Thursday, December 09, 2010

Ismat Apa Ke Naam

Never imagined story narration calling itself drama could be actually so effective.
It was a laughter riot.
After booking the tickets, when I learnt that the play was made of three actors narrating one story each, I wondered how it was going to be. I knew it would be out of ordinary for sure.
For it was going to be the first of its kind that I was going to watch. And then it was Nasir himself.
I hoped it wasn’t going to be another abstract play. The other Nasir I watched – Waiting For Godot – was so abstract, so absurd – it was perhaps the best representative of its genre.

So I was in Chowdiah, on the 2nd December at 8 PM.

It was a full house. The kind I haven’t seen before.
Seated in the Qth row, with a tall man seated right in front of me, I had to crane my neck sideways to my right or left to be able to see the stage.

The first act was the story Chui Mui – by Heeba Shah.

The stage setting was very appropriate. It was simple and adequate.
The screen providing the backdrop was a white sheet with pictures of simple pillars of Persian architecture in black outlines suiting the period in which the stories were set.

There was a bed at the centre with bolsters on it serving to depict a most conducive set up for story-telling.
Light and shadow were projected on the stage to create the effect of train windows. A simple, subtle and effective technique of stage set up. In fact, it couldn’t have been done any other way. Using property on stage instead would have been an overkill and not at all ingenious.

As the actor narrated the story animatedly, modulating her voice, loudness and pitch, bringing in the necessary intonations, shifting her position on the bed, occasionally getting down to the stage, the story came to life in all its vividness.

The fact of there being just one man on stage made no difference at all.

It was wise and thoughtful of the actors to occasionally translate certain Urdu/Hindustani words into Hindi/English for the benefit of the audience, now far removed from the languages of pure blood.

It was story about women witnessing childbirth in a train.
What remains of it in my mind now is the irony it brought out; a rich comfortable woman taking utmost care of herself during pregnancy goes through miscarriage after miscarriage; whereas a poor destitute woman, perhaps a labourer, gives birth in a train without any assistance from anyone, cuts the umbilical cord of the baby with a nail cutter borrowed from the women looking on, grimacing at her, clasps the baby to her bosom once, and then cleans the train with a mop cloth leaving no trace of blood, and then rests in a corner with her newborn like someone resting after some minor household chore.

The story begins light and humorous and becomes serious and touching towards the end.

While the story itself is touching, it’s the way the actor builds the picture in your mind through her animated narration that deserves commending.
The subtle sound effects and the background music completed the act.

2nd story – Mughal Bachhe – By Ratna Pathak

A dark skinned boy married a fair skinned beautiful girl. When friends and relatives point out the contrast, though jokingly, the boy hurts his ego and to prove a point to himself, his bride and the society, he decides not to unveil her as per custom but commands her unveil herself.

The bride, initially to adhere to custom and later out of pride refuses to come out of her veil unless her groom unveils her himself.
The groom meanwhile periodically disappears from the town in order to teach her a lesson, reappears with the hope that his bride is now repentant for not obeying his command and will humour him this time. But alas!
He indulges in other women during his escapades but the pride of his unrelenting bride hurts him all the time.
The battle of ego goes on for 40 years or so. By this time the bride has grown old, her pride not strong as before and she prepares to accept defeat. She walks to him slowly and just when she I about to remove her veil her groom drops dead before her.

The story is meant to illustrate (among other things), the ego of a typical Mughal that did not crumble long after their glory mingled with dust. Hence the title “Mughal Bachhe”.

This one was humour from the beginning till the end.

3rd story – Gharwali – by Nasiruddeen Shah

By this time, I was hurting, what with my having to crane my neck to my right and left and the tall man in front of me showing no signs of shifting in his seat.

I quickly moved to an empty seat 2 – 3 rows before me. I got closer to the stage right in time to watch the best part of the show.

Nasir was dressed in white, top to bottom, in loose fitting clothes having flairs looking somewhat comical and frivolous. This appearance of his was going to prove most suitable for and add effect to the lively rendering of a sequence of comical scenes that were to come.

The actor begins with a character sketch of Lajo, the flirtatious beautiful girl in the neighbourhood. Having no particular house to live in and no particular place to go, one fine day, she barges into Mirza’s house and announces that she will work as a maid.
Mirza, an unmarried middle aged man reluctant to keep her tells her that he has no money to pay her. To this, Lajo says she wants no money, leaving Mirza with no other choice but to agree to keep her.

The story then moves on to Lajo wooing Mirza, Mirza controlling himself with all the will he can summon, Lajo’s skirmishes with everyone in the neighbourhood including the milkman, the postman, shopkeers and boys in the neighbourhood, Mirza’s chastising her as if she were his own, Lajo’s pleasure at being thus chastised, the boy next door flying kite from the roof just to see Lajo bathing under the tap…………., Mirza gradually losing control over himself, until one fine night Lajo grabbed the dilly dallying Mirza and took him to bed. And then they get married.

Once married, Mirza takes Lajo for granted and spends most of his time outside. Lajo who was never excited about marriage since the very beginning, now blames marriage for the neglect she suffers from Mirza. One day, Mirza, upset about her conduct, divorces her.

With this nasty marriage business having come to an end, once again, they live together happily as they did before.

It was a laughter riot. Nasiruddeen was brilliant. If not for his animated, effervescent rendition, the humour in the story would have been lost on the audience.

A must watch.


Rishi said...

I watched Ismat Apa Ke Naam last time it came to Chowdiah may be 6-7 years back or more. But till date I remember the performance very. Especially that of Naseeruddin Shah in the last act. And the seduction he enacted all by himself in the corner of the stage was more sensuous than seen in movies today.

One thing I remember Naseeruddin Shah suddenly comes on stage and spontaneouly the crowd ( Full house that many years back also) stand up and start clapping.


Sowmya said...

And his quick wit...

He had requested in the very beginning that all present should switch off their mobile phones.

During his act, a ring could be heard and guess what he did.

He immediately mentioned it as if it were a part of his dialogue...

"Woh chat pe patang uda raha tha... woh @#$% jiska abhi aabhi phone baaja, eeeyyy pehele phone baandh kar...and he continued his line"

...and everyone rored with laughter.