitution, despite being the main protagonist, the hero, helplessly looks on while the not-so-important ones playing side roles manifest themselves to defiantly appear champions of its sovereignty.
This insane enactment of power politics at a time when the country is passing through its worst economic crisis is raising questions in the minds of the people regarding their survival. While the upper echelons of society are clawing each other the affected majority is suffering different dramatic events in its own lives due to shortage of staple food items, rising inflation and unemployment, inadequate health and educational facilities, uncertain future and what not. Scottish documentary maker John Grierson said: “Beware the ends of the earth and the exotic: the drama is on your doorstep wherever the slums; are, wherever there is malnutrition, wherever there is exploitation and cruelty”.
If only the insensitive could see the consequences of their whimsical decisions on the destiny of ordinary human beings; if only the lead actor is given the much-deserved importance; if only the actors played their own role and not of others; if only there is less theatrical displays and more concrete actions; if only…….—a never-ending wish list—Pakistan would have been one of the most peaceful countries in the world because as Clint Eastwood remarked: “Drama usually has some sort of intense conflict” but at this crucial juncture, Pakistan cannot afford to tread the boards.
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)