Yasir Iftikhar Khan took inspiration for Jumman from real-life examples
Yasir Iftikhar Khan took inspiration for Jumman from real-life examples

What happens when a barber has to masquerade as a top-notch physician? And how does his life take a turn when he decides to continue his 'practice'? Moliere, one of the greatest writers of French comedy, answered these questions in his popular farce, Le Medecin Malgre Lui (The Doctor Despite Himself), in 1666. Since then, the satire has been adapted across centuries, alluding to the fact that medicine, as it's commonly practised, is far removed from ethical conduct. Theatre director Salim Arif will present his take on the farce in his latest production, Beta Ishq Karo, which premieres next week.

Set in an Awadhi milieu, the play revolves around Jumman, who finds himself ministering to Shamim, the daughter of a feudal lord, who has stopped speaking. "I chose this setting because the finesse of the French language and its mannerisms work beautifully with Urdu. Even the harshest of comments sound soft in the language," explains Arif, taking time out between rehearsals. "Fake doctors are still around, taking hapless patients for a ride. Hospitals now have targets, and you don't get answers to your questions by going to just one doctor any more. It is the least accountable profession."

Zoa Morani
Zoa Morani

The play features Yasir Iftikhar Khan in the role of Jumman. The actor read several stories situated in Awadh by writers including Premchand and Amrit Lal Nagar to familiarise himself with the context. "I find traits of Jumman's character in people all around. We have so many examples of incapable people reaching a position of utmost responsibility, who then start believing that they fit the bill," says Khan.

Salim Arif (in white) during the play's rehearsal
Salim Arif (in white) during the play's rehearsal

Actress Zoa Morani, who plays Shamim in the production, took up theatre three years ago when she attended an acting workshop by Arif. "I wish I had done theatre before joining the film industry. Theatre is like an acting school," she says.

When asked about the unusual title of the play, Arif explains, "Ishq, in the Sufi sense of the word, goes beyond its worldly meaning of romance. It's a prescription to get involved in anything of your choice."