To spark a movement for unity between India and Pakistan, Dubai-based power couple and journalists, Ehtesham Shahid and Amna Ehtesham Khaishgi, have co-written Mian, Biwi Aur Wagah. The live theatre play aims to highlight the similarities between the two countries and revive the lost art of letter-writing.
The story revolves around an Indo-Pak couple that writes letters to each other while the character Wagah plays the role of a narrator and storyteller. Ehtesham, born and raised in India, reads out letters about his experiences in Karachi whereas Amna, born and raised in Pakistan, tells the audience about her experience in Bihar. Since the first show in August 2017, the cast has traveled frequently between India, Pakistan, and UAE to perform 17 successful shows in less than a year.
The play makes the multinational audience realize that they have far more in common that unites them compared to what divides them. “People everywhere have emotional memories of the loss of a dear one, get nostalgic about school days and miss the time spent in joint families. We are dealing with this technology-swamped reality of today, which has somehow made us less human. That sense of loss, or the lack of it, is common on both sides.” says Ehtesham.
Through letters, the cast touches various topics including immigration, cross-cultural marriage, and views of a typical judgmental society. These letters play an important role in engaging the audience. “If you listen to over ten letters written to friends and family, you are bound to find your own story in it somewhere. This is exactly what happens and the rawer the emotion, the more the audience connects.” expresses Amna. Since these letters are based on real-life events, in many instances, they move the audience to tears or bursts of laughter.
When the play reaches its finale, the audience realizes how artfully the cast has created an unforgettable impact. Overall, Mian, Biwi Aur Wagah is a compelling narrative with a strong plot that serves as a punch of nostalgia. In the future, the cast aims to perform in more international destinations with Indian and Pakistani communities. By all accounts, it is a refreshing experience to watch a well-written Urdu play. It is also an excellent reminder of the power of live theatre to begin purposeful conversations.