“He was an artist, philosopher, palmist, actor, all put into one. He was very dynamic,” reminisces Sam Kerawala who is the director of Laughter in the House: A Tribute to Adi Marzban. This stage performance will be a classic Parsi Gujarati theatre performance with a mix of gags, revues and songs that were written by the icon. The performance is a presentation by Jam-e-Jamshed Publications (of which Marzban also served as editor) in association with the NCPA.
Shernaz Patel, whose parents and senior Gujarati theatre artists Ruby and Burjor Patel will be a part of the senior line up of the performance, says, “All the conceptualising started with Meher Marfatia’s book (Laughter in the House: Twentieth Century Parsi Theatre) that was released in August last year. My father (Burjor Patel) and Sam Kerawala went back and researched through several old scripts and picked up some of Marzban's best revues. It will be a classic entertaining evening with the thespians on stage, laughter, mad jokes dance and of course, music.”
“The difficult part was to decide on the final elements that had to be presented on stage; we might have ended with content for five shows!” chuckles Kerawala. It was also difficult to find apt characters for the older actors. Kerawala points out that an actor might have played a 20-year-old pregnant woman several years back but couldn’t do that now. Several senior Parsi theatre artists including Dolly and Bomi Dotiwala, Scheherazade and Rohinton Mody, Villoo Panthaky Kapadia, Moti Antia, Jerry Kumana, Pervez Mehta and Dinyar Contractor will be returning to the stage with this performance. To play younger roles, newer Parsi actors including Danesh Khambatta, Danesh Irani, Huzan Wadia and Pheroza Modi will be supporting the cast.
Music has always formed an important part of Parsi theatre, and Marzban’s original Parsi Qawali will also be a part of this performance. “Many of our plays make fun of the conflict between husband and wife and this qawali too is a dialogue between groups of men and women about who is superior, Marzban style,” says 80-year-old Kerawala. Kerawala remembers how Marzban began writing for small shows at first when people challenged him saying he couldn’t write like his father Pherozeshah Jehangir Marzban, a Parsi journalist and playwright (who wrote under the pen name Pijam). Kerawala, who has worked with Marzban immediately after he cleared his SSC examination and who regards him as his guru, feels that Parsis love to laugh at themselves and stay happy. “Marzban’s plays effortlessly express this feeling,” he believes.
Combined with a set of very good actors and Marzban’s genius is what makes his plays lovable even today, he recalls. As much as we would’ve liked to share in this entertaining trip down nostalgia lane, we learnt from the show’s organisers that tickets were already sold out at the time when this copy went to press!