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Millennium Post

Playing it up with Gulzar

Playing it up with Gulzar
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Short stories render themselves to stage with equal panache as on screen – they strike an easy note in their dramatised avatars with dialogues between characters and a live stage.

Two plays, Sunte Ho and Arre O'Henry – one on gender empowerment and the other, an serial adaptation of four of O’Henry’s short stories in Indian context, brought out the chemical relationship between the narrative prose and theatre.

Staged in course of a unique four-day festival, Mera Kuch Samaan: Celebrating Gulzar, the plays were conceived around the poet-writer lyricist and filmmaker Gulzar. They were directed by Mumbai-based theatre veteran Salim Arif.

While Sunte Ho, which premiered in the capital, juxtaposed two short stories to compare and contrast the ‘empowered status’ of the woman in the early 20 and the 21 centuries, Arre O'Henry was Gulzar’s own signature – being staged in the country for the first time.

Adapted by the poet from one of his teleserials, Ek Kahaani Aur Milli, the play was made four short skits strung in a continuum.

The underlying theme of Arre O'Henry was humour – sometime dark, at time slapstick and melodramatic. The first in the quartet of plays was an ironic comment on remarriage of widows while the second play, narrated the tale of a nervous daughter who eloped with one of her two suitors defying her soldier father.

The play bore vivid resemblance to O’Henry's The Love Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein, the tale of Rosie and two suitors, but playwright Gulzar refuses to identify the exact story which had inspired him.

The twist in the tale was an indigenous version of O’Henry’s The Barber’s Talk about a Muslim barber and his recipe for curing baldness which eventually backfires on the barber.

Sunte Ho, a contrast of two stories, found a chord among the thinking women in the audience.

Tagore’s heroine Mrinal, along-suffering wife in the story Patni ka Patra (the Hindi version of The Wife’s Letter) was set against a contemporary cast of characters in a dysfunctional nuclear urban family.

The childless Mrinal gathered slow strength to leave her husband shattered by ‘sub-human’ treatment of a female relative in the family. Her 21 century counterpart, who married her husband’s best friend after divorce was caught in the changing worlds.

Her life crumbles when her growing son says no to the ‘new father’. The play painstakingly drives home the constraints of conflicting moral ethics in the empowerment of woman in every age.

Both the stories were adapted as plays by Gulzar.

The intelligent scripts and the versatility of the characters, a core cast of five and motley crew of locally-assembled first-timers – who played more than 20 characters each on an average for three days – saw the plays through with an above-average score and high audience turnout.

The plays also established the unquestioned power of literature as the most fertile narrative resource pool for all mediums of communication.
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