Challenges of one-woman show

To be performed by Padma Bhushan Shabana Azmi, the highly appreciated play 'Broken Images' is written by Padma Bhushan Girish Karnad, and directed by Padma Shri Alyque Padamsee

An actor gets to play different kinds of roles in his/her career, but there are some characters which leave a lasting impression on their minds. One such project for the well-acclaimed Bollywood actor and theatre artist Shabana Azmi is 'Broken Images', which she also considers the most challenging play of her career.

The play tells story of two sisters –Manjula and Malini – one an intellectually brilliant paraplegic, the other a plodding writer – living under the same roof, dependent on each other, but inhabiting different emotional as well as linguistic worlds.

"I have done so many films and plays in my career, but I think 'Broken images' is the most challenging play I have done," Azmi says, adding, "In this play unlike usual ones, I am playing against an image of myself. One sister is live on stage, and the other sister is a television frame. The television frame was pre-recorded in one shot, in just 44 minutes (uninterrupted)."

Talking about what makes it challenging, Shabana informs that usually when in a live theatre performance, the actor fumbles or gets stuck – the other character/ actor comes to the rescue and guards it against falling out of place. But here because there is a pre-recorded image, the other character cannot come to rescue of the live character."

Besides, Shabana mentions that the real character ( herself) also has to align herself like she is having a real-time conversation with the pre-recorded character. "No doubt all of this keeps up the thrill, risk, and tension alive – that is exactly what attracted me to sign this play," she comments.

Talking about how she as well as the audience relate to her characters in the play, Azmi says, "Interestingly, sometimes the audience identifies with the older sister, and sometimes they are on the younger sister's side. So apparently the audience becomes the third character of the play," states Azmi.

It's heartbreaking for Shabana that the playwright Girish Karnad and director of the play Alyque Padamsee are no more in this world, and won't be present during the performances.

She says, it would be a little difficult for as I really miss both of them, especially Alyque. "While discussing the script, or rehearsals, he would tell me that the audience is going to react on this specific scene and it always seems to me like he had seen it all in his head," she adds.

Having performed this play over the years, Shabana also recalls one of the very interesting incidents from past. Azmi shares, "Once I was performing in Rohtak in front of 1800 people. The show coordinator came to me 30 minutes before the performance and said that the play needs to be in Hindi, as the majority of people in that area do not understand English properly."

That was one time the artist freaked out and got furious, but the show had to go on. So, in that particular show, without any sort of rehearsals, the television image was running like a true character in English and Azmi, standing alone on the stage was translating all the dialogues in Hindi on the spot.

"Though, it turned out to be well, I think it was just in the moment because if the situation comes again, I don't think I will be able to pull that off again," she adds.

With an overwhelming response from every corner of the world, 'Broken Images' has been a huge commercial and theatrical success. And once again on the demand of theatre lovers, the play will be staged in Delhi at Siri Fort, on July 27.

The event will be presented by Spotlight and organised by Alchemist Live.

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