Friends of Ajoka is a group of eminent people, organization, interested in promoting theatre of high quality and social commitment by supporting the work of Ajoka in this regard.

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Remembering Madeeha News & Events Upcoming Event

Ajoka founder MadeehaGauhar’s first death anniversary is being observed on 30-April at Alhamra, Lahore. The program will include tributes, readings and music . The event will end with a performance of “Barri” (Acquittal), a play directed by Madeeha in the 1980s

Shahid at NYU-AD Ajoka’s Executive Director Shahid Nadeem was invited by the New York University-Abu Dhabi to give a talk about Ajoka’s work and meet faculty of Film and Theatre departments. He also worked on a new collaborative play with NYU’s Professor FawziaAfzal Khan. A dramatic reading of some scenes from the work in progress, titled “Lawrence of Arabia in Lahore”, was held on 16 March. Students & faculty members of NYU participated in the reading.

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Remembering Madeeha Ajoka founder MadeehaGauhar’s first death anniversary is being observed on 30-April at Alhamra, Lahore. The program will include tributes, readings and music . The event will end with a performance of “Barri” (Acquittal), a play directed by Madeeha in the 1980s.

Shahid at NYU-AD Ajoka’s Executive Director Shahid Nadeem was invited by the New York University-Abu Dhabi to give a talk about Ajoka’s work and meet faculty of Film and Theatre departments. He also worked on a new collaborative play with NYU’s Professor FawziaAfzal Khan. A dramatic reading of some scenes from the work in progress, titled “Lawrence of Arabia in Lahore”, was held on 16 March. Students & faculty members of NYU participated in the reading.

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"Charing Cross"
Dated: 30th January 2018
Written & Directed by: Shahid Nadeem

Historic significance of Lahore’s famous Charing Cross Historic significance of Lahore’s famous Charing Cross

LAHORE: Famous for venue of historic rallies, eventful corner meetings, impressive sit-ins, candle-lit vigils and anti-government protest for decades, Lahore’s historic Charing Cross is situated in the middle of the eight-kilometre long Mall Road and is just metres away from the 1935 Punjab Assembly Building, the 1914 Shahdin Building, the Lahore Zoo, the Punjab Minister's office (housed in the 1914 Lahore Masonic Hall which was in 1972 by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto).

A grand statue of Queen Victoria had also stood at the Charing Cross once, but it was shifted to the Lahore Museum in 1970's and was replaced by a wooden model of the Holy Quran. The statue was cast in London in 1900, just a year before the legendary British monarch's death in 1901. Charing Cross was a place where the fashionable and the rich moved about, and it still continues to be a happening place in the city.

According to historians, Lahore's Charing Cross shares its name with the Charing Cross in London, which is situated just south of the Trafalgar Square. A village by the name of "Charing" is also located near River Thames in London.

Dated:6th April 2017
Written by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Dina Mousawi & Shahid Nadeem

“Intezaar” (Waiting) is based on true stories from Pakistani prisons, stories of suffering, of injustice, of waiting. Waiting in the context of our judicial and prison system, means waiting when your loved one will come home, when will the judicial system give justice to the falsely accused, when will a verdict on the right to the life of a human being be given and waiting forever for the dreaded black warrants…for the announcement of the date of the hanging.

On average a death convict has to wait for 10 years or more in prison before the State can take his life.

The Death penalty is regarded as an inhuman and degrading punishment in most countries. It becomes even more unjust and cruel in countries where the police and judicial system is corrupt and flawed.

"Talismati Tota"
Written by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Nirvaan Nadeem

“The play, TalismatiTota (The Magical Parrot), is written in the tradition of the Urdu dastaan (fairy tale). So much so that rhyming sentences, considered characteristic of the genre, too, make regular appearances to great effect. Earlier, Agha Hashr had successfully explored this technique in his plays. Dialogues like, Tawfeeqkishaalmeinhai/Sherlohaykayjaalmeinhai were routine. Shahid’sTalismatiTota, too, has its share of these.

Historically what happened was that first Sir Syed’s zeal for his newfound rationalism rejected this tradition. In turn, the Progressive Writers, too, dismissed it as meaningless. Finally, the modernists found it non-modern and would have none of it. But once Jungian psychology became a popular discourse in Urdu literature some critics revisited the tradition and discovered a whole world of meaning in the rich symbolism of dastaan. May be Shahid Nadeem, too, saw the possibility of new meanings in the old tales.

The parrot, of course, is a regular in the ancient Indian tales, from where it found its way into the Urdu dastaan. You also find it delightfully chirping away in Persian tales. It figures also in the Punjabi stories, for example, in Raja Rasalu’s tale. Leaving it for experts in Jungian psychology to assess the significance of the parrot symbol in that story, one can say that there is no mystery about the way Shahid Nadeem has used it in his play. Here, the parrot appears as a saviour. Seeking remedies for their various troubles, princes from far off lands have weathered many difficulties en route to arrive at his door. Sure enough, the parrot relieves them of their troubles. But in the process he also usurps their powers and sends them into exile. How to get rid of the ‘saviour’, then becomes the problem the princes face. Beyond seven seas there lives a mighty giant they can seek help from but they already worry (ironically?) about who shall save them from their new saviour once he has delivered them from the old one.

So, irrespective of the significance of the parrot in the fairy tales and folk stories Shahid Nadeem has given it new meaning relevant to the experience of today’s lands and peoples. The play has thus turned an ancient tale into a contemporary story.”

This extract has been taken from an article “AJOKA’s MAGICAL KALEIDOSCOPE” by the late Intizar Hussain

"Dreams which refuse to die"

A Blind Old Woman’s Dream (“Anhi Mai Da Sufna) is inspired by some true stories of the generation dislocated and tormented by the devastating events during the Partition of 1947. It is a story of shattered dreams and traumatic nightmares but also of the resilience of the human spirit.

"KABEERA Khara Bazar Mai" January 2016 (Lahore)

Kabira Khara Bazaar main is based on the life of Bhagat Kabir. Son of Soil Bhagat Kabir the 15th century poet-saint is the best known representative of the Bhakti movement, largely monotheistic, spiritual and social movement, which openly challenged the Hindu caste system & odd rituals and projected a relationship with the creator based on love and compassion.

"KAUN BANE GA BADSHAH" August – 2015 (Lahore)

Directed & Written by: Shahid Nadeem

A game show with very high stakes That is the name of an ancient game. The rules of the game have changed over time. Sometimes the matter was settled by the will of the gods, sometimes through one to one duels or prolonged succession battles. On other occasions the bloodline was the deciding factor. The matter has also been settled by body revolutions at times. Of late, the subjects, the people, have been given the opportunity to elect their rulers. Or at least that is what the masses think.

In Pakistan, the game of democracy is relatively new. In the intervals between military rule, the masses are allowed to vote. But do they really choose their masters? Are they a part of this game or mere spectators? This issue is being hotly debated at the highest level and at the low-est. The game still hangs in the balance.

Kaun Bane Ga Badshah is a game show, hosted by Big Boss, amysterious and mischievous host, assisted by a well-mannered and well-spoken assistant called Nizam. Four young contest-ants from various ruling clans are being trained and tested and the winner is to wear the covet-ed crown. The contestants play bizarre games using Ghulamzada, everyman, as a scapegoat, target and servant. A group of spectators is part of the show but not as live participants! The parents of the contestants actively support their children in fair and unfair ways but the game gets tough and scary and there is unexpected interference in the game from the apparently half dead spectators. Ghulamzada rebels and the Big Boss has to step in to save the system.

