Ayesha Jamil reviews Auratnaak’s latest stand-up comedy show in Karachi – Thanda Choola
In between sets at the Auratnaak stand-up comedy show this past weekend, on April 6th, host Faiza Saleem was quick to remind audience members to keep in mind the courage it takes to take the stage before being critical of the performers. Her point is valid. In a country where women already feel constantly like they are on display, it’s no small feat to stand in front of an audience and talk about what it means to be female in this society. That’s exactly what the performers at the 6th Auratnaak show set out to do.
The theme of the show – Thanda Choola – was inspired by the infamous Aurat March poster urging men to heat their food themselves. The ensuing social media hullabaloo over the poster – particularly by men who seemed to take offense to the idea of having to microwave their own food – inspired the ladies behind Auratnaak to, once again, host a show that addressed women’s issues under the guise of humour.
Sana Khan Niazi opened the show and managed to get the audience energized. Her set began with relatable humor about parents and technology and set the right tone for the show. Niazi’s delivery was energetic and she has a strong stage presence, managing to extract peals of laughter from the audience at the get go.
Annie Shamim followed up Niazi’s act and opened with jokes about qismat but spent too long on the topic. When she spoke about feminism, she made very relevant (and necessary) points. Her comedy is honest and unafraid and her set had definite moments of hilarity. She spoke from her own life and did not falter in her confident delivery.
Shamim was followed up by first- time performer Hiba Tabani who impressed with her confidence and mature performance. She opened her set by addressing the fact that she wears a hijab and was able to make the topic humorous and relatable. Tabani’s comedy was socially informed, as demonstrated by a piece on how her hijab exposes the ironic worldviews of pseudo-liberals. It was also subtle — everything she said had a point but she was never obvious about it. Her jokes on the different rules in her house for herself and her brother, and the experience of being a female lawyer in Pakistani courts, very precisely captured what it means to be a woman in our society.
Ayesha Tariq closed the show and cemented herself as the crowd favorite from the very start of her set. Her comedy was raw and honest — from talking about her experiences with her family to her attempts at courting boys, Tariq was unafraid about laying her own life bare. Tariq’s delivery was conversational and had a well-defined narrative. By acknowledging her own nervousness at being own stage, and the fact that the boy she had attempted to court was in the audience, she grounded the audience and made her jokes present. At the center of her set was the theme of her own struggles with anxiety and her love of isolation — it was evident that she had dug deep into her own emotions to create a set that was relatable and relevant.
Saleem, as the host of the show, was, simply put, hilarious. Her engagement with the audience gave away the fact that she was improvising most of her jokes and was proof of her experience as a performer. As she very succinctly pointed out, it’s easier to sit in the audience and criticize than being up on stage. Each of these ladies is to be applauded for having the courage to take the stage and so honestly speaking about their lives. Thought and hard work had clearly gone into making their anecdotes relatable and funny. The Auratnaak line-up proved that women in this country are unafraid and unapologetic about being so.
Unfortunately for us, the Auratnaak shows aren’t a regular feature. With weeks of workshops going into each show, it will be a while before we get to see the girls on stage again. To stay updated on their latest shows and projects, follow their page on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/auratnaak/?ref=br_rs.
Photography by: Morsch Qhan, Zainab Soni and Sara Ahmed