A new, old love story
After Om Puri's passing away, Teri Amrita, the Punjabi adaptation of an iconic play about unrequited love, is back with a new star in Gurdas Maan
The beauty of a well-written play is that it connects with an audience across generations. One such piece is Javed Siddiqui's Tumhari Amrita. Performed by Shabana Azmi and the late Farooq Shaikh, the play has also been adapted in Marathi and Punjabi, with Divya Dutta and Om Puri starring in the latter version.
With the strong stage presence of his deep voice, finding a new actor to play the lead after Puri's demise last year was a tough ask. But it was a conversation with actor Naseeruddin Shah that convinced Dutta to revive the play. "Once, while we were promoting Irada , he asked me what's happening with the play, to which I replied, 'Nothing, as Om ji is no more.' He said, 'Why not! You should do it to remember him,'" Dutta tells us. And that is how she approached popular Punjabi actor-singer Gurdas Maan to play Zulfikar Haider. "We needed to find someone who could recreate the charm of Om ji.
I have done four Punjabi films with Gurdas saab. He was my first choice. Sometimes you feel that somebody just belongs to a role, and he really does. He has a raw energy that I love, he's magic," Dutta tells us. Though Maan has not worked in theatre in a long time, he took it as an opportunity to up the ante as an actor. "I am revisiting theatre for the first time after the late '70s. I did theatre before moving to films. I felt that I had to revisit it to reinvent myself as an actor, before I embark on a special film project in the near future, and doing this gave me the opportunity to discipline myself as an actor. Moving from film to the stage is the same as what a scholar would do by opening old books and going through them again. As an actor, I prefer films, but theatre is a place for great learning," says Maan.
Dutta had last performed the play five years ago, but she says it was easy to pick up from where she had left off. "You can't take away memories. Sometimes when we would rehearse, his [Puri's] voice would come to mind. Once in Patiala, Puri saab asked me if I want to visit a local temple. Since we didn't have a car, he coolly hailed an auto. The rickshawala was in awe! He then took me to have chhole bhature," reminisces Dutta. "I have always been a huge fan of Om Puri saab, and to be honest, I was really nervous at first, as no one can fill those boots. But I thought about taking this up as a student, and I hope I am able to do justice to the character.
The biggest challenge is trying to do what Om saab and Farooq saab did, in my own way though," reveals Maan. But Maan is known to own the stage with his performances. How does he manage to do that time after time, we ask him, "As a singer, the stage is my first love as there is no script to follow. My energy on stage is directly related to the energy of the audience."
"Tumhari Amrita is a timeless play. It ran for 24 years and you can still interpret and reinterpret it as many times as you want. I have seen Farooq Shaikh, Shabana Azmi and Om Puri being part of this beautiful journey. Now, I am really looking forward to a wonderful experience in Punjabi by Divya Dutta and Gurdas Maan," says Javed Siddiqui.
ON September 9
AT Prithvi Theatre, Juhu Church Road
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