All you need to know about Naseeruddin Shah's The Truth

Nov 04, 2018, 09:20 IST | Ekta Mohta

Naseeruddin Shah will be next seen in The Truth, a comedy about adultery, because he's "quite tired of playing intense, suffering parts"

All you need to know about Naseeruddin Shah's The Truth
Avantika Akerkar and Shah in The Truth

Between 2010 and 2012, French playwright Florian Zeller had written two brilliant plays called The Father and The Mother. Naseeruddin and Ratna Pathak Shah, the father and mother of Motley, staged the former last year, and the latter is on their "to-do list." In 2011, Zeller had also written The Truth, a breezy comedy about infidelity, a popcorn break between two serious works.

The Shahs, following Zeller's steps to the tee, are now ready with their adaptation of The Truth, which will premiere at Prithvi Theatre and Royal Opera House this week, as part of Prithvi Theatre Festival, and will also enjoy a month-long run at Prithvi from November 20 to December 16.

Pic/Ashish Raje
Pic/Ashish Raje

In The Father, a proud, intelligent, snarky man disintegrates, right before your eyes, into a doddering, old fool, as dementia takes over. Since the play ran for two successive months, Naseeruddin, who played the lead, put himself through the wringer, night after night. He says, "We ended up doing 58 shows within the space of three months, when we normally get to do 50 or 60 shows over a period of 10 years.

It was a condensed experience." The reason he wanted to jump into The Truth was because, "It promised to be fun, and quite a different pace from The Father, which was a great relief because I'm quite tired of playing intense, suffering parts. I felt like doing something light-hearted." Ratna, who is helming the production, adds, "The Father is a very, very painful view and experience of watching the man lose himself entirely. It's not nice for the audience to watch as well. It's a great piece of writing, but it's heartbreaking as well. This is not. This is, in fact, so effervescent; it's almost like a joke. That made me wonder: if one is to do a farce, which is so lightweight and delightful on the surface, is there anything else under it?"

The Truth's characters have been described by the British press (it's been translated into English by Christopher Hampton) as urban sophisticates; the kind who wear their cold, little hearts on their sleeves. The main protagonist, KC, is sleeping with his best friend's wife. After breaking the trust of all who love him, he tries to smooth things over with white lies. When we ask Naseeruddin if playing a womaniser at his age feels alright, he cites the example of the patron saint of womanisers: "Haven't you heard of Hugh Hefner?" he laughs. "That's my answer." Ratna says, "We were wondering if we should do it with a younger cast. Naseer read it and said, 'I think it can be done with an older man.' [The age difference actually] adds many other dimensions."

While rhapsodising about the script, Naseeruddin recounts a dialogue from the play, "'The truth: the advantages of concealing it, the perils of revealing it.' Right till the end, you don't know whose version to believe. I personally found it very funny, and I hope the audience does as well. He [Zeller] knows his onions as far as theatre is concerned. His observations of people are bang-on. I'm certain the play will raise a lot of uncomfortable questions in a lot of people's heads. There are always dark areas in any marriage, in any relationship. Those dark areas come to the surface in the play."

When: November 6
At: Prithvi Theatre; November 9-10 at Royal Opera House
Entry: Rs 300-Rs 2,500
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