Theatre Review: Koel
Of the five plays performed at the Performing Arts Festival organised by the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA), Koel was definitely one of the best. It explored themes of loneliness, the need for love and one man’s struggle to fight against both. An adaptation of a television play by Dr Enver Sajjad, shown on PTV in the ’90s, Koel is the story of Dr Waheed (Adnan Jaffar), a world-renowned physicist whose groundbreaking work in the field of science garners him a horde of admirers but who is quite alone in his personal life. Holed up in his study, Dr Waheed has nobody to keep him company apart from a faithful butler (Kashif Hussain) and a koel which never sings. Dr Waheed believes love is a useless emotion, guaranteed to bring heartache, and is thus quite satisfied with his life of solitude. Or so he thinks. Enter Zarina (Farheen Zehra), a science student who has admired Dr Waheed from afar, is desperately in love with him and proceeds to pour out her heart to him. Dr Waheed laughs off her advances but finds himself increasingly restless after the encounter. He reaches out to Dr Ghazala (Nimra Bucha), his psychiatrist, in order to figure out his aversion.
Director, Kulsoom Aftab (who also played Zarina’s friend, Shehla), did a commendable job to bring Dr Enver Sajjad’s characters to life on stage. The dialogue was sharp and witty, and though it bordered on the philosophical, it never become too wordy or intellectual for the audience to lose interest. The themes of love and passion, which could have come off as melodramatic, were handled with grace. Symbolism was incorporated into the storyline with subtlety, in the form of the koel which sings immediately after Dr Waheed’s encounter with Zarina, echoing his awakening to the possibility of love. Adnan Jaffar stole the show with his stellar performance. His body language, gestures and expressions added depth to his character, and made his anguish and bewilderment seem genuine to the viewers.
The set design, sound effects and lighting also enhanced the overall experience. The set design was impressive, with a very effective use of space. The lighting helped create different moods required for each scene, and unique sound effects gave an almost eerie quality to the scenes. There could have been additional interaction between Dr Waheed and Zarina, as the one scene did not seem enough to learn more of Dr Waheed’s aversion to human affection. But this lack of explanation adds a little mystery to the storyline, leaving some aspects to the audience’s imagination. Overall, Koel was a delight to watch and left the audience thinking about it long after it was over.
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