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The marriage of studio and theatre

Lahore’s histor­ic film comple­x comes to life with arriva­l of new guest that will house stage drama

The studio is cut in the middle by a canal that houses the fabled nair wala pull. PHOTO: EXPRESS

The studio is cut in the middle by a canal that houses the fabled nair wala pull. PHOTO: EXPRESS


There was a time when vanity vans would rush in and out of the 92 kanal complex. Struggling actors would see dreams come true. Film careers were made and broken around the different blocks of the studio that is cut in the middle by a canal that houses the fabled nair wala pull. Life moved at its own pace and seemed to near no end.

All this was back in the 60s. Time waved past and Lahore’s historic Bari Studio stood still on Multan Road. Once the bastion of Urdu, Punjabi and Pashto films, it now is in a rundown condition. The walls haven’t greeted paint in a long time. The pavement has chipped off. The canal ran dry a long time ago and the woodwork shouldering the nair wala pull creaks in protest every passing minute. For a prolonged period the facility was utilised as marriage halls, since utility is necessary for survival.

The glory is long lost and the administration’s new decision to turn the studio into a state-of-the-art theatre is both pragmatic and promising. All processes have already been streamlined and its first play, Siyani Family, has already run to a full house this week. Bari Studio’s facelift is the brainchild of veteran theatre actor and writer Zafar Irshad. It has been ornamented with all the latest equipment and special rooms for makeup, costumes have been constructed.

A canteen and new restrooms have also been set up. Talking to The Express Tribune, Irshad says, “It is an attempt on our part to bring back those who abandoned theatre due to the increasing vulgarity. There was a time when families used to flock to theatres to see the likes of Afzal Ahmad, Amanullah Khan and Sohail Ahmed who provided healthy doses of entertainment.” Irshad is determined to restore theatre’s glory and is ready to go the extra mile in this regard.

“People were surprised when I chose this studio. But I know there exists an evolved audience that wants to return to theatres if the plays follow ethical boundaries. I have instructed my actors, dancers and script writers to respect that,” he adds.

Siyani Family was special in more than one ways. People from across Lahore watched the play and the response was overwhelming,” he says. Irshad says families and theatre lovers form his target audience and all his efforts are directed towards their interests. “I will revive theatre following footsteps of people like Ahmad.” The veteran theatre man has already launched two commercial theaters, including Alfalah Theatre and Kot Abdul Malik Theatre.

With Bari Theatre Irshad has taken another leap in the right direction and he has reason to believe that in the coming months the latter will take the lead in the city’s theatre circles. “I have great plans for this place. You will see them materialise very soon,” he says, with an evident trace of conviction in his tone.

Film director Pervez Rana welcomes the move wholeheartedly. “Bari Studio was the jugular vein of our industry and commercial activity had taken apart its historical antiquity.” Although Rana is all for film, he feels anything is better than using the studio as a marriage hall. “The onus is now on the government to ensure its restoration once the film industry comes back to life fully.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2015.

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