Danish Husain transitioned from a corporate banking job to theatre over a decade ago, and as we speak, I realise his enthusiasm for the medium still remains unfettered. Husain who is the founder of the theatre company Hoshruba Repertory, says, “There is a kind of immediacy to a live performance. The audience is inescapably engaged and everything happens in that fleeting but poignant and magical moment of engagement.” He started the Hoshruba Repertory to interpret and bring alive literary texts on stage and has produced acclaimed plays by Samuel Beckett, Ali Akbar Natiq, and Ira Lewis.
Husain has acted in films like Ankhon Dekhi, Dhobi Ghat, Peepli Live and Welcome to Karachi, and is also well-known to have revived the Urdu Art of storytelling, Dastangoi.
“Literary texts embody the essence of our social histories.”
“Literary texts embody the essence of our social histories – they are enduring and universal human stories embedded in our continually evolving languages. The unexplored nuances in both the stories and languages appeal to my sensibilities. Each dramatic retelling offers me an opportunity to unveil the stories of our lives,” he adds.
The actor and director is also someone whose plays have always boasted of a tremendous crew of women artistes – both on and off stage. Be it Isha Ahluwalia who designed the costumes for his plays, Chinese Coffee, Ek Punjab Ye Bhi, and Qissebaazi, visual artist and painter Asma Kazi, who designed the posters for Ek Punjab Ye Bhi and Qissebaazi or television and film actors like Sadiya Siddiqui and Kirti Kulhari who take up central roles.
Siddiqui, who also runs her own theatre company called Knot Theatre says about Husain, “As a director, he is always open to discussion and there is a mutual understanding between him and the crew – he is very optimistic and never exerts his opinions on others.”
As a promotional material, the poster is what fundamentally draws a prospective audience to actually come watch a play. Recollecting their first collaboration, Asma Kazi, who is a self-taught artist, says, “Danish was aware of my earlier works, and when he came to me with the job of designing the posters for Ek Punjabi Ye Bhi, he had a very clear brief about what he wanted. Because of his inherent vision, there was not too much back and forth, and the creative process was completed much faster.”
Actor Kirti Kulhari, who garnered great praise for her recent film Pink, says that she prefers films to theatre simply because she gets bored of a character very easily. Her constant question to herself is, “How do I keep myself interested?” Having said that, she returns to theatre from time to time, because she feels there is no better place to creatively reinvigorate and expose oneself to something new, to truly study and immerse oneself in a character. And Ek Punjabi Ye Bhi was one such experience.
“Danish’s knowledge of the Urdu language is just impeccable and he is a very chilled out person who managed to keep 12-15 actors on the same page throughout the length of the performances,” she says.
Danish Husain is well aware of how even most of our literature is male-centric where women are not given the representation they deserve.
Danish Husain articulates the problem of the invisible glass ceiling quite effectively. He is well aware of how even most of our literature is male-centric where women are not given the representation they deserve.
He says, “The dominant patriarchal mindset limits women at social, cultural and political levels. Women’s contributions remain unacknowledged. The fight to correct this must begin in our homes. It is a hard battle but misogyny needs to be called out at every step so that women cease to be underdogs, have a fair share in the opportunities and gain control of their narratives.”