Granny for AII Seasons
(Aik Thee Nani)
A Granny for AII Seasons was written
by Pakistani playwright Shahid Nadeem in 1992. It was inspired
by the true story of two remarkable actor sisters of the South Asian
subcontinent, Zohra Segal and Uzra Butt. They both started their
careers in late 1930s and worked with the legendary theatre and
film personality Prithavi Raj Kapoor, the patriarch of the famous
Kapoor clan of Bollywood. The two sisters, who belonged to Muslim
nobility of Northern India, created a sensation in British India
for adopting acting and dancing as a career. In the late '40s, their
careers were violently disrupted by the Partition of India. Uzra
moved to Pakistan with her husband, but Zohra decided to stay in
India and pursue her acting and dancing career, working with great
dancer Uday Shankar, brother of Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. There
wasn't much use (or respect) for Uzra's acting talent in Pakistan
where performing arts were regarded as anti-Islamic. She abandoned
her acting career and became a housewife, until Shahid's Ajoka Theatre
rediscovered her in 1984. Since then, Uzra, now 85, has been a regular
and leading member of Ajoka and has appeared on television as well.
Zohra, 88, is a leading theatre, TV and film actor in India, and
her daughter Kiran Segal is a prominent Indian classical dancer.
In 1993, the two sisters starred in Granny,
acting together for the first time since their separation at the
time of Partition. The play has since been performed in Pakistan,
India and the UK, to great acclaim.
Historical and Political Context
When the British left India in 1947, the country
was partitioned into a Hindu-majority India and a Muslim-majority
Pakistan. The Partition was preceded and followed by an unprecedented
transfer of population (of Muslims from India to Pakistan and of
Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan to India) and bloody communal riots.
Families and provinces were cut in the middle, causing great suffering
and trauma which lingers to this day. The two countries, now nuclear
powers, have had three wars in the past 51 years, and in the recent
years have come close to another war. Although the people of India
and Pakistan share a common history, culture, languages, and religious
heritage, they tend to claim that they have nothing in common. Common
history is distorted to prove this point and people on both sides
of the border are made to believe that those across the border are
This play is also about friendship between the
people of India and Pakistan, their inseparable shared history,
and their inescapable common destiny. In a Pakistani context, it
is an attempt to critically examine the Establishment's version
of the Pakistan ideology, which has become increasingly corrupted
by rising Islamic fundamentalism.
When the play was performed in Delhi to tremendous
critical and popular acclaim, there were two reactions from the
extremist sections in both countries. In Pakistan, conservative
press and intelligence agencies condemned the "anti-Pakistan"
bias of the play. On the other hand the Hindu extremist leader of
Bombay, Baal Thakray, refused to allow a "Pakistani play"
performed in Bombay at the Prithavi Theatre Festival (instituted
in memory of the late Prithavi Raj Kapoor), and the invitation had
to be withdrawn.
Historical Characters Referred to in the
1. Moharnmad Bin Qasim: Arab General
who led the first Muslim invasion of India in the 8th century. Regarded
as a great hero by some and a foreign invader by others.
2. Mahmood Ghaznavi: The Afghan general
of the 18th century who attacked and plundered India 17 times. Regarded
as a hero in Pakistan and a villain in India.
3. Iqbal: Poet Mohmmad Iqbal, a great
Urdu poet of the 20' century whose song about motherland India is
one of most popular Indian patriotic songs, but who later changed
his mind and presented the idea of a separate Muslim homeland called