Director Manoj Shah is known for his quirky biopic plays over a three decade long career, be it Master Phoolmani (based on actor Jayashankar Sundari), Bhamasha (based on the life of the advisor to Maharana Pratap), or Karl Marx In Kalbadevi, which sees the German economist visit the chaotic locality in Mumbai.
The idea behind the play, states Shah, is to help people relate to Marx who is considered as one of the greatest minds and acclaimed for writing works such as The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital.
“The Gujarati community mostly includes merchants and not too many people know about Marx. Even if he is taught in schools, there is barely any in-depth study on the man and his thoughts,” says Shah, adding that the character of Marx has a lot of shades: “He was a revolutionary thinker who wanted to change the world. He was born to a wealthy family but while studying in college he realised the inequalities in society, which made him think. Despite the hurdles he faced, he never compromised on his vision for the world.”
The fantastical play sees Marx explore Kalbadevi, try to get people to listen to his thoughts and even enjoy a thali at the famous Bhagat Tarachand. Kalbadevi, being a hub for entrepreneurial Gujaratis, might not seem the ideal locale for Marx to propagate his philosophies, but Shah believes that Marx is often misunderstood.
“Through the one-man play, the audience will get to learn about epochal moments in his life. At the same time, it’s also about how his thoughts and beliefs are hidden inside us. He is often misinterpreted but he was never against money or capitalism. Through this play, he gets to clear such notions,” he explains.
The 55 year-old-director adds that the play is easy to understand and explains core concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. “I am stubborn about doing things in a certain way; hence, I have stuck to staging plays in my mother tongue — Gujarati.”
Shah, who admits to be a self-taught man (he only studied till standard 8), got the idea while reading a book about Marx. In the process, he was impressed with his thoughts and decided to stage a play. While Gujarati theatre is known for comic plays and family dramas, Shah feels that there is also a lot of scope for more experimental themes.
“Globalisation has opened up a lot of doors and allows for unlimited choices. That has made audiences evolve and become more receptive to innovative themes. As for our play, we have audiences coming in from far-off places. At the same time, we improvise with every show so there is something different each time you see the play,” he concludes.
On June 23, 7 pm
At Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.