Back again, on special request from the media and the entertainment starved people of Pakistan, the popular Puppet Theater brought a new episode of the block buster drama serial, “Zarb-e-Akhir” (The final blow). Everyone’s favorite puppet Dr. Taqreer ul Qadri performed the lead role with the support of a stellar cast of old and new puppets.
As regular theatre goers will recall, Dr. Taqreer ul Qadri, was sent back to Canada for repairs after wear and tear during the previous grueling seasons. But we were assured that he was good to go with a new tunic, cap, handkerchiefs, and refurbished zero meter vocal chords.
It is not clear if, as in the past, Pakistan’s celebrated producer, director, and puppet master, Mr. Khaki Islahi, directed the most recent show.
Mr. Islahi has over sixty years of experience in running the most successful theatre group in Pakistan called the “Reluctant Khaki”. A modest man, Mr. Islahi insists that he is not really interested in making money but is merely a patriotic Pakistani who has been asked time and again by the hardworking and honest citizens of Pakistan to provide some clean entertainment. Mr. Islahi also vigorously rejects his nickname “The Umpire” given by people who feel that he is so influential in the theatre business that no show can succeed without his support.
The storyline this time took off from where the last show ended. As theater lovers will recall, in the last major episode staged at the massive D-Chowk open-air theater in Islamabad, millions of protester puppets camped outside the National Assembly demanding the destruction of the evil empire of Mr. Steal, an industrial magnate. The handsome, brave and incorruptible puppet Ill Kapitan (variously known as Im the Dim, King of Bats, and the Sultan of Swingers) led the protestors and nearly succeeded in bringing down Mr. Steal and his Empire of Crooks. Unfortunately, the rains came down and Mr. Islahi was forced to declare the show closed.
The play was a great commercial success. Hundreds of food and other businesses setup to serve the protestors-actors, kick started the dormant economy of the city. The media and their dead anchors came alive broadcasting the play. With millions of viewers glued to their television sets it was unreality TV at its best.
In another unexpected twist, the new show was set to introduce an element of Sufism and spirituality courtesy Ill Kapitan
Readers will recall that in the aftermath of the show, Mr. Nowise Sheriff, the real life person behind Mr. Steal, was unceremoniously deposed following a chance discovery that he had hidden some undeclared money under his pillow. Mr. Sheriff claims that the money was a slush fund for buying Nihari, a rather rich dish that his doctor had banned due to the poor state of his arteries.
While the new episode largely followed the successful formula of the previous show, this time around Mr. Islahi introduced a new performer Ausaf Ali Zoordari, a seasoned puppet who plays the role of a devoted husband, a loving father, a president, and a criminal with equal facility. In an interesting twist Mr. Zoordari, who was not one of Mr. Islahi’s favorite puppets given his sometime erratic behavior, was fully reconciled to Team Khaki and was portrayed as a good fella. Apparently, Mr. Zoordari has struck a deal with Mr. Khaki whereby he will have exclusive rights to running the show in Sindh in exchange for good behavior.
Among the other actors, the perennial favorite comedian who participated was Shaikh Wretched. Armed with new profanities, the energetic Shaikh contributed much hilarity, as well as a new set of cuss words, to the play.
The show promised to be much more exciting this time around as it had learnt some new techniques from an inventive theater group “The Dharna”. It is rumored that this hitherto unknown group was also directed by Mr. Khaki. Their show, staged at a busy intersection in Islamabad was such a great success that the whole city came to a standstill for two weeks. In recognition of the fine performance of the group, the actors were handsomely rewarded with cash prizes and a return ticket to their hometowns.
In another unexpected twist, the new show was set to introduce an element of Sufism and spirituality courtesy Ill Kapitan who, it was revealed, has been under the apprenticeship of a lady Saint from Punjab. While the actor has denied the new twist, the intrepid journalists who broke the news are standing by the story.
This time the venue for the show was the historic city of Lahore. Naysayers said that the largest theatre group of the city “Showbaz” owned by Mr. Sheriff’s younger brother was not happy with the competition performing on its turf and a team of hecklers armed with hockey sticks and cricket bats was constituted under the leadership of one Gullu Butt to welcome the rival theatre group.
As in previous shows, entry was free but even that didn’t attract the multitudes. Open-air accommodation, open-air toilets, educational facilities, diaper changing service for babies, musical entertainment and hot meals not withstanding, the puppets ended up performing to empty seats.