This game show with political undertones is couched in an entertaining and humorous presenta-tion. It does however raise some pertinent and vital questions about the future and nature of democracy in Pakistan. This latest Ajoka production is a thoroughly enjoyable play with a strong message.
"Lo Phir Basant Ayee " March - 2014 (Lahore)

Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar
Written by: Shahid Nadeem

Phir Basant Ayee is the story of a beautiful zinda-dil city where people believed that the walls built around the city would protect them from marauding invaders for all times. But the insidious enemy stealthily broke in, the gates disappeared and the city was held hostage from within by an enemy which is now stealing everything, their valuables, their values, their culture, their identity. Among the bewildered citizens is Ustaad Mauju whose family has been making delicate and colorful kites for the people of his city for centuries, a teacher who is being told what to teach and what not to, young lovers who cannot sit on the same bench in the college and the child who sees the “Raani” kite in his dreams and wants to fly with her up into the blue sky. But the “Rok Tham Committee” is keeping very close watch. The spring has arrived but will Basant ever be celebrated again in the besieged city?
"Kaun hai Yeh Gustakh" December - 2012 (Lahore)

Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar
Written by: Shahid Nadeem

Ajoka’s new play to pay tribute t the great Urdu short-story writer Saadat Hassan Manto on the occasion of his birth centenary. KHYG is written by Shahid Nadeem and is based on Manto’s well-known stories and less known political writings. The story starts from the Partition times when Manto was forced to leave Bombay and a promising career as a film writer and came to Pakistan where fundamentalism was taking roots and an oppressive authoritarian state was showing its teeth. The play has real life characters such as actor Shayam and writer Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi and also a fictional character of a mysterious woman, symbolising Manto’s alter-ego. The play was premiered in Lahore in December and attracted huge media attention in India when its performances at National School of Drama festival were cancelled at the last minute due to “security reasons”. However theatre goers and media people arranged an alternative venues at one day’s notice and the play was performed at Akhshra Theatre and Jawaharlal Nehru University auditorium to thunderous and emotional applause.
"Rozan-E-Zindan Se" February - 2012 (Lahore)

Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar
Written by: Shahid Nadeem

Faiz Ahmad Faiz , the greatest Urdu poet of our times, is extolled for his romanticism and revolutionary outlook. Unlike his inspirational poetry and his activities as a trade unionist, a journalist and a Progressive Writers Association leader, Faiz was quite reticent and unexpressive in his personal life. He rarely expressed his emotions or shared his intimate thoughts outside his poetry. He was a man of few words and modest to the extreme. His prison correspondence with his beloved wife and comrade Alys is however an exception. Written during 1951-55, Faiz's letters are a fine specimen of his mastery over English and of his Urdu prose (as he supervised the translation). They give a rare insight into his emotional state during imprisonment, his longing for his family, his city and his love for nature. These letters, published in Urdu translation as: " Saleebain merry Dareechay Mein", we get invaluable information about the emotional and social context of some of Faiz's most poignant and powerful poems. In his letters, Faiz showers his affection for Alys and their daughters, reminisces about the gardens, the birds, the seasons with great passion. equally significant and fascinating are letters which Alys wrote to Faiz during this period. Published as "Dear Heart", these letters reveal Alys as a woman of great fortitude and commitment. She was forced to fight for her husband's freedom and to clear her name, while taking care of the two little girls, managing her job at the Pakistan Times, and tolerating the ever-present CID men outside her house. She fought like a tigress (and as a proud Anglosexan) with the establishment. Alys emerges as a dedicated wife and a committed on the legal front, as a journalist and as a mother. Her unwavering belief in her socialist deals shines through these letters and shows how significant was her influence on Faiz’s political consciousness. The topics of this correspondence include te legal matters, the solidarity of loyal friends, the political events within Pakistan and the world, the growing up of their daughters and their hopes of "singing tomorrows". It is interesting to note that in spite of their shared ideology and world view, they do debate on their different reactions to oppression and injustice. Faiz responds like a generous sufi "forgiving those who have gone astray" and Alys gets furious at the suffering caused by these forces of evil. But the dual devotion of both to their beloved and their ideal never falters. These letters, which retain their romantic gloss in spite of being tainted by the censors (they call it “public love-making”) are also a testament of the times when the ruling elite of the newly-founded state of Pakistan were petrified of a communist take-over and determined to put Pakistan's weight in the imperialist basket in the heightening cold war. "Rozan-i-Zindan se" is Ajoka's tribute to the great poet and her extraordinary wife on the occasion of the Faiz Centenary. We have selected extracts from the letters and the related poems to enable the audience to relive an arduous period in the life of one of the most glorious coupes of our times.
"Amrika Chalo" December - 2011 (Lahore)

Written & Directed by: Shahid Nadeem

A Serious Comedy
Sometimes there are national or international issues which become so serious and sensitive, that they have to be addressed through satire. “Amrika Chalo- Destination USA” is a satirical response to the love-hate relationship between Pakistan and US. We hate the US policies but many of us would love to visit US or even settle there. We have serious reservations about US policy towards Muslim world, the military interventions, domination, “do more” demands, drone attacks… the list is long and unending. For the visible and invisible policy-makers, it is a question of national interest and geopolitics but there are others including the so-called “Ghairat Brigade” for whom every thing which is wrong can be conveniently attributed to the US. On the other hand the American values of liberty, freedom and morality are too often contradicted by its high-ended imperialist policies. But “Amrika Chalo” is not a polemical play about international politics or US-Pak relations. It is a light-hearted self-critical view of our double standards and hypocrisies and is a lot of fun too. The location of the play is the visa section of the US Embassy where a number of applicants for US visa have gathered for interviews. They include a businessman, a would-be illegal immigrant, a student, an artist, a mullah, a politician and aged parents of a Pakistani-American US resident. Their reasons for visiting the land of opportunity range from seeking refuge to selling samosas and as expected, they are put through a grilling process of interrogation and security checks. And then a group of unexpected and undesirable visitors arrive…
The play has been written and directed by Shahid Nadeem. M. Aslam has composed the music and Wahab Shah has done the choreography.
"Mera Rang De Basanti Chola" May - 2011 (Lahore)

Directed by: Shahid Nadeem
Written by: Madeeha Gauhar

Bhagat Singh is considered to be one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement. Born on 28th September 1907 in a village of Lyallpur district, he was from a Sikh family which had earlier been involved in the Ghaddar movement against the British Raj. As a teenager Bhagat Singh became an atheist and became attracted to Anarchism and Marxist ideologies. In 1922 he joined the National College which had been set-up by Lala Lajpat Rai at the Bradlaugh Hall Lahore for those students who did not want to study in British institutions as part of the non cooperation movement. Bhagat Singh studied in National College till 1926 and during this time became involved in many revolutionary organizations such as Naujawan Bharat Sabha and the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. After Lala Lajpat Rai’s brutal murder by the baton wielding British Police Chief Scott during a peaceful demonstration against the Simon commission, Bhagat Singh decided to avenge his mentor’s death. He alongwith his comrades Dutt and Sukhdev, waited for Saunders to come out of his office near the District Courts. DSP Saunders came out instead. He was shot dead, sending tremors among the colonial government circles. In April 1929, the HSRA decided to oppose the passage of Defense of India Act, by throwing a bomb during the Legislative Assembly session at the Assembly Hall, Lahore. Although the bomb did not cause serious harm, the incident had a huge impact on the anti-colonial movement in India. Bhagat Singh explained that this action was intended to “make the deaf hear”. He courted arrest and was imprisoned first in Mianwali and later in Lahore Central Jail. He and Dutt were sentenced for life. Then the trial for the Scott murder and “waging war against the King” began which was to become the most famous and influential political trial in colonial India. Incensed by the prolonged and much-publicised trial at the normal courts, the Viceroy set up a special tribunal to speedily try Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru. The three boycotted the sham trial. On 7 October 1930, the tribunal sentenced the trio to death. The sentence could not be appealed against in a higher court and the three refused to submit a mercy petition. On 23 March 1931, Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru and Sukhdev heroically went to the gallows, singing songs of freedom. Bhagat Singh was 23 when he kissed the hangman’s rope. In his last letter, he quoted Terence MacSwiney and said " My death will do more to smash the British Empire than my release" Qauid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah made no secret of his sympathies for Singh. Commenting on his hunger strike he said "the man who goes on hunger strike has a soul. He is moved by that soul, and he believes in the justice of his cause. However much you say they are misguided, it is the system, this damnable system of governance, which is resented by the people". On the other hand, Mahatma Gandhi made some half-hearted statements in favour of Bhagat Singh and his comrades but refused to include them in the list 90,000 political prisoners who were released after the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed. Bhagat Singh was one of the most influential and charismatic characters of our independence struggle, one of most heroic sons of the Punjab and Lahore. He was an admirer of Allama Iqbal and a lover of Urdu poetry. He lived and died in Lahore for the liberation of the motherland, but like most of our heroes, the Lahoris have yet to honour and recognize him in a befitting manner. “Mera Rang Day Basanti Chola” is Ajoka’s tribute to this great son of the Punjab. Bhagat Singh’s legacy is one which our people can truly celebrate. It is also yet another play attempting to correct historical distortions.The play brings into light some hitherto little known historical facts relating to Bhagat Singh’s ideology and his trial, including the fascinating (Nawab Ahmad Khan) link between Bhagat Singh and Z.A. Bhutto. The musical score makes use of amazing poetic tributes to the great martyr, including songs sung by the revolutionary trio at the time of their hanging and the Lahori tongawala’s “Ghori” which he recited on his tonga on the first anniversary of Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom & which are now part of Punjab’s folk lore and songs.
"The aim of life is not to achieve salvation here after, but to make the best use of it here below; and not to realize truth, beauty and good only in contemplation, but also in the actual experience of daily life…” (from Bhagat Singh's prison diary, p. 124)
"The dreams Can come true (Khawb Sachay Ho Saktay Hain)"
January - 2011 (Lahore)

