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Arth set for a stage act

In 1982, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt made the critically acclaimed Arth, which looked at the bold subject of extra-marital relationships and also spoke about women’s rights. Now, after more than three decades, the director has decided to give a new lease of life to the film by adapting it into a play.


Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and actor Imran Zahid. Pic/ Bipin Kokate 

Bhatt shares that it was not a sudden decision, but a long pending wish. “The film is about gender equality in a tone and tenor that is identifiable, without being preachy and profound. It is a theme that has endured for 30 years because this independence has remained a constant aspiration for Asian women. I felt it was high time to bring it forward in a different medium for the new generation.”


Actors Smita Patil and Kulbhushan Kharbanda in a still from the 1982 film Arth

The play is scheduled to premiere in Delhi, Mumbai and other major metros in December, and Bhatt wants it to be a part of the ongoing celebration of 100 years of Bollywood, “So, I want this play to be big,” stresses the 65-year-old filmmaker.

Reel to stage
The film, which was said to be a semi-autobiographical representation of Bhatt’s own life, boasted of a stellar cast including actors like Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil. But Bhatt is confident that he will be able to scout for actors, who will be able to recreate the same magic on stage.


The poster of Arth

“It won’t be easy for an actor to slip in the shoes of the brilliant actors who were in the film. Yet the bright side is that the industry is brimming with new talent presently. There is a plethora of actors out there and somehow I may have too many choices,” informs the filmmaker, who has already decided upon actor Imran Zahid for Kulbhushan Kharbanda’s character. Zahid has essayed lead roles in Bhatt’s previous theatrical productions, The Last Salute and Trial of Errors.

Women at the core
As far as the director is concerned, Bhatt feels that a woman director would do justice to the essence of Arth. “Women have always been at the centre of my films; I feel roping in a woman director would give a new essence to Arth,” he says, adding that since he has worked with female directors before in his films, he wishes to explore the same in theatre now.

While Bhatt plans to use the original songs from the film in the play, he will be introducing certain changes to the script, to suit the medium of theatre. “The emotional quotient of the 1980s and 2013 is the same. We are still a society entangled in an emotional web. But some changes will have to be incorporated in the play. Keeping in sync with modern times, the situations too will be a bit different from the past,” he clarifies.

Finally, the filmmaker notes that Arth was successful in raising the all-important issue of gender equality and the film looked at the issue of women’s emancipation from a new perspective. So, the theatre adaptation will also appeal to people, since it will strike a chord with them.

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