GCDC – A short introduction
In contrast to other
societies at GCU, the Dramatics Club still goes by its old moniker –
GCDC – standing for Government College Dramatics Club, without the
“U” that was appended to the name of the institution and all of its
societies after the college became a university in 2002. There are
two reasons why. The Government College Dramatics Club is the oldest
amateur and professional theatre in the northern part of the
subcontinent. It has trained most of the thespians, writers and
directors who have garnered a reputation in the performing arts in
Pakistan and beyond. These old boys and girls hark back to the Club
where it all began and insist on calling it by its original name.
Secondly, there is a distinct euphony in the name; a certain
pleasure in the utterance itself that makes it more than just an
acronym, hence GCDC.
It all began …
From Prof. H.L.O
Garret’s book A History of Government College Lahore we learn
that the college started staging selections from Shakespeare in the
concluding decades of the nineteenth-century. Though we are unaware
as to the exact date when the Government College Dramatics Club was
formally established, most people agree on marking 1890 as a
By the turn of the
century, the GCDC was staging English, Sanskrit, Urdu and Punjabi
plays. In 1902, the GCDC performed Kali Das’s Shakuntala. The
play was such a success that it was performed again the next year.
The Club grew steadily and in 1924 at the Golden Jubilee
celebrations it presented Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The
people who witnessed the play included The British Governor of
The GCDC also presented
melodramas of Agha Hasher, the most applause-winning one being the
classic tragedy of Rustam aur Sohrab. During this time many
great names were associated with the Club which included Rafi Peer,
Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Hakim Ahmad Shuja, and Syed Imtiaz Ali Taj.
Imtiaz Ali Taj’s association with the GCDC was special. It is said
that he wrote the classic masterpiece Anarkali – the play
that engraved the romance of Prince Salim and Anarkali in our
imagination and set the tone for all Mughal-era depictions on stage
and in cinema across the subcontinent – while sitting in the Oval
Garden of GC(U). In those days, male students used to perform female
characters. Taj sahib used to perform female roles with such
perfection that no one could ever tell that it was a man who was
acting. There is a famous joke that once a male student fell for him
while he was on stage and sent him a letter stating that he had
finally found his one true love.
During the 1940’s the
Club rapidly developed under the influence of Prof. G.D Sondhi and
Prof. Ahmad Shah “Patras” Bukhari. Prof Bukhari started acting in
GCDC plays with the role of Bheesham, which he played in Hakim Ahmad
Shuja’s play. Prof. Sondhi and Prof. Bukhari staged Hamlet
with Prof. Bokhari performing the role of the Danish prince. The
Vice Chancellor of Punjab University at that time performed the role
of the Ghost of Hamlet Sr.
Upon his return from
England, Prof. Sondhi encouraged Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum to
translate Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Punjabi
as Suwan Raine Da Sufna. It was performed in the College’s
Amphitheatre. Few people know that the GCU Amphitheatre and the Open
Air Theatre at the Lawrence Gardens, now Bagh-e-Jinnah, were
constructed under Prof. Sondhi’s patronage.
After Independence, the
GCDC continued and many a great thespian was associated with the
Club. Some of these names include Prof. Qayoom Jojo, Sonu Rehman,
Mohammad Safdar Mir, Naeem Tahir, Shoaib Hashmi, Rasheed Umer Thanvi,
Sarmad Sehbai, Usman Peerzada, Imran Peerzada, Salman Shahid, Ashfaq
Ahmed, Bano Qudsia, and Madiha Gauhar. The Club staged plays like
Men Without Shadows by Sartre, Tartuffe by Moliere,
Kaufman and Moss Hart’s The Man Who came to Dinner and You
can’t Take it With You. People like Sarmad Sehbai also delved in
experimental plays and staged The Dark Room. Arthur Miller’s
famous play Death of a Salesman was staged twice; in 1973 and 2005.
Script-writing at GCDC
History seems to
indicate a propensity for staging English language plays or Urdu
adaptations of English plays at the GCDC. This practice continued
well into the 2000s with sparse interjections of original Urdu plays
or indigenously written scripts. Despite churning out playwrights
like Imtiaz Ali Taj, Ashfaq Ahmed, Rafi Peerzada, Shahid Nadeem
among others, the GCDC has staged very few original scripts. It was
in 1994 that a faculty member took a bold break from tradition.
Renowned television playwright Dr. Asgar Nadeem Syed, a professor of
Urdu Drama at the time, decided to do what had only been attempted
on rare occasions before – writing an original script to be staged
by the GCDC. Dr. Sahab came up with a biting comedy Bhola Sach
Bola and selected a team of fifty students to perform it. The
play was an experiment in more ways than one, but Dr. Asgar Nadeem
Syed, Prof. Haroon Qadir and the rest of their team managed to put
on such a show that the whole college demanded an extra performance
after the usual three-day run. Prof. Khalid Aftab,
acceded and Bhola Sach Bola went on to a thundering extra
show. The play was directed by an MA English student, Mr.
