Ubaid Afzal

My first appointment was Ubaid. I was very excited of photographing my first character. I had to climb up five floors since the elevator was out of order. It was an apartment on top of a high building in the heart of Icchra. We knocked at the front door and I saw Ubaid coming out, smiling, welcome us in. To make space for us to sit, he had to wake up his friends who were sleeping in front of the main door. Four students were living and working there as a theatre production house independently. They all were in their rough clothes. I got introduced by my friend who also gave a brief explanation of my project. Ubaid got excited since he also had an interest in videography. The room we sat in had wall painted in black with only one bulb hanging from the ceiling. There was a kitchen with a big window. We start talking there in the kitchen and he explained all the details of his work. I photographed him at his kitchen where we had tea and biscuits.

Ubaid was, until recent time, perhaps even now, I’m not sure, is pursuing a degree in software engineering from the University of the Punjab. He is an actor and director who intends to use theatre as a means for the political expression of the evils of the contemporary society. His theatre company intends to perform Punjabi plays in slums and have already worked with the likes of Sangat in Faisalabad. He has worked with organizations like the Democratic Students’ Alliance and Progressive Students’ Collective.

“I think that everybody is turning into a machine. It is getting difficult to survive in such times,” he said. He told that he appreciates the kind of work students are trying to do these days. The work is efficient, effective and different from the work of the older comrades (babay). He believes that politics should start from the campus. “A common man is so stuck within the system that even a national level change won’t have a longer effect. The students’ work is relatable.”

Ubaid’s theatre company has also worked in relation to the women question. “We have been working for a couple of years. We did a play called Faseel, which means wall in Persian. It had the message that women shouldn’t be seen the way they are. I played the main character, Sundus, myself. I wandered around in the clothes of a women to prepare for it. It was a shameful experience. A lot of work should be done on this issue. Even people belonging to different ethnicities face unimaginable problems,” he told. He believes that hope is dying and everything is falling apart, which is why there is a dire need to work. People are rigid to an extent that they don’t consider others as humans.

He also shared the financial problems his company faces. “The struggle starts from the moment your bike is out of fuel. We have our studio but still not financially static. We’re maintaining a company but still can’t earn because we don’t have the investment to pay income tax. Prior to even the selling of tickets, a 20% income tax is imposed. How can a student work here?” He also talked about the lack of exposure for any group who wishes to create art on serious issues. He recalled being refused to enact scripts that he wrote on sufism, religion, God, etc. He said that everyone wants us to do comedy and no one is open to other ideas.

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