Written by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Sarfraz Ansari

The children of the dead-end street, the rag-picking girls, the workshop chota, the “cleander” of a truck driver and the child domestic worker, can’t even dare to dream. Their lives are drab and oppressive. No education, no recreation, no love and no hope. They play imaginary games whenever they get a chance. Then comes the foot-ball faced Jinn. He has the innocence of a child but is cheerful and wise. He is accidentally freed by the street kids and is indebted to them. He urges them to dream and rekindle their hopes. He reveals that dreams (sometimes) can come true and tells them the story of the Soccer ball children of Sialkot, who once stitched soccer balls and now play soccer at their schools. In a country where success stories are rare and not considered newsworthy, the story of the Sialkot soccer kids and the Bunyad Girls School Soccer team needs to be told and celebrated. “Khawb Sachay Ho Saktay Hain”, a new play by Ajoka Children’s Theatre, is an attempt to spread the good news, to rekindle hope and renew resolve to eliminate child labour. Ajoka Children’s Theatre (ACT) is committed to producing plays on the themes relating to child rights. Its plays include “Band Gali Kay Bachay” (on the children’s right to play), “Bhola” (a play on child cancer patients), “Nikki” (on young child-carers), “Kaali Ghata” ( on environment) and “Border-Border” (a play on peace in collaboration with with Indian children). ACT congratulates ILO and the Norwegian Embassy for their successful campaign against the Worst Forms of Child Labour and is honoured to present “Khawab Sachay Ho Saktay Hain: (Dreams Can Come True) as a contribution to this campaign.
February - 2010 (Lahore)

Written & Directed by: Shahid Nadeem

Ajoka's new play “Dara” is about the less-known but extremely dramatic and moving story of Dara Shikoh, eldest son of Emperor Shahjahan, who was imprisoned and executed by his younger brother Aurangzeb. Dara was not only a crown prince but also a poet, a painter and a Sufi. He wanted to build on the vision of Akbar the Great and bring the ruling Muslim elite closer to the local religions. His search for the Truth and shared teachings of all major religions is reflected in his scholarly works such as Sakeena-tul-Aulia, Safina-tul-Aulia and Majma-ul-Bahrain. The play also explores the existential conflict between Dara the crown prince, and Dara the Sufi and the poet. The violent and devastating struggle between brothers Dara and Aurangzeb, the decisive role played by their sisters Jahan Ara and Roshan Ara, the spiritual challenge posed by the naked sufi Sarmad to the authority of the muftis and qazis of the Empire and the growing discontent among the masses are elements which make “Dara” a gripping and powerful play. And of course like all Ajoka's plays DARA has a very relevant message for our contemporary times.
October - 2009 (Lahore)

Written & Directed by: Malik Aslam

The folk tale of Raja Rasalu is a part of Punjabi folklore since ancient times. This tale is about the lives and adventures of the two sons of Raja Salvahan of Sialkot, Puran and Rasalu. The play is based on the 'qissas' & stories which the storytellers of the Punjab have been singing and reciting for centuries. Ajoka is committed to rediscovering the rich heritage of the region through an exploration of its traditional performing art forms. This unique production has come about as a result of an exciting collaboration between Ajoka's actors and folk theatre performers of South Punjab. In reclaiming the syncretic cultural heritage of the Punjab through its production of Raja Rasalu, Ajoka reiterates its commitment to the quest for a secular space in these difficult and intolerant times.
(based on the short story by Ghulam Abbas)
April - 2008 (Lahore)

Adapted & Directed by: Shahid Nadeem

It is generally accepted that great writers can be at times, prophetic. Their fiction can predict future reality. Unlike the predictions of scientists and intellectuals, great fiction writers don’t base their prophesies on data analysis or scientific formulas, but on their prophetic vision and intuition. But sometimes they can be much more exact, much more graphic in their predictions than great scientists or thinkers. Ghulam Abbas, one of the great Urdu short-story writers, was one such writer. Ghulam Abbas wrote “Dhanak" in the mid-1960s and read it at a meeting of Halqa-i-Arbab-i-Zauq in Lahore. The reading caused quite a furor. The rightwing writers and critics were enraged by the horrifying picture of religious zealots as painted in the story. They thought it was highly exaggerated and distorted. “No Muslim can even conceive of killing religious leaders or bombing mosques”. It was said. “ It is an insult to peoples’ religious beliefs”. it was alleged. Ghulam Abbas had to be escorted out of the YMCA hall. The story was not included in any collection of his stories. Some years later, it was quietly published and conveniently forgotten. No reviews, no launchings, no awards. The picture of Pakistan painted in this story was considered far-fetched, unimaginable. The religious fanatics were a marginal force in the 60s. They had opposed the creation of Pakistan and their stand had been roundly rejected by the Muslim masses. Jamaat-i-Islami was an isolated, fringe group of rigid, intolerant and exclusivist zealots. The state was all-powerful, the military ruler Ayub Khan was in full control, feudal and tribal lords controlled the destinies of large sections of the society and the “Westernized” civil-military elite held sway. The scenario of Ghulam Abbas’ “Dhanak’ seemed a spectra created by the rich and cynical imagination of a story-teller. Today in 2008, the story seems to be so close to the present-day ugly reality that it is hard to believe that a writer could have foretold it with such uncanny accuracy. It seems to be an account of a TV reporter from one of the troubled tribal or settled areas or a from the scene of a devastating suicide bombing. The retrogressive and intolerant ideology of the religious fundamentalists, propagating an orthodox, rigid interpretation of Islam, the acquiescence of the establishment and the disastrous consequences of following the logic of a theocratic state are so evident now that the story doesn’t seem to be shocking or unbelievable. The mindset is the same: the same primitive thinking, the same deep-rooted prejudices, the same irrational worldview, and the same burning desire to destroy civilization, to self-annihilate. The total take over by the turban-brigades of the story doesn’t seem unimaginable anymore. The havoc wrecked in the past few years in the name of jihad and talibanization is pushing us over the precipice and before we know it, we will be hurtling down into the abyss. The chilling end, as foretold, is coming. Unfortunately and tragically, the intellectuals and analysts of 2008 are in the same state of absolute denial, not much different from the conservative writers and their cohorts of 1960s. They still want us to believe that the society doesn’t face any serious threat, the brain-washed and cold-blooded suicide killers have a legitimate grievance to rebel and a justifiable reason for the course of death and destruction they have adopted. They still announce “no Muslim can kill his brethren or bomb mosques” even if the killers and bombers are trained in the madrassas next door. They still claim that mysterious foreign hands are behind all terrorist attacks, that we are the best and chosen ones and our country and our deen is protected till eternity by the all-powerful and omnipotent God. Well, like the concluding scene of the story, the sounds of the war planes in our skies can be clearly heard and surely they are not friendly planes! Shahid Nadeem


Narrator/Announcer Furqan Majeed
Captain Adam Khan Nirvaan Nadeem
Ambassador 1/ General/ Maulana 1 Usman Zia
Ambassador 2 Asif Hussain
Ambassador 3/ Ameer Sarfaraz Ansari

Maulana 2
Amir’s Asstt/ Tourist Shahid Zafar
Journalist/ Tourist Khola Quraishi
Nadeem Abbas,
Waseem Luka,
Shahzad Sadiq,
Yaqoob Masih,
Asif Hussain,
Shahid Zafar,
Meena Sadiq,
Khola Qureshi
Imran, Vicky


Adapted and Directed by Shahid Nadeem
Set & Lights Design and Execution: Malik Aslam
Videography and Multi Media Nadeem Mir
Furqan Majeed
Music Composed By M. Aslam
Sound Execution Uzair Sultan
Choreography M. Riaz Samrat
Production Manager Imran-ul-Haq
Singers Sarfaraz Ansari, Shahzad Sadiq,
Humayun Pervaiz,
Shahid Zafar,
Usman Zia,
Yaqoob Masih.
Assistants Qalb-i-Hussain, Shakil Salamat


To see or not to see, that has always been the question for those who believe that female species is something to be hidden, something to be ashamed of. The obsession with burqa, face-veil, niqab, hijab, parda has very little to do with religious beliefs and everything to do with the patriarchal, tribal, feudal mindset and value system. Whatever the rationale for covering women's faces in the primitive or medieval times, it has absolutely no justification in the modern times. No society encourages indecency or immodesty, but the standards differ from time to time and from society to society. The current fixation with niqab and burqa is a product of the Pan-Islamic fundamentalist political movement and supported by despotic Muslim rulers and the Western powers. In Pakistan, the Zia regime actively pursued this policy as a part of the West-supported policy to promote religious militancy. In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime took the burqa policy to bizarre and brutal extremes. The Saudi rulers whose shenanigans while holidaying in the West are well known, have enforced a strict veil policy along with other humiliating and oppressive restrictions on the free movement of women. On the other hand, veil and hijab have become a focal point for Muslim communities trying to assert their distinct religious and cultural identity and the white supremacists and the War on Terror apologists. Banning the burqa with racist and anti-Muslim justifications is deplorable. Is in fact provoking a negative and extremist reaction among the Muslim youth. But those who believe that burqa or veil can really protect their identity or interests are sadly mistaken.

