Doodh ka Jala: Hit 80s comedy hits the stage

The trend seems to have caught on, bringing classics, attuning them to modern taste and packaged in their classic-esque. From the generation that has indeed missed the magic of the 80s that people seem to speak of so fondly, it is quite a joy watching and celebrating the legendary writing of the golden days.

On a mundane Thursday evening, I make it just in time for the media night at Arts Council of Doodh ka Jala, an adaptation of Alif Noon, the iconic comedy show of the 60s and the comeback in the 80s by Stage Nomad Productions. At 8pm on a weekday night, the auditorium is at capacity, yet large crowds continue to file in. With stairs doubling for seats and all walking space occupied, the air conditioning failing to their one job and unstopped incoming crowds, despite the ‘inconvenience’ as most would term it, the air is an unbelievable jovial. Late to start and amid thundering applause and hoots, the lights are turned down and the show begins. “We do not wish to compare. We just wish to tribute the content of the past for our generation jo is se mehroom reh gai hai,” the announcement echoed.

The opening scene features a heated to and fro between a politician and dairy farmer, Malik Tabraiz and journalist Komal Khanzadi. The curtains part to present an elaborate set up of a living room with pale teal walls and a lazy Allan on the couch watching the heated broadcast on TV.

Mojiz Hasan makes an entrance as the iconic character Nanhay, slow-witted and big-hearted; with the audiences’ reactionary approval, you can tell Karachi remembers Nanhay. The essence of the original show was Allan brewing shady schemes to bank on with Nanhay failing to keep up with them and more so, his morals disallowing them. The banter between the duo reflects the nostalgia epically, like being led into the classic and innocent humour of days bygone. Although at the time of the original, it was the character Nanhay that won the audience but in the stage adaptation, it was Talal Jilani as Malik Tabraiz that really won the show. You could tell by how gripped the audience was with anticipation by his mere presence on the stage. His dialogue delivery and one word punch lines were so brilliantly executed, he had the crowd roaring with his elite sarcasm and body language.

Allan cooks up a scheme of selling his geeky roommate, A.Q. Kidwai’s research of finding calcium on the moon as a sea of milk to corrupt dairy farmer Tabraiz. The show, despite its comedic genre was meant to highlight the corruption and fraud that is prevalent in our society. 38 years later, sadly, still fitting. In the mix of the scheme, a Pathan chaiwala was thrown in, a character that also received applause and appreciation.

Although an 80s sitcom, the costume, props and set design seemed to be stuck in an outlandish phase where the 80s met modernity. The use of smart phones and modern references occur throughout the show mingled with old landlines and hairstyles with the 80s written all over them. Written and directed by Syed Talal Jilani, the show was originally titled Alif Noon and later changed in compliance with copyright laws.

As a theatre lover, I manage to squeeze in a play-watching from time to time. Mismanagement is an inherent element of live shows that is sometimes handled well, sometimes not. Opening nights for plays can be an event that may or may not shine through; the attendee next to me says she avoids opening nights because there are a few glitches and her words resonate with the happenings of the night. Yet the show comes through with unseen vigour. The night had an almost Karachi-charm, a chaotic we seem to enjoy and take so well. I’m not sure what I enjoyed more, a broke duo dreaming of quick riches and failing or how the city of lights enjoys big dreams, friendship, nostlgia and old age humour.