Azeem Hamid – Redefining Theatrical Arts
Many people in this world have a passion hidden within the depths of their heart. Few people have the courage to listen to their hearts and let that passion come to the surface. Even fewer people possess the immense bravery required to go to any extent for their passion, since passions are never easy to achieve. A person always needs to go a long way to achieve what his heart desires. Starting his career in 2006, Azeem Hamid initially worked as a volunteer for Rising Sun Institute while completing his secondary schooling from Lahore Grammar School. As his interest in theatre and visual arts grew, Azeem made the choice of pursuing BFA Visual Communication Design, and did so with a distinction. Currently, Azeem is a candidate for MA Design Management at Istituto Europeo di Design in Barcelona, Spain.
Through his four years at college, Azeem also continued to volunteer and work on different projects on a national as well as International level and received the Address of Honor for Theatrical Direction By Ajoy Dey – M.L.A & Chairman, Santipur Municipality, West Bengal, India as well as Kabi Krittibas Ojha Smriti Smarak Award by Rangapeeth Natymela (West Bengal) for Theatrical Direction & Performance in December 2014. In the same year, Azeem also conducted two International performances and theatrical workshop sessions in Turkey and Kenya. Under the banner of Independent Theatre, he has directed and produced over 15 theatrical productions to date.
If all these achievements sound like a lot, they are definitely not enough for Azeem, who is ready to charge ahead at full speed. He is also currently working with a number of national school and college networks to develop and aid their theatre programs and annual performances. Closely related to the academic world is Rabtt, a non-profit organization working with unprivileged youth in Pakistan, and Azeem is doing his bit by being the Theatre Curriculum Advisor / Guest Lecturer for Theatre at Rabtt.
Through his venture, Independent Theatre Pakistan (ITP), Azeem aims to create a platform for young aspiring artists who wish to excel in theatre education, production and performance. He realized that in Pakistan, people have stigmatized this particular creative expression as a low-key art form and are neglecting it despite the rich culture and tradition we have in terms of the performing arts.
‘Hence, initiating such a venture seemed a definite approach for me as it can effectively help people in gaining and building trust and confidence, and can empower their tolerance level as well as enhance creativity and critical thinking at an individual level or in a collective group.’
The core team at ITP includes Mehreen Abid Mir who has been involved with the performing arts and public speaking since 2010. Achieving a BA (Hons) in Theatre from the University of Essex to completing her MA in Text and Performance from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, her focus and determination were part of the reasons that led her to join Independent Theatre Pakistan.
Omer Jilani, the director of marketing at ITP, holds a Masters in Graphic
Design from the Florence Design Academy and is currently working and living in Lahore. As CEO of Happa Studios, a creative agency offering Graphic design, social media and photography services, he brings experience and effective communication design to the team.
Danyaal Syed is ITP’s backbone and has been involved in theatre production since 2012 as a designer as well as a production head, leading the production team to execute designs while pushing their own creative boundaries.
Umar Hameed’s eye for detail and sense of perfection is unmatched. With his vast experience working with students and professionals, he is a maestro of his craft. Starting with a BFA, National College of Arts, Lahore in 1997, Umar Hameed completed his MA in Innovation for the Digital Futures from the University of Huddersﬁeld, U.K. in 2004 as well as a Post Graduate Certiﬁcate in Media Studies, from Shefﬁeld Hallam University, UK in 2005. At ITP, Umar provides an outside eye to the development of their curriculum and the production of art direction.
All the people involved at ITP love the multilingual nature of culture and its practices, its norms and their reﬂection in literature.
‘Our productions focus on Pakistani values with a spotlight on creating cross cultural dialogue through means of creative expression.’
When Azeem first started this venture, getting people to understand literary theatre was quite difficult. This was something new which had never been done before on a commercial level in Pakistan, but surprisingly the feedback has been amazing. ITP’s first production, Hattak (insult) a play by Manto, was received with mix criticism, some appreciated it while others called it boring, but did appreciate the overall effort of putting it up. However, that didn’t stop the people at ITP from making the maximum possible effort to promote their national language and literature. They have been experimenting since their first commercial venture and have explored many Urdu progressive writers’ works such as Rajinder Singh Bedi, Manto, Krishan Chander, Meerza Adeeb and Ashfaq Ahmed.
‘Our best performance to date has been Kamra No. 9 which was staged in both India and Pakistan in 2014 and was acclaimed positively receiving full-houses and continuous applause on both sides of the border.’
In 2015, Azeem decided to revamp ITP. He had been scouting a team of professionals who would be useful in creating intelligent theatre. He wanted to incorporate professionals who were the best at their craft within the team so that every single element of each of their productions would be treated by a professional who knew exactly what they were doing. After much effort, last year, Azeem managed to build a team of five individuals who would head different departments within the company. Independent Theatre Pakistan became the first professional theatre company in the country. There were many hurdles along the way but the company soon took shape and began work on a theatrical season along with giving workshops to public and private schools.
‘Currently, we are doing extensive research on the performing arts culture in Pakistan. We are carrying out an innovative, youth centered theatrical program and ingenious curriculum across the nation.’
The long term goal of the people at ITP is to form an institute dedicated to the performing arts of South Asia, more specifically Pakistan and North India with a proper theatre culture similar to that of the West, but more specifically oriented towards local performances.
Azeem believes that their efforts to fuse Western theatre techniques with classical literature and performance have helped to take ITP’s performance to another level, giving a contemporary touch to it, while simultaneously keeping it classical.