A local theatrical production is bringing stories from veteran playwrights to stage

Dubai - A theatrical production of four short stories penned by Anton Chekhov, Saadat Hasan Manto, G B Shaw and O Henry


Purva Grover

Published: Thu 16 Sep 2021, 7:54 PM

I’ll start with the words of a contemporary storyteller, Margaret Atwood. “In the end, we’ll all become stories.” Isn’t that so true about our lives? We need more stories in the world, and what could be better than watching these stories come alive on stage? An evening celebrating four of the greatest master storytellers has been put together by a local theatre group, EnAct. Titled Chaturang, which means something which has four parts, this evening of theatre is happening this weekend. We speak with the cast to know more before the curtains open.

Anton Chekhov’s The Proposal (Russian playwright)

Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s The Proposal has been adapted by theatre veteran Mahua Chauhan as Prastaav. In this rendition, the play is set in a village in Haryana, where a marriage proposal between two neighbours leads to unexpected reactions and meaningless arguments. The play highlights the love and hate relationships that old neighbours share, leading to comical circumstances. Director Soni Chhabra says, “Anton Chekhov’s stories are mostly comical satires that point out human absurdities. He masterfully handles prose, as he retains the sensitivity towards the characters, moods and settings. He weaves humour with pathos to magnify the inconsequential details of people’s lives. He has developed a technique of ending stories with what have been termed ‘zero endings’ or anti-climactic conclusions. Although the author sketches his characters with compassionate good-humour, he never abstains from highlighting their faults, eccentricities, and human weaknesses.”

On stage: Amitt Kummar, Shilpi Verma, Ashish Kalkar, Charu Madan, Sonni Chhabra, Apoorva Mehra, Kamiya Rautela

Language of performance: Hindi

Emotions on display: From happiness to confusion and fear to anger. The whole idea is to generate the rasa in the audience.

Saadat Hasan Manto’s Beemar (Pakistani playwright)

Saadat Hasan Manto’s play Beemar deals with how unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends during ill health can be counter-productive and lead to humorous interactions between people. “Manto’s boldness both in the writing style and the subjects he chose to write about is what attracts me to his work,” says director Rashmi Kotriwala. “His work is hard-hitting and creates strong visual images.” However, she shares how Beemar is slightly different from the writings that he is most known for. “It is a satirical account of cosmopolitan urban characters of the time. The characters belong to different religions and communities, and still co-exist in a neighbourhood, which is representative of the New India.” So, during the play, we’ll observe how all the characters bear a small dislike for each other but are connected via their common friend and care deeply for Kumar, and want to be able to alleviate him from his health problem. “Kumar’s character is somewhat neutral and unassuming. This is also a slice-of-life story which in today’s world has been replaced by WhatsApp forwards that advise us on how to treat the smallest of health problems,” adds Rashmi.

Who’s on stage? Saif Khan, Subrata Ravinder Singh, Rajinder Thakur, Raj Rudrabhairav, Pranav Dalvi, Darsh Ramesh Jhamnani, Rohit Prakash, Prashant Pee Dee

Language of performance: Urdu

Emotions on display: From helplessness to frustration and love to opportunism. Overall, humour has been amplified in the story.

G. B Shaw’s Pygmalion (Anglo-Irish playwright)

G. B. Shaw’s Pygmalion is adapted into Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi, which depicts the transformational story of an untamed flower girl and a sophisticated professor entwined in a tussle of ego and humility. Says director Dr Tabassum Inamdar, who has also adapted the play, “G. B. Shaw’s writing is witty, engaging and relevant for any era. He had the knack of addressing social issues with ease, subtlety and clever humour. Be it class differences or society’s lack of purpose — he would always portray it with a touch of comedy to grab audiences’ attention. His characters always engage with each other in intellectual debates and stimulating dialogues. At the risk of being labelled as a feminist, a fascinating part about his brilliant writing was the use of strong and empowered female leads.” The end as we’ll see on stage will be a different one. According to Saleem Surani, the male lead of the play, “The sense of self-worth and self-actualisation make a great twist to the original plot.”

On the stage: Saleem Surani, Tasmiya Syed, Tabassum Inamdar, Dhanashree Utturkar, Malik Azaz

Language of performance: Urdu, with a bit of Hindi

Emotions on display: Compassion along with self-esteem. Plus, a sense of awakening and newfound thought encompassed in witty humour.

O Henry’s While the Auto Waits (American playwright)

O Henry’s work While the Auto Waits has been adapted into Gaadi Taiyar Hai. In this rendition, the play is set in 1950s Calcutta, where two strangers meet in a park and the conversation reveals human behaviour, their dreams, aspirations, expectation versus realities. It explores identities, social stratification and the difference between the haves and the have nots. Says director Rashmi Kotriwala, who has also adapted the play, “What I like about O Henry’s writing is that the plays are usually a mix of comedy and tragedy. He highlights social issues and interpersonal relationships using very believable characters. The dialogues and characters are funny, yet very real. The surprise endings work well for short plays and that’s what is most attractive to the readers/audiences.” The play highlights this social divide in a light-hearted way, at a time in India when the country was just about finding its feet as an independent nation and places like Calcutta, being the hub of the British Raj, had a strong influence of the western culture.

On the stage: Zille Rehman, Meghna Gupta, Nalini Dutta, Pranav Dalvi

Language of performance: Hinglish, with Bengali

Emotions on display: Irony, for sure


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