Stop right there. Type “Liberty Chalein” into your search bar on Facebook, Instagram or Google. Now. This event is not an event you want to miss.

Liberty Chalein is an Urdu play written by Sana Janjua. Preforming on Sunday, September 9th at North Delta Secondary School, the play highlights oft-forgotten social issues in our community through a lens of realistic empathy and a dash of humour thrown in for good measure. Under the Canada Urdu Association, the team behind the initiative spans a comprehensive age range, from the youngest team member at 7 years of age, to the oldest at 81. However, most of the team is comprised of young Canadians under the age of thirty, brought together by a shared love of the arts, and a passion to showcase Urdu through the medium of drama.

MY Voice writer Farheen and team member Vania talk to the Liberty Chalein cast and crew.

I had the pleasure of meeting with the Liberty Chalein team last week to talk to the people behind the event. Talia Ahmed, Youth Coordinator for the Canada Urdu Association and director of the play Liberty Chalein, aims to engage youth in the Lower Mainland with the Urdu language. She believes that the current model of “preserving” Urdu – merely instructing children to read and write Urdu – is “exhaustive, pedantic and unsustainable for second-generation Urdu-speakers”, as it does not involve active engagement of young people with the language, which is the only way to cultivate fluency in the next generation. The organization aims to give youth a proactive, leadership role in activities such as dance, folk-stories, drama and music. The initiative is largely youth-run, primarily by women of colour.

The play is written by the “visionary Sana Janjua, who is a socio-politically vocal activist and eminent writer”, and who wrote the script for the play within a month, bringing the ideas of the team to life. The title for the play, Liberty Chalein, combines the physical setting of a place in the play, “Liberty store” with the connotations of “liberty”: the liberty to live, to think, to be who we are, free of political, social and economic constraints. The play does not aim to prescribe a cure to the ills of society, but is the team’s attempt to portray the realities that surround them, through Urdu and drama.

Cast members Zarmina and Shabana (from left to right) in the midst of an emphatic scene during rehearsals.

Anmol Asif, who co-directs the play along with Talia, has years of experience in acting, dance and drama. She’s been involved in many productions in her native Lahore and is excited to share subcontinental storytelling and drama with us. In her own words, the play “highlights social issues like colonization, women empowerment, bride shopping and elder abuse.” The play is bilingual with lines in English and Urdu, with narration for non-Urdu speakers. The team has been rehearsing and preparing for the production since February, and in earnest every Friday through Sunday in June, July and August. The play is meaningful and has deeper messages between the lines, which are tied together by the final scene which is a silent mime performance.

“Directing is ninety percent casting,” Anmol continues. The cast was picked based on their aptitude and appropriateness for each individual character. Experienced or not, each cast member brings their own individual talents to the play. Anmol believes that highlighting elderly abuse is an important part of the play, since it’s an issue that’s common in Canada and isn’t talked about too often. She mentions that the light-hearted humour and witticisms threaded through the dialogues keep the narrative light and entertaining despite the heavier messages the play conveys.

I had the privilege of witnessing a short part of their rehearsal, and was pleasantly surprised by the synchronized chemistry between the cast and the organic delivery of the dialogues, despite the fact for most of the cast, this is their first time acting. Jazib Ghory, one of the cast members explained, “I wanted to join in on this initiative in the community and take an active part in it instead of watching from the sidelines.” He also mentioned that the team’s patience in honing their talents helped him reach his potential as an actor. The cast and team were friendly, engaged and though nervous, clearly excited about their upcoming production.

After meeting with the team and watching rehearsals, I immediately had to buy tickets – I knew this was one event I would regret if I missed. So what are you waiting for? Go buy your tickets – available at the link below and from the Liberty Chalein social media pages.

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