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Stumped – The New Play at NAPA – Wins Hearts.

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I am not a fan of cricket. But I do love a good story which questions right and wrong and reality. Zain Ahmed’s Stumped, being performed in NAPA these days, brings all of that and more. Written by Imran Yousuf and translated by Fawad Khan, this play has the right amount of cricket, politics and controversies for everyone to understand and enjoy.

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The play revolves around three cricket players, Chicu (played by Sunil Shanker), Faani (Rauf Afridi) and Sam (Hammad Khan) who play for team Qabristan (A clever symbol for Pakistan) and have ended up in the finals. We also have Bakhtawar Mazhar as Davos intezaar and Hammad Sartaj and Hammad Siddique in the supporting role of two journalists.

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The beauty of the play lies in the depth of the characters. Chicu, the captain of the team, is accepting defeat due to match fixing and is very cynical about how the people see him. He snarks over the superficial fans who only support them until they lose, and the politics that has more power over them than this sport. Sam is a young newbie with dreams of bringing his country glory. He is dismayed by Chicu’s views and the idea to fix the match. Faani is the leading batsman who also wrestles with his conscious and is not supportive of the idea, although he does come to accept it.

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Cricket, mafia, controversies, politics and media, this play had all the elements of a play that every Pakistani can relate to and understand. It shows a human side to cricketers who are used as pawns even by the mass to vent their frustration out on. We sympathize even with Chicu’s views, no matter how villainous he may see at times. But the rise and fall of emotions occur mostly due to the journey Sam goes through. We empathize with the confusions of Sam, we can understand the dilemma he is facing and of course the tragic route his path takes.

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Sunil Shankar, known for his direction of Equus and Marat/Sade, did will as the cynical team captain, carrying his eccentric moments well. Hammad Khan, a recent graduate of NAPA (Lancelot in Venice ka Saudagar and Inspector in Lao to Qatalnama Mera) did win over the audience with his character. Rauf Afridi, actor in numerous NAPA plays, was active as Faani, although some finesse was lacking in the characters overall. Bakhtawar Mazhar (Sufaid Khoon, Khwaabon ke Musafir) proved her skills in acting yet again, being a very dominant and glamourous character. The two journalists, played by Hammad Sartaj and Hammad Siddique, were very entertaining even though their scene was short, they still established themselves.

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The set and lights were beautiful; the set’s white curtains were used to screen projections of cricket match clips, which were very aptly placed. The play was written well, Imran Yousuf’s writing stood on it’s own, proving why it won NAPA’s Scriptwriting competition, and Farhan translated it accurately, keeping the motivations equal. However, it could do with a lot less swearing as that was quite distracting. Overall, Zain Ahmed’s direction was well thought out and Stumped is definitely worth a watch.

Stumped is being performed at NAPA till 9th June 2013

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