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Afternoon narratives with Pankaj Kapur

Veteran Bollywood actor Pankaj Kapur's novella that became a dramatic reading explores identity and the journey of self-discovery

Pankaj Kapur is one-man act in Dopehri
Pankaj Kapur is one-man act in Dopehri

As the world around her goes about its business, Amma Bi, much like the Laal Haveli of Lucknow she dwells in, seems to have frozen in time. Once a bustling abode, where she invested her life in its residents - and surrendered her individuality to those relationships - the haveli now envelopes Amma Bi in haunting loneliness. Dopehri, a novella critically acclaimed actor Pankaj Kapur penned 20 years ago, is the journey of Amma Bi from solitude to self-discovery. Last year, the eponymous dramatic reading of the novella became the maiden production of Theatron, Kapur's theatre group he founded with his wife, Supriya Pathak.

"I had written the novella around a time when talks about saving the girl child had just begun. But the generation preceding this discussion, which was past its prime, had been largely ignored. So many women of that time have sacrificed their identities for their families," says Kapur, ahead of the 35th show of the well-received performance to be staged in the city. "Speaking from the visual viewpoint, I had imagined Supriya's mother [the late veteran actress, Dina Pathak] playing the lead role, but the character is not inspired by a particular person," he adds.

Mid-day muse
The title of the performance is symbolic of the protagonist's age, who is in her sixties. "Dopehri is when half the day is gone, but the other half still remains," shares Kapur. "It is also the time when morning chores have been completed, and children are still to come back from school. Before the afternoon TV shows came to be, for many women, it was a lonely time."

The 62-year-old actor wanted to stage it differently, but ultimately decided to communicate the story through a dramatic narration. With minimalist props, and stirring voice inflections, he portrays the novella's eight characters of myriad shades - all while seated in a chair, the script in his hand. "It's a writer, who also happens to be an actor, conveying his story to the audience," says Kapur.

Tele talk
Kapur is one of the few actors who took to television with as much ease as the big screen. Given the current workings of the TV industry, would he consider acting in the medium? "If I am assured of no interference during the making of the show, and the director comes with a certain credibility, why not?" he says, adding that he firmly believes in the potential of the medium. But for now, it's theatre that beckons to Kapur, who staged another play recently, based on a story he wrote. Perhaps an autobiography in the making? The unassuming actor keeps us guessing.

ON: February 15 and 16, 6 pm and 9 pm
AT: Prithvi Theatre, Juhu.
CALL: 26149546
COST: Rs 500

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