Romancing the wordsmith

Many years ago when playwright and director Mujeeb Khan first read Munshi Premchand’s story, Kafan, about a poor man who collects money for the funeral rites of his dead wife, it left an indelible impact on his mind. Gradually Khan, a literature student, started reading the author’s works diligently and learnt about his life. In 2005, on the writer’s 125th birth anniversary, the theatre activist conceived a series called as Aadab Main Premchand Hoon and decided to pay a tribute to him through a 10-day long theatre festival, Prem Utsav.

A still from one of the plays that will be staged as part of the celebrations 

Since then the series has become an annual event where Khan and his Mumbai-based theatre group — Ideal Drama and Entertainment Academy (IDEA) — have been staging plays on the author’s short stories. Till date, they have presented 303 plays. Next month, IDEA will stage 133 plays on the 133rd birth anniversary of Premchand in a 10-day festival from July 22-31 at Sathaye College. Thirty plays will be presented each day from 4 pm to 10 pm.

“Initially we thought we would stage only few of Munshiji’s stories. But gradually we started enjoying the process. Also, I wanted to familiarise the present-day generation with Munshiji’s works. They are relevant even today,” says Khan.

He elaborates how the writer would deal with the complexity of human emotions and social issues. “In 1911, Munshiji had written a short story, Kanooni Kumar, in which he has mentioned that it was time to pass a women’s bill. In 1916, he had tackled the subject of a live-in relationship in Miss Padma. Today, live-in relationships are rampant. Munshiji had an amazing foresight.”

Khan has toured various parts of the country with this series and also staged it in Mumbai’s schools. He says, “Recently we performed at Ecole Mondiale School and got a heartwarming response. It’s good to see that today’s kids are keen to learn about Munshiji’s works who was one of the pioneers of modern Hindi literature.”

Also all the productions are in chaste Hindi and Urdu as lucid language was one of the highlights of the novelist’s works.

Enthused by the response, Khan is now keen on celebrating festivals on famous literary figures such as Ismat Chugtai and Saadat Hasan Manto. “Just like we have archaeological society that preserves old monuments, I consider myself as a theatre archaeologist responsible for preserving the works of literary greats and presenting them to today’s generation,” Khan concludes.

When: From July 22-31
Where: Sathaye College, Dixit Road, Vile Parle East
Call: 26136051 

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