By Adnan Murad
Mutual attraction is central to the idea of love… sometimes, even the law of attraction and the lure of a great love cannot be denied.
Co-directed by Sarmad Khoosat and Kanwal Khoosat, Jhaanjar Di Paanwaan Chhankaar explores love and freedom without being puerile or didactic in its approach; therefore, different people will find different ways to associate themselves with this play.
This is a play about loving someone you’re not supposed to in a repressed society. Mostly, it is about passion, about the swooning love a young man might feel, and while the attraction is physical that is hardly all it is.
Hamza (Zain Afzal) is a 28-year-old man. He is originally from Sheikhupura but has moved to Lahore to live alone for two months. One day, he comes across his friendly neighbour Zaman (Sarmad Khoosat), who is an actor.
From here on, the three-act play explores their relationship, which, at a point, is tested by the unexpected arrival of Hamza’s overprotective mother (Samiya Mumtaz).
Breaking it down
Loneliness and longing are at the centre of these men’s lives, at least for a while. These concepts are articulated by a ravishing evocation of the atmosphere.
Hamza is lonely and longs to be loved. He needs someone to be around him—not as a caretaker, but as a pillar of strength. He has lived under the supervision of his mother for a long, long time; however, he now wants to find the true beat of his life.
Zaman, on the other hand, is also lonely and hides his loneliness under his cheerful demeanour. He is an actor who is currently working in a high-concept film. As he reveals the details of his film, we realise why this play is called Jhaanjar Di Paanwaan Chhankaar.
Together, the actors are dynamite. The bubbling camaraderie between Sarmad and Afzal is the kind of authentic work that feels several steps above acting.
Particularly, Afzal, as Hamza, is a revelation. He makes Hamza look genuinely aloof and cold at times and he owns a vulnerability that he displays throughout this play.
Sarmad, who could so easily have been reduced to a caricature, is mesmerising in his part.
Even though we do not get to experience the gradual development of their attachment towards each other, we do experience intimate moments between the leads, which is a significant achievement for the writers of this play, Fatima Maan and Saeed Rahman.
Living in Pakistan, we understand that it can be a daunting task to write a play like this; therefore, Maan and Rahman must be lauded for keeping things interesting for most of the time and eschewing didacticism.
The writers choose a wrinkle that keeps things exciting and it is not the main characters’ sexuality per se, but their desire to experience freedom.
This play, to a great extent, comes together like a serendipitous encounter due to Mumtaz’s Robina Suhail, who plays her part with honest conviction.
Mumtaz is a chameleon, a technician and a formidable actor. She serves Jhaanjar Di Paanwaan Chhankaar truly throughout without hitting a false note.
Kanwal and Sarmad direct this play with a sense of dreamy languor; it seems to me that the beauty of the surroundings was persuading them to slow down and propel the action through Afzal and Sarmad’s remarkably competent performances in the lead roles. The directors maintain the play’s temperature at a low simmer and expertly bring it to the boil in the final ten minutes.
They let their work sing with power. This is a play to rush to, and to then savour every minute of.
Jhaanjar Di Paanwaan Chhankaar is sweet, moving and comfortably progressive in its own way; the idea behind making this play was, perhaps, not to stand out, but to fit in.