The qaidi wears shades of grey

Sai Paranjpye's latest project takes off from the classic No Exit; in the Marathi play, three prisoners find redemption in each others company

For her latest play Aalbel, veteran filmmaker Sai Paranjpye had to visit the city's infamous Arthur Road Jail for research. But that's not a new thing for her. She had also visited Pune's Yerawada jail to shoot her 29-minute documentary film Suee that dealt with drug users.

Filmmaker Sai Paranjpye's Marathi play Aalbel centres around three
characters, all of whom are prisoners, played by Milind Shinde,
Shrikant Dadarkar and Umesh Jagtap. PICs/SANTOSH NAGWEKAR

Her latest play, an NCPA theatre production, takes place between the four claustrophobic walls of a drab prison cell. Milind Shinde, Shrikant Dadarkar and Umesh Jagtap play three men who find themselves accused of murder with no one to make conversation with, except their own conscience and each other. According to Paranjpye, she was careful to have the prison sets created as realistically as possible.

Loosely based on Jean Paul Sartre's classic play, No Exit, where three dead souls, all sinners, who are confined to a single cell and become each other's 'agents of hell', this rendition explores a more human angle about men who have been labelled murderers and end up forming a camaraderie between themselves.

"Sartre's play, which I remember reading when I was young, is written with 'hell' being the association that characters have with each other. The subject chose me. It's been a while since I've wanted to spin it in a different direction. With Aalbel, I'm able to look into the relationship of prisoners who at first share a mutual dislike for each other and later develop a bond after listening to each other's personal stories," she says.

Six video clips that form the flashback sequence in the play take you through the background of the prisoners' lives and the series of events that led to them landing up behind bars. While the three prisoners form the protagonists that take the story forward, the play also features Veena Jamkar, Rajashree Sawant Wad, Madhav Abhyankar, Vandana Khandekar and Gautam Joglekar (Paranjpye's son).

The stories help the characters backtrack to events that pushed them to murder. The first inmate is put behind bars for killing a man attempting to rape his blind daughter, the second lands in jail for murdering his wife's lover, while the third convict is a contract killer who has killed 17 victims.

"This is the first time in my career that I have attempted a rape scene that takes place in one of the flashbacks," says the filmmaker.

While Paranjpye's films are in Hindi, her plays are consciously made in Marathi. "It's a matter of economics," she says. "I'm a proud Maharashtrian but my fan following isn't enough for a film. The reach is more with a Hindi film. But I make plays in Marathi to make up for it," she adds.

Did you know?
Sai Paranjpye was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2006 for her work in cinema. She started her career in All India Radio (AIR) in Pune as an announcer, and got involved with their Children's Programme. She also worked with Doordarshan. Her work includes films like Jadu Ka Shankh, Begaar, Sparsh, Chasme Buddoor and Katha.

6.30 pm, NCPA, Nariman Point
Call: 22824567

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