What do you get when you put two of the country’s seasoned actors, a powerful script and a passion for theatre together? Ratna Pathak Shah’s directorial debut, A Walk in the Woods — a play about a young Indian diplomat, played by Rajit Kapoor, and his cynical Pakistani counterpart played by Naseeruddin Shah, engaging in peace talks outside the usual quagmire of bureaucratic boundaries. The play sees the two taking a walk in the woods to attempt a resolution of the issues between the two countries.
An adaptation of Lee Blessing’s work on a conversation between an American and a Russian diplomat during the height of Cold War, the play has been adapted by Motley members, Randeep Hooda and Faisal Rasheed. Actor Rekha and director Vishal Bharadwaj are contributing to its music and poetry.
Revealing how the whole venture fell in place, she explains, “I walked into an already thought out project. Naseer had read the original play three years ago. He and Rajit had started rehearsing. But they needed an outside eye. That’s where I came in.”
What are the challenges of being a debutant director? “The greatest difficulty is to transfer words off the paper onto the stage. I’ve been inspired by Satyadev Dubey to present the story as the playwright intended to tell it,” she confesses. Refusing to categorise her play into a specific genre, she says, “It’s an interesting dialogue amidst a politically charged backdrop. It makes a statement about the breakthroughs common people can achieve in ensuring goodwill between two hostile nations if they don’t rely on governments. The animosity between India and Pakistan is like a fight within the family. The emotions are strong.” She adds, “Isn’t it time for us to grow up? How long will we keep squabbling over the same rubbish?” Clearly, the theatre veteran doesn’t mince words.
Backing her opinion is her husband. “You’ll be amazed to see the longing Pakistanis have for personal contact with us. That’s what’s necessary to overcome the jingoistic fervour maintained by the vested political interests.” He chuckles, “The problem is we take the behaviour of the Pakistani cricket team as being representative of the behaviour of Pakistani people in general.” Both actors admit to feeling a special connect with the play because of its gravity and contemporary nature. Rajit Kapoor too asserts the “futility of hostility,” before going on to add, “working with Naseer bhai is a great opportunity.”
On: July 19, 20, 21 and 22, 6.30 pm, Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
For: Rs 450 and 270 for members and Rs 500 and 300 for public