She started popular theatre group Ekjute in 1981, and gave Hindi theatre plays like Yahudi Ki Ladki, Jasma Odhan, Sandhya Chhaya, Begum Jaan, Dayashankar Ki Diary and Sakku Bai among others. Nadira Zaheer Babbar has been associated with Hindi stage for the larger part of her life. “My parents were writers and actively associated with Progressive Writers' Association, and IPTA, so, I grew up strongly rooted in culture and theatre. I have written more than 11 plays and even the ones written for groups, apart from my own theatre company, have been well received,” reminisces Babbar.

(From left) Juhi Babbar, Manoj Cherian and Nadira Babbar in Jasma Odhan directed by Nadira Babbar
(From left) Juhi Babbar, Manoj Cherian and Nadira Babbar in Jasma Odhan directed by Nadira Babbar

The rehearsal of Murkhapoor
The rehearsal of Murkhapoor

The writer-director-actor, who won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2001, is ready with her latest stage production, Murkhapoor, which will open in the city this Sunday as part of the Ananda Hindi Natya Utsav 2016. It features her son, Arya Babbar as associate director. “I wrote it six months ago. It was inspired by Neil Simon’s play, Fool. I have adapted the basic idea and written a play that is relevant to us today. I mainly write about subjects that feature everyday life and issues,” Babbar shares. The play is set in a village, which is suffering a curse that makes everyone a fool (including the cattle) until the entry of a schoolteacher who steps in to teach Tara, the female lead in the story. He ends up falling in love with her and rescuing her from the village. “It’s a satire that talks about people in any country, city or town, who are blind to the fact that they are being fooled,” she reveals.

Hindi theatre for Mumbai
Apart from writing original scripts, Babbar enjoys adapting works by masters of Hindi literature like Munshi Premchand. Speaking of Hindi theatre’s impact in Mumbai, Babbar feels that a lot more needs to be done, and the genre is currently lagging behind. “There is always a need for good scripts. Commercially, Marathi and Gujarati plays are doing well in the city. You will not find a booking vacancy in Bhaidas Hall for months. Hindi theatre also gets Gujarati and Marathi audiences for which we are grateful. It’s surprising that despite the NSD having its roots in the north, the theatre scene is not very evolved there,” believes Babbar, adding that most NSD students start out with theatre but move to Mumbai at the first opportunity of getting to work in a television series or a film. “I conduct two acting courses every year. People come to brush up their acting skills and not particularly for their love for theatre; most want to be part of film,” she adds.

Also at Ananda
Also premiering at the sixth edition of the festival will be three other plays. The opening act will be famous Surajmukhi Aur Hamlet, stage and film actor Zakir Hussain’s group Theatre Circle’s Hindi version of Jean Anouilh’s Episode in the Life of an Author. Touted as a serious comedy, the play looks deeper into the life of a writer and how he is affected by the monotony of daily routines.

A scene from Surajmukhi Aur Hamlet
A scene from Surajmukhi Aur Hamlet

A scene from Beewion Ka Madarsa
A scene from Beewion Ka Madarsa

A scene from Hazaron Khwab Roshan Hai
A scene from Hazaron Khwab Roshan Hai

Featuring a cast of 24 high school students, the second day of the festival will stage Page to Stage Production’s (Baroda) Hazaron Khwab Roshan Hain, highlighting issues concerning today’s youth such as pressure of study, molestations, virtual addiction and their aspirations. Next in line will be a revival of Ank’s popular comedy Beewion Ka Madarsa, based on Moliere’s School For Wives, about an old bachelor who falls in love with hilarious consequences.