January 13, 2024
Ajoka Theatre celebrated its 40th anniversary with a thought-provoking panel discussion focused on the theme of ‘Theatre of Resistance.’ This momentous occasion unfolded within the framework of the Thinkfest festival held at Alhamra in Lahore.
The esteemed panelists contributing to this dialogue included scholar Professor Shaista Siraj ud Din, renowned playwright Shahid Nadeem, accomplished author and former chairperson of the Arts Council, Syed Qasim Ali Shah, esteemed poet and former DG PILAC Dr. Sughra Sadaf, and Ahmad Bilal, a theatre practitioner and professor at Punjab University. Zara Salman, Ajoka’s Chairperson, adeptly moderated the panel.
Sohail Warraich, the General Secretary of Ajoka, introduced the theme by emphasizing Ajoka’s pivotal role in championing freedom of cultural expression during oppressive regimes through its innovative and courageous plays.
Professor Shaista stressed that Ajoka serves as a vital source of oxygen in a society stifled by extremism and censorship. Syed Qasim Ali Shah hailed Ajoka as a role model for Pakistani youth, asserting that drama, with its emotional and social appeal, holds a promising future. Dr. Sughra Sadaf paid tribute to the late founders of Ajoka, noting that plays like “Bulha” and others, centered on Sufi themes, have introduced a new form of indigenous theatre.
Professor Ahmed Bilal acknowledged Ajoka’s influence in inspiring socially engaged young theatre workers of newer generations. He also commended Shahid Nadeem’s film “Manto” as one of the pioneering and meaningful works in the digital age of Pakistani cinema.
Shahid Nadeem, the Executive Director of Ajoka, provided an insightful overview of Ajoka’s four decades. He underscored that the theatre’s success is attributed to the dedication of its members and its adaptability in overcoming challenges posed by authoritative regimes and extremism.
The event concluded with Ajoka singers presenting soulful Ajoka songs, accompanied by the screening of a video report highlighting the journey of Ajoka over the past four decades.