Noor-ul-Hassan, who is now a celebrated TV anchor and actor.
However, after Bhola Sach Bola, the GCDC did not attempt an
original script until 2012.
GCDC in the 2000s
In 2005, the GCDC staged
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Governor Punjab, General
Khalid Maqbool witnessed the play and was immensely impressed by the
professional quality of the performance. In March 2005, the Club
organized Ashfaq Ahmed Drama Festival to pay tribute to the great
dramatist Ashfaq Ahmed. Five different institutions form Lahore
participated in the three-day event where the GCDC staged Bano
Qudsia’s Fehmida Ki Kahani Ustani Rahat Ki Zubani. In 2006,
an Urdu version of Eugene Ionesco’s Exit the King was staged.
In November 2006, the Club performed Sufi Tabassum’s Punjabi version
of Shakespeare’s A Mid Summer Nights Dream. The play,
Sawan Rome Da Sufa, was also staged at an inter-varsity drama
competition where it won awards for Best Actor Female, Best Actor in
a Comic Role and Best Director.
In 2007, the GCDC staged
four plays which included G.B Shaw’s You Never Can Tell,
Sawan Rein Da Sufna, Bano Qudsia’s Amar Bail and Ashfaq
Ahmed’s Behen Bhai. The Club also organized the
Pakistan-India Inter Collegiate Drama Festival in March in which
three colleges of India and institutions from all over Pakistan
participated. The event was well attended and acclaimed, and was
widely covered by the electronic and print media of Pakistan and
India. In November 2007, on the invitation of Delhi University, the
GCDC team toured India and performed two plays, Bano Qudsia’s
Amar Bail and Ashfaq Ahmed’s Behen Bhai at three colleges
of Delhi and at India Habitat Centre. Both the plays received very
positive reviews from the print and electronic media of India.
In 2008, GCDC staged
Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, followed shortly by Kamra;
an Urdu adaptation of Manuel de Pedrolo’s Techinica De Cambra
(The Room). An All-Pakistan Drama Festival was organized in 2009 in
which ten institutions from all over Pakistan participated. The GCDC
staged Kamra at the opening ceremony and an Urdu adaptation
of Jean-Paul Sarte’s Men Without Shadows at the closing of
the festival. In 2010, the Club staged Neil Simon’s Rumors.
In 2011, the GCDC staged
Mumtaz Mufti’s magnum opus Nizam Sakka. For the first time,
the GCDC brought GCU’s other societies to the stage and created an
opportunity for orators, singers and musicians to perform along with
the GCDC team of actors. This was the first time that live classical
music accompanied a theatre performance at GCU. The play won wide
acclaim, especially from the chief guest, Pakistan’s foremost
nuclear scientist and Old Ravian Dr. Samar Mubrakmund. Nizam
Sakka also became the first GCDC play to be aired on cable
Since 2012 – the push for original script writing and plays
In 2012, the GCDC went
back to the not-so-strongly established tradition of staging an
original script. The faculty and students put their heads together
to come up with a play that carried taboo themes. This was Saza
Yaab, written by a student, Tassawar Iqbal, majoring in
Psychology. Dr. Asghar Nadeem Syed, the chief guest on the
performance, welcomed the effort and invited the GCDC to stage
Saza Yaab at Al-Hamra Cultural Complex, in his capacity as
Chairman, Board of Directors of the Al-Hamra Arts Council. Shortly
afterwards, the Government of Punjab announced a theatre festival on
Women’s Day in 2012 and invited GCDC to perform. The GCDC eventually
staged Saza Yaab at Al-Hamra in the same year, winning a cash
award from the Punjab Government.
The following years saw
more script-writing at the GCDC. The GCDC performed its original
script Tauq at a national Drama Competition organized by the
British Council, Lahore. The GCDC won first prize for its efforts.
Shortly afterwards, the Punjab Government invited the GCDC to
perform at the Punjab Youth Festival. For this occasion, the GCDC
adapted Mumtaz Mufti’s short story Andha Footpathia. The
short play was staged at the Al-Hamra Cultural Complex with the
Chief Minister Punjab, Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif in attendance. The
GCDC also performed the same play for a television programme at
Pakistan Television (Ptv.).
In April, 2013, the Club
staged its original script Shah-e-Alam. The play was written
by Sameer Ahmed; a faculty member teaching Drama at the English
Department. To encourage the effort of attempting an original
script, team members of GCDC’s Bhola Sach Bola became
associated with the performance in different capacities. Veteran
actors Firdous Jamal and Irfan Khoosat attended the opening and
offered high praise for Shah-e-Alam. Mr. Noor-ul-Hassan was
beside himself after he witnessed the first enactment; he flew in
from Karachi to watch the play again on its third and final day of
performance. Shah-e-Alam managed to elicit a cash award of
one hundred thousand Rupees from the GCU Vice Chancellor. It was the
first time that a performance had been appreciated in this manner.
