Guru Dutt in the spotlight

Guru Dutt’s enigmatic life has often spurred curiosity. Hence, any attempt to bring forth anecdotes from his life has always found interest amongst a large section of the people — both with and without creative leanings. Ten Years With Guru Dutt: Abrar Alvi’s Journey, a book by Sathya Saran was another effort in that direction and now a play of the same name, adapted from the book, is making waves in dramatic circles.

A still from the play. Pic Courtesy / Sounak Shanky Roy

“Initially, we decided to work on a theatrical presentation for a sit-down audience and not primarily for serious theatre viewers. So, we took six stories from the book and turned them into narratives interspersed with mime and screen clips,” reveals Saattvic, the play’s writer and director. He adds that after they did around 16 productions of that version, in November last year they were invited to Prithvi Theatre.

“But we realised that a very serious theatre audience comes there, so, we decided to adapt our narrative version into a full-fledged play,” informs
Saattvic. The play moves between the old Alvi and the young Alvi acting and narrating the stories that include the discovery of actress Waheeda Rahman by Guru Dutt, Meena Kumari’s dramatic entry into the film Saheb Bibi aur Ghulam, capturing the evocative beauty of Chaudhvi ka Chaand and the last night in Guru Dutt’s life. The play ventures to capture the magic, drama and nostalgia of the lives of the characters, who created some of Bollywood’s most memorable films.

No cakewalk, this
While the experience was fulfilling, Saattvic admits that working on such a theatre piece comes with a lot of baggage. “The most difficult part was the realisation that we were dealing with stories of real people, so we had to be very sensitive in our portrayals because we didn’t want anyone to feel that we were being disrespectful,” he shares.

As an example, he reveals that there were several scenes where they had to be extra careful like the scene where they were talking about Guru Dutt’s death. To keep away from complications, the entire scene is in narrative form, to avoid the risk of it looking distasteful. Also they didn’t want to hurt anyone because there are still questions about what happened that night when Guru Dutt passed away. To keep away from any controversy, Saattvic stresses that the play is totally based on Alvi’s account in the book. The bilingual play will see the director along with Namit, Dilnaz Irani, Tariq Vasudeva, Manasi Rachh and Maanvi Gagroo on the stage.

Author’s take

“The book is based on my interviews with Abrar Alvi over a period of two years. His memory is very sharp because he clearly narrated to me several aspects of Guru Dutt’s life and many other incidents that had happened years ago. Some of the most interesting parts are where he talks about Waheeda Rahman’s discovery, his work with Guru Dutt, which would happen without any hiccups, and the filmmaker’s death because Alvi had spent that evening with him.”
- Sathya Saran

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