In the Islamic world, or more specifically in Pakistan, the premise is quite different. While very few would support a Turkey-style ban on burqas, a vast majority believes that their faith does not reside in the burqa or hijab. Islamic scholars have very different views about modest dress for men or women . Culturally burqa-wearing women have always been a minority and mostly restricted to urban lower middle classes. Those who want to force women to wear burqa or veil are a small intolerant ultra-conservative minority. The debate on whether to wear a veil or not needs to be conducted in the modern human rights and liberal context. But there are other issues explored in Shahid Nadeem's “outrageous extravaganza”. The obsession with covering everything beautiful and hiding all things horrible,is the hallmark of our moral and religious establishment. They try to cover up the inconvenient truth, they have double standards of moral and ethical values. Politicians say one thing, practice just the opposite, the pious wear while cloths and are dirty from inside. The rulers preach peace and respect for law but are most violent and unlawful when their interests are threatened. And what about the double-standards practiced by the super-powers, their “love” for democracy and progress and their shameful record of imperialist wars and colonization.

“Burqavaganza” is a play written to challenge the mindsets, provoke the audience to rethink and break the chains of prejudice and outdated values. Let us enjoy the play, dance to the tunes and relax. After all this an extravaganza!


Sarfraz Ansari: Minister/Bin Batin/Chambeli/Cameraman
Iqbal Naqvi: Maulana 1
Imran ul Haq: Maulana 2
Hania Cheema: Haseena
Nirvaan Nadeem: Khoobroo
Khola Qureshi: Brigade Commander
Asif Japani: Brigade 1
Azaan Malik: Brigade 2
Usman Zia: Police Officer
Shahid Zafar: Constable 1
Shehzad: Constable 2
Yaqoob Masih: Chorus/Dancers
Nadeem Abbas
Waseem Luka
Razia Malik: Hijab Hashmi/Mother
Vicky: Guitar Player
Singers: Safraz Ansari
Sara Raza Khan
Khawar Ali-Babar Ali & Party


Written & Directed by: Shahid Nadeem
Set and Lights design by: Kewal Dhaliwal, Malik Aslam
Music composed by: M. Aslam
Costume design: Zahra Batool
Assistant Director: Malik Aslam
Production Manager: Imran ul Haq
Research: Ziafat Arfat
Video recording/editing: Nadeem Mir, Shakeel Siddiqui
Brochure Design by: Asif Javed (Virtual Reality)
(An adaptation of Manto's stories)

2006 (Lahore)

Written by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Malik Aslam

Maternal and child mortality is a major health issue in Pakistan which ranks among the most badly countries in the world. Besides the unavailability of facilities, a vital factor is the lack of awareness about the issue and the need to plan and prepare for safe and smooth child-birth.

Ajoka’s new play “ Maon Ke Naam” addresses this issue in an innovative and effective manner. Written by Shahid Nadeem and directed by Malik Aslam, Maon Ke Naam is the story of three women who could not survive the child birth for various reasons: lack of awareness, absence of appropriate facilities and social taboos. The play was premiered on 18 December 2006 at Alhamra Cultural Complex and was appreciated by the audience which included medical professionals and community activists.

(The Heroic Enemy)

2006 (Lahore)

Adapted bY: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” is no doubt a world classic. One yardstick of a classic is that it is timeless and is relevant for all periods and all societies. It in fact acquires new meanings and new significance with the passage of time. “An Enemy of the People” is one such play. Its theme relates to an apparently inherent contradiction in the human psychological make-up: the inability of human beings to accept evident truth which conflicts with their narrow selfish motives. This faulty perception of self-interest prevents them from recognizing their own long-term interest. The play also places individual self-interest against the collective good. But the most challenging question posed by him is: “Is the majority always right?”.

What if the majority opinion is manipulated, ill-informed and against its own interests? Not always, history tells us. . Is the minority opinion always wrong” What if the views held by an individual or a small group, are the real truth, though unpopular. Human history is full of instances when the majority refused to accept the truth and recognize what was in their own interest. All prophets, reformers, revolutionaries and innovators faced rejection and hostility from a majority which was unwilling or unable to see the light of truth and a new idea. A powerful force here is “faith”, not just in religious or spiritual senses but also in a scientific and intellectual sense, which enables visionary individuals to stand up against the collective might of majority. Faith and determination of such leaders have succeeded in eventually winning over the majority and bringing about revolutionary changes and become the propelling force of historical progress.

‘Dushman’ is an adaptation by Shahid Nadeem of Ibsen classic and is a tribute to the great Norwegian playwright on the occasion of his death anniversary. The “Public Enemy” in this adaptation is based in a prosperous Northern town. The town is indebted to their doctor-scientist benefactor who discovered the miraculous properties of their spring water, which became the main source of their prosperity. But then the hero discovered the unpalatable truth and was turned into the Enemy. The vested interest, the selfish motives, the double standards, the self-created blind spots, the vulnerability of the weak and the gullibility of the ill-informed. All ingredients of Ibsen’s tragic-hero becoming a villain are present, along with a new factor. The hidden force which tilts the scale against the heroic enemy.

“Dushman” is not an unfamiliar story for Pakistan or countries where untruths and exploitation are given divine ideological sanction. Issuing edicts of being a “kafir” or infidelity and “Enemy of Islam or State”, is a political weapon frequently used by the religio-political establishments. In most cases the selfish, narrow-minded, gullible majority goes along with such witch-hunting or at least unquestioningly allows the truth to be trampled and heroes turned into villains. The Century-old Ibsen question is still unanswered: “Is majority always right”? Collective will and wisdom is a great virtue but shouldn’t we question the established and certified truths every once in a while?


The Play: A mother unveils the wounds of her soul and history starts bleeding…
This short poignant play deals with the fading but unforgettable dilemma of 1947 – the Partition. Separations and migrations of traumatized generations unfold in the form of “Qissas” – stories which intrigue and grip the mind of the protagonist speak through him, speak to him – so much so - that he begins to doubt his own sanity. Characters – overlay, intermingle, meet, part…
The play imbues a sense of hope amidst apparent despair and offers love beyond boundaries…

The Playwright: Author of the famous song “Umraa’n Lannghiya’n Pabba’n Bhaar”, Mazhar Tirmazi was born in Sahiwal, Pakistan (1951) and migrated to London, U.K. in 1975. He spends his time equally between Lahore and London. Recently on March 28th 2006, Mazhar has been conferred the prestigious “All Parties British Parliamentary Select Committee’s Award” for “Poetry, Language, Culture & Short Play”. This play is also to be performed by British artistes at the Edinburgh Festival 2007.
His writings are appreciated and published worldwide. Apart from four books published in Pakistan his writings are part of “Modern Poetry in Translation” & “Mother Tongue” by King’s College, London; Project “Waiting Room” displays his poem amidst poets like Tagore at the Guild hall and other public venues in London. He has been published in Indian and British Literary journals and his writings are also part of university curricula. Mazhar Tirmazi writes from the soul, sings softly from the heart, reflects sensitivity, a keen sense of humour and an excruciating eye for detail.

Surkh Gulaban Da mosam Surkh Gulaban Da mosam

The Director: Malik Aslam has been an active member of Ajoka for ten years, working both on and off the stage. He made his directorial debut earlier this year with Toba Tek Singh and has since directed Teesri Dastak. Malik Aslam has also demonstrated his proficiency for both light and set design with the Ajoka productions Dukh Darya, Toba Tek Singh, Teesri Dastak and Bullah .

Furqan Choudhry, Uzra Butt

Running Time: 45 mins

"Dukh Darya"

The Bond of Sorrow It is said”truth is stranger than fiction”. Truth can also be more dramatic, more meaningful. But when, what is story, I instantly realized that it was more than a story of one woman’s suffering and her struggle for justice.

