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Manto for today's youth

As a part of it’s monthly series Zest! — a platform to promoteyouth theatre at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), the theatre wing of Rashtra Bhasha Parivaar, Nagpur will be performing author Saadat Hasan Manto’s famous short story, Toba Tek Singh, in the city today.

Partition tales
Set in an asylum in Lahore, post-Partition, Toba Tek Singh is a story that deals with the trauma of uprooting that several Indians and Pakistanis underwent, shared through the views of its inmates. “I feel that every few years, Toba Tek Singh should be brought back in public memory to make everyone privy to the emotions post-Partition.

As we live in some corner of Maharashtra we would not understand the urgency of the situation then, as compared to people who live around the border,” believes Rupesh Pawar, the director of the play.

The actors in this play include seven young artistes — Nasir Shaikh; playing the lead character Bishan Singh, Amit Shende, Chetan Athale, Sameer Dabhane, Dhananjay Mandavkar, Pratik Gaikwad and Pawan Ankar. Five of the actors are students. Though Pawar has stuck to the original plot of the story, a few additions have been made in terms of poetry, including poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and a few by Pawar.


Actor Nasir Shaikh

In sync with today
“We have kept everything simple for a varied audience to understand the idea behind Manto’s story. This includes sticking to Hindi with very few phrases in Urdu and Punjabi. Also, none of the characters wear a turban or any other form of identification, so the audience is able to relate with the characters without bracketing them; the intent was to make them believe that anyone can reside in Toba Tek Singh,” reveals Pawar. He adds that the lone props used throughout the play are a few chairs, which are used to portray everything from the inside of the asylum to the country border. “This also helps keep the budget down,” says Pawar.


Scenes from the play

This play was shortlisted from several others that were submitted to be part of Zest, to bring back Manto to the audience as a part of his birth centenary year in 2012. “Apart, from Manto’s birth anniversary and the awards that this play has won, we wanted to explore a young theatre group’s approach to Manto’s satire that was penned years ago,” shares Deepa Gahlot, Head of Theatre and Films programming at NCPA.

Stage is set
Like Zest! Pawar too is a part of a group, First Day On Stage, an initiative to promote new theatre artistes in Nagpur, where they provide lights, wings and Rashtra Bhasha Parivaar’s stage to new artistes. “When I started out, I had to wait for a year to finally get a venue that fitted my budget. We aim to provide a platform to other such theatre professionals, and our group, which started with around 10 to 15 members, is now almost 80 members strong,” informs Pawar.

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