Last night, I was lucky enough to attend one of the most well-performed plays I have ever seen. Written in 1664 by Moliere, La Tartuffe was translated from French to Urdu and performed at the Pakistan National Council of Arts (Islamabad). The entire event was held under the umbrella of Alliance Francaise d’Islamabad, along with sponsorship from City FM89, etc.
Since the play was to be performed in Urdu, I was a bit hesitant at first, but having watched one of the cast’s rehearsals at Kuch Khaas, I quickly changed my mind. Under the leadership of director Tughral T. Khan, the actors were putting in every effort. It’s wonderful to see dramatic culture thriving in Pakistan. All the actors were participating on a purely voluntary basis, and most were students.
The play tells the story of a man who pretends to be what he is not – a pious, god-fearing fakir. He seems to have enchanted the head of the household, who, despite his family’s continued efforts, just cannot see what is wrong with the guest he holds so dear. The play’s dark humor shines through as the weasel ends up with all of the children’s inheritance, and a promise of marriage to the young lady of the house. Alas, his hypocrisy is finally revealed! What is his undoing? His love for the Lady, the mistress of the house. All wrongs are righted and the play concludes happily.
What makes this play memorable is that it caries a timeless message. The chatty maid, the secret declarations of love, and the father who is always right (and doesn’t listen to reason) are all characters we can relate to. As for Tartuffe (the villain), do I really have to say anything? How many of us know a real-life Tartuffe?