Shekar Suman and Deepti Naval weave magic in Urdu, in a play that celebrates love and poetry.
A play in Urdu is not something most people would take up — a language that many don’t understand and one that you’d assume would attract only a niche audience. But that didn’t stop the team behind Ek Mulaqaat — director Saif Hyder Hasan and actors Shekar Suman and Deepti Naval. The play, which premiered in 2014 in Mumbai, and is debuting in the city next weekend, depicts a fictional meeting between real-life poets and lovers, Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam.
And Suman, for one, confesses that he was “destined” to play the role. “As a kid, I was obsessed with Sahir. An uncle of mine used to tell me stories about him, and read me his work. He gave me a book called Parchhaiyan, which has a collection of his nazms (poems). And as I was growing up, I realised that all the beautiful lyrics in Guru Dutt’s and Dev Anand’s films were his,” smiles the actor, who was recommended for the role by Naval and was so delighted that he learnt his lines in just three days.
But it wasn’t smooth sailing for Naval, who made her stage debut with the play. “I wasn’t confident I could pull it off because I always thought the stage needed a powerful voice,” laughs the soft-spoken actress, recalling how she almost pulled out when Hasan and Suman announced the play earlier than expected. “Moreover, since I knew Amrita personally (she used to meet the writer every time she visited Delhi, spending hours talking about life and literature), it was tricky to play her. It was a big responsibility for me because I couldn’t do any wrong to her,” shares Naval.While Ek Mulaqaat — which takes place on a chilly winter’s evening in Delhi — addresses many questions that have cropped up about the poets’ relationship, the cast and crew found that any fears about it not connecting with audiences were unfounded.
Real vs reel
“People who understand the language, love the play, and those who don’t, understand the emotion,” states Hasan, who says Ek Mulaqaat gave him a creative high. “I wanted to do a play in Urdu and this popped into my head. I then brought in my co-writer, Sumana Ahmed, who writes very good Urdu,” says the journalist-turned-director, adding he’s kept the sets simple — a couple of lamp posts, two chairs and a bench — so as to let the poetry and songs tell the tale. He’s also included three Bollywood hit songs — Abhi na jao chhod kar, Chalo ek baar phir ajnabi ban jaye and Kabhi kabhi — but states that he’s changed the music. “I have new tunes, by composer Parivesh Singh, because the situations in the films are different from what transpires in the play. For example, Abhi na jao, a soft, romantic number in the film, is a haunting melody in ours,” he concludes.
On June 17, at Sir Mutha Hall, at 7.15 pm. Rs 700 – Rs 2,500. Details: in.bookmyshow.com
—Surya Praphulla Kumar