The English play 3 Sakina Manzil debuts in Bengaluru this weekend at the Jagriti theatre festival
Set in Mumbai in the 1940s, 3 Sakina Manzil is a researched docu-drama written by playwright Ramu Ramanathan, who’s credited with other plays such as Cotton 56 Polyester 84, The Boy Who Stopped Smiling, Curfew, and Collaborators.
3 Sakina Manzil has been directed for stage by the Delhi-based writer/director Deepak Dhamija for the theatre group Desires Unlimited. “We chose this play purely because of the power behind the storytelling. Ramu Ramanathan has recreated an era with a story that is strengthened with so much detail that people are bound to like it,” begins Dhamija.
The story revolves around two people who meet in 1994 – two people who used to know each other a long time ago, and this play takes us back to a time when the British were still in India and World War II had just begun. “We see the 1940s through the eyes of these people; we see a time when the Hindi film industry in Mumbai was in its beginning, and we see a society that looked at its people very differently,” adds the director.
The play draws real references from history; incidents such as the 1944-bomb blast on a naval ship at the Bombay Dockyard that went unreported in the media, because the British were in the country at the time. But why the reference to the film industry? “The film industry was sort of coming together at the time. You see, when you show Mumbai, you can’t ignore that. This play looks at the way people perceived the films, and theatre, and its actors. And it looks at the way people saw the war,” Dhamija adds.
With only two people as the cast, Dhamija admits that it’s never an easy task. “You need two things to get away with a play that has only two or three actors – a solid storyline, and brilliant acting skills. And with 3 Sakina Manzil, we have both,” he says, adding, “We’ve also put a lot of focus on the costumes, and the props used for the play. We have literally recreated the era we are trying to represent, and I think people are going to enjoy it.”
In fact, “People in the audience have often waited back till after the play was over to ask why did we choose to end the play the way we did, and that they would have liked to see a different kind of ending,” Dhamija says, “and that goes to show that the play engages the audience at a deeper level.”
At Jagriti, Whitefield. October 16-25. Tickets (`400)
— Priyadarshini Nandy