A Kashmiri woman taunted and tormented for being infertile, is driven to jump into the river diving the two part of the disputed territory of Kashmir. However she ends up on the other side of the border, is arrested, interrogated and eventually raped. She gets pregnant, a proof of the horror of rape in custody but also belying the allegations of infertility. She gives birth to a beautiful baby daughter, Mobeen, who is brought up in Jammu jail until Shehnaz is released and arrangements are made for her repatriation. However, another shock is awaiting her. According to the laws governing the two countries, she, as a Pakistani Kashmiri, can return to Pakistan but governments haggle over rules regarding the citizenship and identify of the hapless mother and daughter.

Naturally, Shehnaz’s ordeal attracted the attention of women rights and peace activities and her case became a rallying point for those who wanted expose the absurdity of religious, political and gender divides and the suffering and sorrow they cause.

The Shehnaz story stayed with me for a couple of years. It took me to Jammu where I met Shehnaz’s lawyer Sawhney and the Jammu based writer, Khalid Husain. Rao Abid Hameed of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who played a vital role in enabling Shehnaz to come to Pakistan with Mobeen, was also very helpful.

“Dukh Darya” is more than a dramatic presentation of Shehnaz’s story. I have tried to link it with the suffering of women during Partition, especially those forcibly repatriated, leaving their children behind. In fact, I have gone further back in history and mythology, in search of the source of the river of sorrow.

“Dukh Darya” premiers on 8th March., the International Women’s Day which is no coincidence. Ajoka has been deeply committed to the cause of women’s rights and since its inception, has marked the occasion by presenting thematic plays. “Dukh Darya” highlights some vital issues relating to women’s rights. The stigma associated with “infertility”, the horror of rape in custody and the question of the right of a mother to be with her young children. There is broader question in the background: “Where do the Kashmiri women stand in the diplomatic games being played by India and Pakistan with the male Kashmiri leadership sitting on the sidelines!”

Meera Mai----------------------------Uzra Butt
Kausar---------------------------------Rajundar Rozy
Jogi Mukhtar Nath-------------------Sarfraz Ansari
Munni----------------------------------Malika Singh
Investigation officer-----------------Farhan Malik
Rab Nawaz----------------------------Furqan Majeed
Jeeto-----------------------------------Razia Malik
Police officer-------------------------Faizi
Hawaldar Iqbal Singh---------------Iqbal Naqvi
Border Security-----------------------Yaqoob Masih and Amir
Saeen Aar -----------------------------Faizi
Chorus----------------------------------Wasim Looka, Nadeem Abbas, Yaqoob, Sumaira
Siddiqui, Ovais Coolie----------------------------------Nadeem Abbas, Wasim
Dancer ---------------------------------Sumaira Siddiqui

Written By-------------------------Shahid Nadeem
Directed By------------------------Madeeha Gauhar
Asst Director----------------------Farhan Malik
Light Designed By---------------M. Aslam
Set Designed By------------------M. Aslam
Sound------------------------------Nadeem Mir
Stage Manager-------------------Furqan Majeed
Choreography--------------------Nadeem Abbas
Light Assistant ------------------Qalb-E-Hussain and Muzamil
(The City of Sorrows)

December - 2004 (Lahore)

Written by: Intezar Hussain
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

Shehr-e-Afsos is an experimental production based on Intizar Hussain's master piece. In his characteristic style Intizar Hussain seeks to expose the nightmarish world of three guilt ridden scepters who have lived through the bloodied times of both "47 & 71". They are surreal figures, caught in a web of eternal guilt and condemnation. They seek escape from the horrendous memories which engulf them, but there is no respite--no salvation, as they plunge further into the abbys of despair in the city of sorrows.

"Border Border"

the feelings and emotions of three generations of people on both sides of the border regarding the partition are reflected through two families, who go for a picnic in the border area. While the children are curious to know about each other, the older generation, who bore the brunt of the partition are still filled with hatred and bitterness. But people who lived together before the partition ate still nostalgic and have feelings of togetherness, which was ruthlessly killed by political forces. In the play children from India and Pakistan who meet in the border not only share the some names but also idolize the same heros and heroines. These children who always wanted to visit the place where their grandparents lived once, break the border formalities and sneak into the forbidden areas. The play, which is aimed at spreading peace and harmony, highlights the similarities people share in both the countries. It also highlights the more tolerant and forgiving attitude of the women folk in both the countries as compared to their male counterparts. The sequences of the play right from the prejudices of the people to the children crossing over the border, the political efforts like samjhuta express and introduction of bus services, are dotted with funny yet meaningful songs composed by Mohammad Aslam. Border Border is directed by Ms. Harinder Sandhu and Mr. Naseem Abbas, The play is written by Mr. Shahid Nadeem.

Border Border

The Cast (India): Shikha Arora, Tushar Sharma, Jatinder Pal Singh, Pranavjit Kalra, Rohit Gupta, Sagar Vaid, Manreet Kaur, Navneet Sachdeva, Nimrat Sandhu, Dhruv Aggarval, Sidhartha Kumar, Saril Vaid,Ishita Mehra, Sahibdeep Singh, Rushil Khurana, Harshveer Randhawa, Kavleen Bains.

The Cast (Pakistan): Hania Chima, Sameer Afzal, Uzma Arif, Muddsar Shehbaaz, Maryam Shahbaaz, Irteza Javed, Sara Baig, Kamil, Ahsan Javed, Nirvaan Nadeem, Myer Khalid, Daniyal Bhatti, Laila Kamreen, Maidah Hussain, Warda Bhatti, Bushara Dand.

Written by: Shahid Nadeem

Directed by: Ms. Harinder Sandhu

Co. Director: Mr. Naseem Abbas

"Piro Preman"

Piro Preman is a play about Piro, the first woman poet to write in Punjabi. Placed in the 19th Century, she was born in low caste family in a village of Punjab. Nothing much is known about her parents and her early life. This play seeks to reconstruct her life and times, The work is based on some actual well known happenings in her life i.e. her being a poet, her living with Iiahi Bakhsh, a General of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, her relationship with Sant Gulab Das, a leading poet and Saint of 19th Century Punjab and the founder of Gulabdasi Sect, the dividion in the Gulabdasi Sect due to her relationship, and her death at Gulab Das’s Dera. The other events in her life have been reconstructed and are fictional. The play uses four original couplets of Piro while others have been penned by the play-wright.

Piro Preman

The Cast: Thaira Imam, Sohrab Khan, Malik Aslam, Naseem Abbas, Imran-ul-Haq, Furqan Majeed, Ziafat Arfat, Farhat Rehman, Shujaat Haider, Nasir Naz, Zafar Ullah, Iqbal Naqvi, Yaqoob, Waseem Looqa, Amjad Khan.

Written by: Dr. Swarajbir

Directed by: Kewal Dhalival

2001 (Lahore)

Written bY: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

"Bulleh Shah" (1680-1758) lived in the times of the downfall of the Mughal Empire, Characterised by internecine conficts, rebellions, civil and religious strife and total ideological and political chaos, times essentially not much different for the present day South Asia. Bullah Shah was a beacon of hope and humanism, His powerful voive called for tolerance and love, while there was bigotism and hatred all around. He promted a relationship With dog which was non oppressive and enabled poople to be religious and yet respect other people's beliefe. He wrote about Comon People,their sufferings, their hopes. He did not see any conflict between his mystic beliefs and his devotion to music and dance. His condemnation of the misuse of religion by clerics and opportunists was total and attracted"fatwas" of "kufr" on several occasions. When he dies, the mullahs of Kasur refused to allow him be buried in the city graveyard. He was buried outside the city but today his grave is the centre of the city of Kasur. The city has moved to where Bulleh Shah Was Buried. That is the verdict of history and the living proof of the power of the mystics who preached love and sided with the people. The play "Bullah" is a tribute to the great mystic. It is broadly based on the events of his life, as communicated through his poetry, historical records and popular myths. And there is no dearth of dramatic episodes in the life of Bulleh Shah. His search for truth, his devotion to his mentor Shah Inayat, his conflict with the intolerant clergy and corrupt Nawabs, his opposition to the wars and bloodshed in the name of religion-all are incorporated as powerful scenes in the play. The play is also about the times of Bulleh Shah and has some lessons for the present-day Pakistan. It is a strong plea for love and peace, and an indictment against intolerance, violence and hatred.

Fiction not as grotesque as fact

“Mainoon Kari Kareenday Ni Mae” (They are honor-killing me O Mother!) is a fictional account of proceedings of a Panchayat of men sitting on Judgment of their own women, who are accused of violating the tribal code of honor, But the fact is that reality in our society is much stranger and shocking than fiction, as we have learnt for the cases such as the murder of Samia Sarwar and Meerwala gang rape.

