Review of 5th Annual Urdu Cultural Show at UC Berkeley

Keeping up with the yearly tradition, I attended the 5th Annual Urdu Cultural Show at UC Berkeley. In my review of the 4th Annual Urdu Cultural Show I talked about how amazing it was to see the Pakistani Student Association (PAKSA) improve from 2008’s performance. Unfortunately, this year it seemed like all they wanted to do was put up a show; didn’t matter if it was mediocre.

[ad#Left] PAKSA decided that for some reason it would be a good idea to host the show in English. Just imagine, you go to an Urdu Cultural Show and the hosts speak in English. Title of the show was “Chalte Chalte” which is an Urdu word the last time I checked. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only way they made fun of the language they are supposedly trying to promote. One thing I do not understand is when the hosts did decide to speak in English, why were they making fun of Urdu? If you decide to host an Urdu show in English even though you are trying to promote Urdu language, please DO NOT speak in Urdu just so that everyone can laugh at your stupidity of not knowing how to speak the language.

Sorry but I had to get that out of my system, Thank You!

Show lineup was very predictable which is good because at least they have figured out what works and what doesn’t. Aftab Ahmed, Urdu Professor at UC Berkeley set the stage up for students in the beginning with a humorous poem that everyone seemed to like. That was followed by Farhat Desai’s live performance of “Ahsan Tera Hoga” from the movie ‘Junglee‘ originally sung by none other than the great Muhammad Rafi. For those of you who haven’t heard Farhat sing, you get your money’s worth as soon as she starts singing. She is too good! Need proof? Two Videos from 5th Annual Urdu Cultural Show

I really liked this one skit “Arab Museebat” or Arab Problem. Arab boy meets Pakistani girl, there is love at first “BUMP” followed by family drama. Theme was good, the Arab dude acted better than everyone else and spoke better Urdu than the native speakers. There was another short act within the skit that was performed very well, it involved bunch of girls gossiping. It can be said that it was the only high point in the entire skit.

It was interesting to see that UC Berkeley finally gave in and shattered the exclusivity that was initially the mantra of PAKSA. They invited UC Davis to perform a small skit (which was hilarious) and a small Bhangra item. Last year, only UC Berkeley students performed the Bhangra item and they did a good job, at least that’s how it seemed. This year when UC Davis did their little Bhangra item which was then followed by UC Berkeley’s performance, there was a clear winner.

I have been labeled too negative and very critical. The culture I belong to thinks that if someone is criticizing then it is because the person hates us. I have been attending the show for the past 3 years, I wouldn’t go every year if I hated the people who put up the show. My wife was involved with the show in 2008 and 2009. This year I didn’t have a reason to go to the show other than the fact that I love the Urdu language and what it has to offer. My problem is, does the PAKSA understand the real purpose of Urdu Cultural Show anymore? If they still do, I have few recommendations:

– Start on time.
– Find at least one person who can speak Urdu fluently and host the show. This person doesn’t have to belong to UC Berkeley.
– If someone decides to recite a famous Urdu poet’s work, that person should know how to speak Urdu without making fun of the writing.
– Speak in Urdu.
– Have someone dedicated to the technical side of the show. Avoid ruining excellent performances by hitting the wrong button.
– Gather feedback from audience, ask them to fill out a short Q&A after the show.
– Speak in Urdu.
– Identify performers from actors, put the performers forward as leads and actors in supporting roles.
– Speak in Urdu.

That’s it for me. I would love to hear what you have to say if you were part of the show or attended the show. Am I completely out of line in criticizing PAKSA? Do you have other recommendations?

P.S. If you don’t like what I have to say about the Urdu Cultural Show, don’t take it personal. If you think my criticism is flawed, prove me wrong but don’t personally attack me for speaking my mind.

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  • Jasim

    Everyone was making fun of mistakes by the actors. Didn't see a point to this show. I am not attending next year, could have spent $10 bucks on a movie.