Dramaline, a theatre society of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), hailing all the way from Pakistan were invited to the UNMC campus by UNMC Pakistan Society to showcase the play, Love Bipolar.
A modern play, Love Bipolar has something for everyone, from tongue in cheek references of Bollywood to philosophical musings of Shakespeare’s famous quote all the world’s a stage, the writers have pulled out all the stops to produce an intelligent and contemplative piece.
The sets and costumes were minimalistic which helped draw attention to the witty lines and the diverse emotions portrayed by all the actors. The typewriter prop is strategically placed in the centre of the stage, which really set the nostalgic mood for the entire play.
Shezad is a frustrated writer, trying his best to recapture his fragmented love story in a play, this play. As he furiously pounds the typewriter that is surrounded by many drafts scrunched up in paper balls, he fits the stereotypical image of a frustrated writer. Ali Khan, the president of Dramaline, played the part of the writer and captured his character’s angst very well.
As Shezad narrates the tale of his budding romance with Ria (Sana Naqvi), from the initial stages of infatuation to the inevitable fights, actors Umar and Sana enact the love story. The writer fixates on the beginning of love stories and scoffs at its cliched nature.
The play makes light of bollywood romance by comically portraying typical bollywood-isque scenes, this cynical portrayal resonates with the audience: the youth of the Indian sub-continent cannot help but cheer.
Things go south when a disastrous attempt at a surprise proposal (kudos to Nehl Junaid for her brilliant execution as the comic relief as the waitress) quickly turns into a rejection. Ria uses the infamous lines “let’s just be friends”, insisting that her parents would not approve. Yet unlike traditional tales of star crossed lovers, Ria and Shezad cannot find their happy ending, in a tragic twist Ria refuses and leaves Shezad, who is then left to find solace in the written word. Shezad’s anguish is beautifully demonstrated in an contemporary dance performance by Nehla Junaid.
A strong parallel between reality and fiction is presented as the real timeline of the love story unfolds alongside the Shezad’s narrative. Despite Shezad’s best efforts to write a happy ending, the grim reality appears in the form of prison guards (Neha Dhalwani and Samay Ahmed) who remind Shezad that he is currently in jail for the murder of his beloved and that his time is almost up.
Shezad is in utter denial and has a strong conviction that this play would atone for his crime of passion, to explain his frustration and desperation, but by then the audience is aware that it is too late for salvation and the play ends at that tragic note.
The director of the play, Umar Sheikh, explains that Shezad is a victim of schrizophrenia, who is unable to tell reality apart from fiction and in fact the story was inspired by a friend who was suffering from schizophrenia. The play intends to showcase the difficulties of psychological disorders (think Streetcar Car Named Desire).
While their initiative to create such a dialogue of psychological disorders is admirable, especially considering the lack of understanding in the Indian-subcontinent, it is important to under that Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are not interchangeable terms for a single disorder, they are two separate disorders with separate symptoms and causes.
The use of the term ‘bipolar’ should not have been used when the character Shezad was based off the true story of a schizophrenic and many of the symptoms (unable to tell reality apart from fiction, seeing imaginary people etc.) presented in the play suggest schizophrenia*, it is more accurate for the play to be called Love Schizophrenia, though I’ll be the first to admit that it does not roll of the tongue as easily.
The play was followed by cultural performances. A classic Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Qawali written by Naz Khailvi called ‘Tum aik gorakh danda ho‘ was read out with its translations. This was followed by a cultural dance. The event came to an end with a spoken word piece describing the incredible life back in Pakistan.These were fitting tributes to Pakistan considering the event was held on the 23rd of March, the National Day of Pakistan.
Photography Credits to Ahson of Digital Arts Guild.
Review by Soumya Bhat
*EDITOR’S NOTE: Please note that the director clarified at the end of the play that Shezad was schizophrenic and not bi polar: the title was appointed to describe the dual nature of the character’s love.