“Mainoon Kari Kareenday Ni Mae” is part of Ajoka’s campaign to create awareness about the savage custom of “honor” killing and mobilize public opinion for its eradication. The play will be performed in big cities as well as in areas badly affected by “Karo Kari” killing. Ajoka is already involved in theatre workshops and video screenings to enable community against honor killings through theatre and performing arts.

In its 20th year of uninterrupted and undeterred struggle of bring about social change through theatre, Ajoka reaffirms its determination to keep flying the flag socially meaning theatre flying and be a part of the democratic movement for a secular, just and egalitarian society.


Women           Mahnoor --------------------Samia Mumtaz

                       Sakina -----------------------Tahira Imam

                       Dai----------------------------Razia Malik

                       Sardarni----------------------Samina Butt

Punchayat      Umar Daraz-----------------Sarfraz Ansari

                       Fareed-----------------------Naseem Abass

                       Wada Saen------------------Malik Aslam

                       Sardar------------------------Sajid Shah

                       Mochi------------------------Shujaat Haider


Written By------------------------------Shahid Nadeem

Directed By-----------------------------Tipu Sultan

Consultant Director ------------------- Madeeha Gauhar

Production------------------------------Malik Aslam, Shujaat Haider

Lights------------------------------------Tipu Sultan

Brochure---------------------------------Shahid Mirza

Music-------------------------------------Mohammad Aslam

A story is told by two narrators in the traditional "Swaang" style (an old Theatre style of the Potowar Region). It’s about a small village in Cholistan where the villagers are being exploited by a "Peer" who has control of the only source of water in the village - the well. All this changes when a stranger comes into the village wanting to help the people by making them aware of the Peer’s tyranny. Moulding old story telling techniques into modern art form, "K.M. Bhes" is full of music, song, dance, humor and vibrant colors.

During her maiden tour of India as a director, with her latest production "K.M. Bhes", Madeeha achieved a historic first. Her group was the first Pakistani group to perform in a series of shows since Independence India Theatre critics have given the play ram reviews for its performance in Calcutta, Kalyani, Chandigarh and New Dehli


Adhoori means incomplete of unfulfilled, it is a short play specially written for the occasion by Shahid Nadeem and directed by Madeeha Gouhar of Ajoka Theatre. The couple is well known for their commitment to theatre for social change. Ajoka has been performing plays since 1884 and their plays invariably deal with human rights themes, especially women’s rights. Through their plays, Ajoka has spread awareness on issues such as female literacy, honour killings, health and family planning, environment and rights of the girl-child. Ajoka has performed all over Pakistan and in other countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Hong Kong, Thailand, UK and the US.

Adhoori is a story of the journey of the Pakistani woman, a story of suffering, a story of resilience and determination, asking for recognition of women as full partners in society, with out which society itself remains unfulfilled, incomplete. The Pakistani woman is at the threshold of a new era of gender equality and a national policy for Development and Empowerment of Women is a brave new beginning.

The Cast: Uzra Butt, Tahira Imam, Maham Sarfraz, Tipu Sultan, Kamran Mujahid, Shujaat Haider

Poetry: Kishwar Naheed, Fehmida Riaz Ishrat Afreen Music Mohammad Aslam

(Dance drama on the struggle of Pakistani women) by: Shahid Nadeem

Director: Madeeha Gauhar
(Let's go the fair)

October - 2001 (Lahore)

Written by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Naseem Abbas

A play on Economic and Social empowerment of women. The play focuses on those working women who take up hard and laborious jobs and contribute financially to support their families. Despite of the fact that these women earn and work endlessly both inside and outside their male counterparts and are not allowed to participate in the decisions of their family matters. They are given the freedom to earn money but the freedom to spend their money is only the prerogative of the male members of their households. Women are not allowed to take part in any social or recreational activity. Chal Melay Noo Chaliay is a story of women in a smilar situation who are left with no choice but to stand against the domination of men who refuses them permission to attend the village fair.

(Adaptation of Brecht's "The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui")

March - 1998 (Lahore)

Adaptation by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

“Bala King" was first performed in March 1998 to mark the 100th Birthday of Brecht. Written in 1941, “Arturo Ui” is a savage and witty parable of the rise of fascism and Hitler, in which his story is recast in terms of a small-time gangster's take-over of the city's greengrocer trade. It skillfully captures the wide range of parody and pastiche in the original from Richard III to Al-Capone, from Mark Anthony to Faust and Gretchen-without diminishing the horror of the real-life Nazi prototypes. In Shahid Nadeem's Punjabi adaptation, Ui is replaced by Bala King, an “unemployed” pehlawan gang leader, who decides to leave the Taxali Gate adda and try his luck in the Badami Bagh world of inter city 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 and contradictions of these groups, aided by their muscle power. He bribes, blackmails and intimidates the businessmen and shopkeepers to accept his protection at a very heavy premium. Bala Pehlawan changes his name to Bala King, receives lessons in public speaking and political science and eliminates all opposition, circumvents law and public opinion and eventually establishes his total control over the area. The rise of Bala King and the inability of the people in resisting his dictatorial advances show the weaknesses of society and its vulnerability to violence, blackmail and corruption.

Review: Brecht in the original tells his tale through a small time gangster who rises to take over the city's green grocer trade. Through written about a very specified event region of the world at a very specific time in history. Brecht's play has the power to transcend time and space restraints. It becomes applicable to the rise of fascism in all times and regions, especially, as Shahid Nadeem proves in his adaptation, to the walled city of Lahore. The plaengrossing and flawless in the end. It sent the audience into peals of continuous laughter, while maintaining the feeling that may be what was happening was not so funny after all: a difficult combination indeed, but an exemplary demonstration of Brechts ideals for epic theatre. (Shandana Khan)


Dukhini was the name of young Bangldeshi women whose case history appeared in publication on the subject of the trafficking of Bangladeshi women to Pakistan. We came across her story while researching for this theatre production on the theme. But was Dukhini just a case history? Surely there was much more to her life story than the cold. disturbing facts of her life. much more suffering. much more pain. much more deception. much more apathy. much more exploitation . surely there were hundreds of Dukhini's whose stories are never told! The Dukhini production is meant to go beyond the case histories, to explore and experience the tragic lives of these women,, their emotions. their desires. their deprivations, their longing for their motherland. their bonds of sisterhood and their dreams of conquering poverty. Dukhini is about the evil practice of trafficking of Bangladeshi women to Pakistan these women are lured, deceived. abducted from poor rural areas of Bangladesh and brought to Pakistan. mostly through India. They are sold in Pakistan as wives, maids or prostitutes, sometimes through open auction. Being illegal entrants, they have no legal protection. They are in fact vulnerable to exploitation by police and law enforcing authorities, They are unable to return to Bangladesh because they have no travel documents or proofs of identity. They are condemned to live a life of suffering, humiliation and insecurity in a foreign land. But Dukhini is also about the broader issue of trafficking of women, it highlights the soeio-eeonomic factors behind this practice and exposes the callousness and apathy of the concerned goverments. Not only that, they play also deals with the overall issue of migration and attempt to make its audience ore aware and more sympathetic to this phenomenon. Dukhini is the first ever theatre project between Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is colleboration between Ajoka of Pakistan and BITA of Bangladesh.

It has been written by Ajoka's Shahid Nadeem and directed by Sara Zakar of Nagorik Natya Sampradaya. Dhaka. Actors and the production team include members from Ajoka. BITA and other theatre groups. Dukhini has been performed in Pakistan, Bangladesh. India and Nepal and a video screening was held in London in 2000. A unique feature of this project is that it is collaboration between groups, which come from two different language and have different cultural and theatrical background but also because of the recent political and historical context. Let us hope that Dukhini will help create awareness and will among the people and the governments to put an end to the exploitations and suffering of Dukhini.

The Cast: Aslam Shaheen, Iftikhar Ahmed, Fazal Abbas Faizi, Uzra BUtt, Joyashree Kar, Kankan Das Sabira Sultan, Modhumita Barua, Akbar Reza, Tipu Sultan, Rana Sarfraz, Sarfraz Ansari, Deepta Rakshit, Jerin Kulsoom, Samina Tasmin


A story is told by two narrators in the traditional "Swaang" style (an old Theatre style of the Potowar Region). It’s about a small village in Cholistan where the villagers are being exploited by a "Peer" who has control of the only source of water in the village - the well. All this changes when a stranger comes into the village wanting to help the people by making them aware of the Peer’s tyranny. Moulding old story telling techniques into modern art form, "K.M. Bhes" is full of music, song, dance, humor and vibrant colors.