In 2014, Government
College University began its sesquicentennial celebrations. The GCDC
was also celebrating its 124th year of existence. Mr.
Noor-ul-Hassan proposed that the GCDC should honour celebrated Old
Ravian playwright Bano Qudsia by staging her Mukhtar Nama.
Out of the hundreds of plays that Bano appa has written,
Mukhtar Nama had never been performed on stage. The GCDC enacted
Mukhtar Nama in April, 2014. The chief guest on the occasion
was Punjab Education Minster, Rana Mashood Ahmed Khan. Though the
play had many moments of political humour at the expense of ruling
politicians, the minister was so impressed by the performance that
he announced a cash award for GCDC. With the Vice Chancellor’s
addition, the GCDC’s won two hundred thousand rupees this time.
In May, 2014, the GCDC
staged a special edition of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in honour
of foreign educationists who came to Pakistan to attend an
international conference titled “South Asia Policy Dialogue on
Higher Education and Knowledge Parks”. The Vice Chancellor told the
audience that the GCDC had started its journey in 1890 by staging
selections from Shakespeare, “In a way, on this historic occasion,
the GCDC has come full circle,” he stated. The GCDC’s Macbeth
was an all-female collage of important scenes from Shakespeare’s
text that retained the original dialogue and plotline, but took the
liberty of experimenting with the chronology and enactment.
The GCDC is planning to
arrange a theatre festival to conclude the institution’s 150th
anniversary celebrations in December, 2014. The Club has planned to
end the year with another original script.
April of 2015, GCDC staged an original script; a bilingual play
called “Tiger of Maysore”. The play was written by Mr Sameer Ahmed
and directed by Dr Salman Bhatti and Dr Atif Yaqoub. The title of
the play referred to Tipu Sultan, the last independent prince of
India who died fighting the East India Company in May of 1799.
life of Tipu Sultan had been portrayed many a time by artists across
the genres. From historians to playwrights, filmmakers to poets,
Tipu had been a much-reviled and equally loved character from the
pre-colonial past of India. Sameer Ahmed justified his choice of
subject matter arguing that while Tipu usually earned negative
reviews from English and Indian writers, the Pakistani portrayal of
his person had also been largely one-sided. GCDC President Yousra
Anwar added to this train of thought saying, “Tipu is a holy warrior
in Pakistani literature and public imagination. He is rarely ever
seen as a human being – a man with his virtues but also with his
flaws. He was a man facing circumstances he could not have prevailed
over but who, unfortunately, also added his bit to deteriorate the
situation he found himself in. You can be a human and a hero at the
same time. This is what our Tipu is going to be; our version of the
Greek Tragic Hero.”
Umer Dar portrayed Tipu as a proud, mercurial prince leading the
resistance against the British. The vilified Mir Sadiq was played by
Abdullah Walid Hashmi, but deviating from tradition, Mir Sadiq was
not the cause of Tipu’s failure. GCDC took their chances with an
original script that dealt with an actual historical figure that was
deeply revered in Pakistani society.
gamble paid off. The play was met with such overwhelming applause
that the Vice Chancellor extended the performance to nine days. Each
performance was witnessed by up to 1200 people. Audience members
spilled over from the seats onto the aisles. There were encouraging
reviews in the Urdu and English language press. Express News TV, Geo
News and Dunya TV gave coverage to the play in the 9’0 clock news.
Two national newspapers, The Nation and Nawa-i-Waqt published
feature articles on “Tiger of Maysore”.
April of 2016, the Walled City of Lahore Authority invited GCDC to
stage “Tiger of Maysore” for a select audience at the historic
Lahore Fort. This time the performance was telecast live on cable
May of 2016, GCDC paid homage to William Shakespeare on the occasion
of the 400th death anniversary of the Bard of Avon. GCDC staged a
localized adaptation of Macbeth. The play was called “Raees”. It was
adapted by Mr Sameer Ahmed and Dr Atif Yaqoub and directed by Dr
Salman Bhatti and GCDC president Mohammad Muneeb. Talha Akhter
portrayed Macbeth while Lady Macbeth was performed by Taban Tazmin.
The performance was witnessed by a host of Ravian thespians and
writers including Imran Peerzada, Madiha Gauhar and Mirza Ather Baig.
Noted playwright Mirza Ather Baig offered his review of the play
saying, “They say there are one thousand ways of performing
Shakespeare; I think GCDC has shown that there are one thousand and
one.” Madiha Gauhar graced the stage to say that she had seen
Shakespeare being performed in Pakistan and abroad, but this was the
best version of Macbeth she had seen so far.
September of 2016, the Lahore Arts Council invited GCDC to perform
“Raees” under their auspices at the national level.
(42) 111-000-010 Ext.
Dr. Atif Yaqoob, (Zoology)
Main Building, GC University
Katchery Road Lahore 54000