Guru Dutt biography becomes innovative book drama
Book readings could soon become passe if author Sathya Saran has her way. Hoping to make an instant connect with audiences, the veteran journalist is taking her biography of Bollywood legend Guru Dutt to the masses by enacting the book with a cast of six characters across India
The biography, '10 Years With Guru Dutt: Abrar Alvi's Journey', is a first person narrative of screen writer, filmmaker and actor Abrar Alvi, who recounted his association with Guru Dutt to Saran in the book. Guru Dutt and his close friend Alvi partnered to make several Bollywood classics like 'Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam', 'Kaagaz Ke Phool' and 'Pyaasa' starring Dutt in stellar roles.
Alvi passed away in 2009. Saran, the former editor of a magazine and a columnist, calls her one-and-a-half-hour Guru Dutt book drama an interactive promotion, which is a "360 degrees rendition of the book".
"We don't read the book any more. We narrate the story on stage. I sit on one side of the stage and an actor plays Abrar Alvi. He narrates his years with Guru Dutt just as Abrar told me in my book. The spotlights are on both of us," Saran said in an interview.
Explaining the complex stage mechanism of her "drama", Saran says the "action swings from stage to a screen mounted in the background where scenes from the movies which Abrar Alvi talks about in the book are projected".
"The action begins on the stage where actors play Guru Dutt and his leading ladies Waheeda Rahman and Meena Kumari. They lip sync the opening dialogues and then the action merges with the movie on the screen. It then moves back again to the narrators seated on either end of the stage as the narrative progresses," Saran said.
For example, when Abrar recalls the making of the classic, 'Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam', the stage opens with Meena Kumari as the sad chhoti bahu (the young wife of a rich Bengali landlord) sprawled in a drunken haze on the stage and Bhoothnath, the domestic help from the village crouching at her feet.
"Bhootnath introduces himself to chhoti bahu and the scene moves back to the screen. We use a bench for a bed on the stage. I use experimental props and innovative stage decor. I improvise as well. When I take the production to Kolkata, I will introduce Johnny Walker on stage picturising the famous tel malish song sequence from the movie 'Mr & Mrs 55'," Saran said.
"It is like the book talking to the audience from the stage and screen," she said. Satya Saran has so far staged seven shows of her Guru Dutt book drama in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Jaipur and Ludhiana. She has been invited to perform her play in Dubai and Kolkata.
"This particular book lends itself well to the genre. The younger generation does not know Guru Dutt. A play is the easiest way to get them to appreciate the book. While the younger generation comes to know the legendary actor, the older generation becomes nostalgic during the shows and are often moved to tears," Saran said about the reaction of the audience.
The play has a glamour aspect to it. "Sabyasachi has designed the saris for the Chaudhavin ka Chand sequence and an anarkali (Mughal-style dress) while designer duo Shantanu & Nikhil have designed the men's clothes. I roped in leading jewellers to sponsor the exquisite traditional jewellery," the writer said.
Saran is now working on a book about music legend S.D. Burman. "I will think of something different to promote S.D. Burman," she said.