During her maiden tour of India as a director, with her latest production "K.M. Bhes", Madeeha achieved a historic first. Her group was the first Pakistani group to perform in a series of shows since Independence India Theatre critics have given the play ram reviews for its performance in Calcutta, Kalyani, Chandigarh and New Dehli

(Long Live the Delivery Town)

1995 (Lahore)

Written by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

A light hearted comedy which Focuses on the serious issue of the growing population in developing countries especially Pakistan. The play is a story of the delivery town where a family planning clinic has been set up and has let to controversy and polarization of men and women about the need for family planning. The play is a rollicking comedy which provokes laughter and makes and audience think about the serious issues being raised. There is the local mullah who has set up an NGO the proliferation of children while the wives have formed a united front against the uncaring husbands. The neutral person in this battle of sexes is Reema the transvestite. The Mullah leads the local people of the neighborhood against the efforts of Dr. Mahjabeen who runs the local family planning clinic. But the Mullah is in for a rude shock, when he sees his own wife joining the pro family planning camp.

Review: Not only did the play deliver its message(s) and information about family planning and female empowerment very successfully but said it through developed characters, a strong plot (and some amusing sub-plos), humorous dialogue and witty one-liners. Even Benazir Bhutto is unwilling to take in the self-appointed clergy of Islam on the issue of family planning (and other issues as well), as evidenced by her Cairo speech: but Shahid pulled no punches in holding this same clergy to be chiefly responsible for our failure in controlling our population growth.
(The Friday Times 20-26 October, 1994)


"Kali Ghata": Acting for Nature 

“Kaali Ghata” is the story of a village where the clouds have turned away and there is no rain. The villagers embark upon a journey to appease the clouds and learn about the horrible damage they have done t their environment, to their forests, their rivers and the air. They realize their mistake and pledge to protest Nature’s bounties. “Kaali Ghata” was first performed for the WWF in 1994.

“Kaali Ghata” is a joint venture of Ajoka Children’s theatre (ACT) and the Lahore Arts Council. It is the first time that ACT has collaborated with Arts Council. The first Phase of the project was a theatre workshop. Children learned how to act, sing and dance through games. Exercise and improvisations and then made their theatrical presentation at a concluding ceremony, attend by parents and theatre people. In second phase”Kaali Ghata” was rehearsed and is now being presented on stage.

Ajoka Children’s theatre is grateful to the Lahore Arts Council, especially its Executive Director Mr. Shabbir Ahmed, Deputy Director (Programmes), Mr. Zulfi, Mr. Najeeb and other staff members of Alhamra Cultural Complex for their cooperation and support for this project. Recently, Lahore Arts Council has become more supportive of socially meaningful theatre activities and health entertainment.

We hope this policy will be further consolidated and LAC will become an important centre for the promotion of art and culture in city.


Nirvan Nadeem, Fiza Habib, Minaam Karim, Meeran Karim, Meeran Kazmi, Waqas Hashmi, Mehreen Elahi, Awais Hashmi, Haya Saleem.





"Aik Thee Naani"

Aik Thee Naani is inspired by the true life story of two extraordinary sisters, Zohra Segal and Uzra Butt. They both started their careers in 1930 in Bombay and were associated with Prithvi Theatre and Indian Peoples Theatre Association. After Partition, Uzra migrated to Pakistan and Zohra stayed back. This play, specially written for the sisters by Shahid Nadeem, brought them together on one stage after four decades. The play was first performed in 1993 and has since toured India twice and UK.

The play is about a grandmother (Naani) who visits her sister, the Daadi, who lives a quiet and conservative life as a housewife. Their common grand-daughter becomes a bone of contention. She wants to become an actress and the Daadi doesn’t like that. But the Naani, herself a veteran actress and dancer, subverts the conservative household and enables the young girl to be what she wants to be.

Aik Thi Nani

The Cast: Zohra Segal, Uzra Butt, Madeeha Gauhar, Samiya Mumtaz, Rukhsana Khan, Naseem Abbas, Fazal Abbas Faizi, Kamran Mujahid

Written by: Shahid Nadeem

Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar
(Watch the play and move on)

November - 1992 (Lahore)

Written by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

While the action is going on, innocent citizens, intellectuals, teachers, social workers are being accused of blasphemy and executed. By the end of the play, the executioners run out of victims and to satisfy their mad lust for blood, they get hold of the narrator of the play and hang him. The narrator keeps pleading that he is not a part of the play but they don’t listen to him. The message of the play is loud and clear and disturbing, you can remain silent spectators to sectarianism. The fire will engulf your house sooner or later.

Review: The play is a scathing commentary on the governments implicit connivance with the intolerant religious establishment in denying basic human rights to the religious minorities. It is direct reference to the politics of the power which are continuously played out in Pakistan, by successive governments who will do any thing to try or keep on the right side of the fundamentalists. “Dekh Tamasha” has its movements of black humour and farcical song and dance. But it drives images of brutality in the audience, in an attempt to convey the reality faced by minorities living in Pakistan. It doesn’t mince words or make light to the issue but forces us to confront the unpalatable truth of blind prejudice in a land where the founding fathers sought to put an end to religious bigotry. It leaves the audience with some disturbing questions, the solution being left to the actions of the individual and the society in which we live.
(The News, Februry 4, 1994)

(An adaptation of Manto's stories)

May - 1992 (Lahore)

Dramatized by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

An Adaptation of Manto's masterpiece short story about the exchange of mental patients between India and Pakistan at the time of partition. "Toba Tek Singh" is the nick name of a sikh inmate in Lahore mental asylum who hails from "Toba Tek Singh" and refuses to be sent across the border. There is one lunatic claiming to be Jinnah, another, one calling himself Nehru and yet another one calling himself Master Tara Singh and God is sitting on a tree. The play as well as the story is a powerful indictment of the insanity and inhumanity which accompanied partition of 1947.

Review: "Toba Tek Singh" is opened to an eager audience, spell bound by the 'dare and bare' sensitivity of the story writer as it was presented by the theatre group 'Toba' set in the Lahore Mental Hospital of the day when two newly formed countries were deciding to exchanging assets, even the lunatics of society, could be taken as a metaphor of the age. "Toba Tek Singh", a Sikh character Bishen Singh, played by Aslam Shaheen against the minimal of backdrops was effective to say the least.
(THE NATION: January, 1997.)

(The Slap)

March - 1992 (Lahore)

Written by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

Lappar is about the stigma attached to the birth of a daughter. Lappar focuses on the issue of girl child and exposes the stereotypical notions of gender bas in society. Girl from their early childhood are considered as a liability. The entire play is set in a hospital scene. The main characters are three expectant women. The reaction of the families especially of the in laws and husbands of these expectant women reveal the harsh treatment that women are subjected to when they give birth to baby girls. This attitude is not only prevalent in the illiterate communities of our society but the so called elite and educated classes behave in a similar manner. Birth of a girl is usually mourned and mother has to face serious consequences, sometimes to the extent of being divorced by their husbands.

Review:Yet the experience was drastically different from what we had anticipated. Our play was about women giving birth to female babies and facing society’s condemnation. It had many dialogues defamatory to the, male ego, yet our male audience was attentive to the moral reproof. The children sat dumb founded, enjoying only the lighthearted dance and songs. It was the women response that rejuvenated our spirits. Through the performance they nodded in tacit approval, clapping gleefully on every sentence that reproached men and society for their ill-treatment of women. After the performance, one could see that the play had made an impression, as the men walked away with sheepish grins and the women strutted around like the heroines of the day. (THE FRONTIER POST, September, 1992)

(The Third Knock)

March - 1991 (Lahore)

Written by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

The play was originally written in 1971 by Shahid Nadeem and first performance in 1991. it's a story of slum dwellers facing eviction by landlord who wants to demolish the old dilapidated building and build a hotel plaza instead. The residents of the dwelling consider various options evade eviction but eventually choose to kill the landlord. Once the collective murder has taken place, they make themselves believe that are free now and masters of their own destiny. However to their utter shock and horror the landlord knocks again to serve them the eviction notice. They think that the landlord was not killed properly and has to be killed again so that the victim is really dead. They celebrate their liberation and make plans for running the dwelling. The police arrives and rounds them up for murder. Only women and old people are left behind. The landlord knocks for the third time and those left behind in the dwellings rise to strangle him for the third time.

Review: The poetic naturalism of “the Third Knock” bore clear traces of both. Before a full house of about 80 people at the Highways performance Space, Nadeem read a part in the drama, about a group of poor urban tenants on the day their landlord comes to evict them to build a hotel. They kill the landlord, but he returns. They must kill him repeatedly. Each time, they relive the fantasies of owning the building themselves. Each time, it is as if some terrible, fatalistic machinery is at work. (LOS ANGELES TIMES: September 19, 2001.)

(Where should the mad woman go?)

March - 1990 (Lahore)

Written by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

“Jhali Kithay Javay” is story of a young bride whose husband goes to Dubai immediately after the wedding and is unable to return because of the demands of a family who have more affection for his income than for himself. Unable to join her husband in Dubai, the wife feels abandoned and her loneliness and frustration gradually manifests itself in acute depression. Apart from being a forceful indictment of a society ridden with superstition and of the maltreatment within the family of the new “bride” the play also comments on the growing consumerism penetrating Pakistani society as a result of the “Dubai phenomenon”. The story is linked by two narrators (ravi) in the traditional style and is mostly illustrated through dance, music and dialogues in verse form. The play has been performed at the second South Asian People’s Theatre Festival in Dhaka in October, 1993 and at the first South Asian People’s Theatre Festival in 92 at Lahore. It has won four out of five awards at the Institute of Folk Heritage National Theatre Festival in 1988.

Review: Nadeem has used as little dialogue as is possible, in fact made music and recitation take the place of what might have been verbosity. Props too have been used minimally. So much is left to the imagination that one becomes almost excited by what one’s imagination manages for one. All the evil of the oppression of the new bride are exposed in mime, dance movement and recitation. She has little hope of survival against it all, but she has a staunch and strong spirit and opposes their machinations. Mime has been perfected by the director and Jahan Ara, who takes over the whole mood of the despair of a forsaken bride. (Viewpoint, April 5, 1990)

"CHOOLAH" (Stove)
March - 1989 (Lahore)

Written by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

The play is based on a day in a house wife’s life in the kitchen. Although the play focuses on the so called stove deaths in the circumstances which lead to suicide by desperate wives or pre-meditated murders by the in-laws, it also addresses issues such as relationship between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law, a wife and a husband, a maid and a house wife and between a mother and a son. The incident of a stove death takes place off stage in another house in the neighborhood. Zubeda the main character of the play is a precipice to challenge her insensitive husband. The play was adapted into a telefilm “CHOOLAH AUR CHAR DEEWARI” which was shown on NTM channel in March, 1998.

Review: (newspaper)

"ITT" (Brick)
August - 1988 (YohannaAbad,Lahore)

Written & Directed by: Shahid Nadeem

The Cast:

Review: (newspaper)

November - 1987 (Lahore)

Written by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

Shahid Nadeem’s first play written and performed in 1971. ajoka first performed it in November 1987 in Goethe Institute, Lahore. A dead dog is found lying in the middle of the road in the morning causing inconvenience in the neighborhood for the people who are not prepared to dispose it. They carry on with their petty squabbles and routine activities hopping that some one carries it away. At night they all go to sleep but are woken up by an unbearable stench. They discover the body of the dead dog has mysteriously disappeared but not the stench. There is total disarray and everyone starts accusing the other of being the source of the stench. Ultimately the local mullah distributes the incense stick so that the people can protect their noses but the source of the stench remains.

Review: “Marya Hoya Kutta” is about the life and problems of the people of an inner city neighborhood. The play poses a challenge to its audience to break the spell of inactivity and self-interest. (Dawn, November 25, 1987)

March - 1987 (Lahore)

Written by: Shahid Nadeem
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

The play was written in 1986 and first performed on International Women’s Day in 1987. Shahid Nadeem wrote the play when he was in exile in London after being imprisoned by the military government of General Zia-ul-Haq. The play was produced by Ajoka and was directed by Madeeha Gauhar.

Although the theme and issues raised in the play are as relevant in today’s Pakistan as they were in the mid of 80’s, the play refers to the oppressive and discriminatory laws introduced by General Zia-ul-Haq military regime in 1983, which under the cover of Islamic reform, tool away many of the rights which had been won by women after a prolonged struggle. This resulted in a strong reaction from the enlightened middle class women. A protest march in Lahore on 12 February 1983 was violently broken up by the police. Protesting women were beaten, dragged on the road by their hair and arrested (Madeeha Gauhar was one of them). That was beginning of a new phase in the women’s movement which infused new life in the democratic struggle against the military rule.

However, the women’s movement was, and to a great extent, still is dominated by the urban upper middle class women. There has been an ongoing debate concerning how to reach out to the grassroots and make alliances with other democratic movement in the country.

“Barri” addresses these issues and was part of the debate during the women’s movement. In 1989 “Barri” was converted into a TV serial “Neelay Haath”. “Barri” was also performed in Los angles International Arts Festival in 2001”

Review: “Barri” is about as relentless a play this writer has seen with the immediacy of the newspaper headline and the explosiveness of a hand grenade, it sweeps the audience along without a single interruption. “Barri” is certainly about women, it also examines the sickness and violence in our society. The prison in which four women find themselves is a metaphor for this entire country where women are denied the most fundamental rights, where minorities are persecuted; and where the innocent can be jailed for years without redress. But over and beyond this general, almost random, brutalization, half our population is subjected to daily horrors on a casual, routine that is seldom even questioned or criticized except by a handful educated and dedicated women. (The Nation, April 08, 1987)

October - 1985 (Lahore)

Written by: Bertolt Brecht
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar
Adaptation by: Shahid Nadeem

Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle was written at a time when the world was still reeling under the devastation caused by the world war II . However it appears to have been specially written for the post-8th Amendment, post-dissolution Pakistan of 1993.In the first half of the play, the place intrigues, the total lack of nay morals or ethics among the warring ruling factions and the economic, political and moral chaos will seem very familiar to us. In the second half, we see the law literally standing on its head. The rogue judge Azdak my appear to be corrupt, rude and unpredictable but is in fact mocking the prevalent norms of justice (or the lack of any).

A dry, doctrinaire didactic theatre was far from what brecht had in mind, as is often mistakenly assumed. Enjoyment is the noblest function we have found for the theatre , he said. But if the audience is to enjoy what it learns in the theatre, it must remain detached and critical, This alienation of the spectator is achieved through various techniques including the detached acting style, the constant music and dance and story-telling. True to brecht’s concept of this EPIC theater, Ajoka’s production of Chaak Chakkar uses these elements. Brecht was in fact influenced by the Asiatic theatrical techniques, which we have inherited from our traditional theatre. Like most of its productions, Ajoka has once again tried to link modern theatre concepts with production, and has kept a balance between meaningful content and aesthetically satisfying from.

The Cast: Nirvaan Nadeem, Hania Cheema, Usman Zia, Imran-ul-haq, Yaqoob Masih, Khola Quraishi/ Aalia Abbasi, Sarfraz Ansari, Aamir Sahotra, Shahid Zafar, Asif Hussain, Waseem Luka, Tazeem Sadiq, Abbasi / Mina Sadiq, Nadeem Abbas, Uzra Butt/ Tazeem Sadiq, Meena Sadiq, Emaan Yousuf, Shezad Sadiq, Aliya, Shahzad, Waseem, Saima, Tazeem, Mina, Shahzad, Abid Shehki, Meena, Shahzad

Review: This was the last play which Brecht wrote between 1944-45 and reflects the tragedy of his times, the terror and aftermath of the Second World War, the tearing part of the social fabric, the economic chaos, warring factions, dilemmas in the dispensation of justice to the people and the ultimate ‘judgment’ of love. That the production has played to crowded audiences is proof enough of public interest, and the fact that the theatre can work and should if senseless strictures are removed.

May - 1984 (Lahore Cantt)

Written by: Badil Sarkar
Directed by: Madeeha Gauhar

“Jaloos” was the first ever Ajoka play performed in May 1984 in a house lawn in Lahore. It was an adaptation of Badal Sarkars Bengali play ‘Machal’. The play is a social satire. It is a montage of our daily life with hard hitting comments on the waywardness of the youth, the insensitivity of the press, the violation of women’s right and the repressive machinery of the state. The “jaloos” is formed, it breaks, and is formed again. It is the essence of being. Common suffering unites the people. The “Jaloos” does not march out with slogans. It represents the hungry and the disinherited, the unclad, the homeless and the tortured.

Review: To an audience sickened by the steady dose of drawing room farces, “ Jaloos” revealed the possibilities of the stage as a powerful medium of entertainment and sociopolitical criticism. Conceived and produced as a series of quick sequences and skits, the play depend on relentless pace and immaculate timing for its success. Although the play contained a consistently progressive message, it was not allowed to show down the action by monologues, or even long exchanges. (The Star, May 31, 1984)