Ghosts of generations past

Published: Jan 21, 2020, 07:00 IST | Prachi Sibal | Mumbai

In an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's play, ghosts, both real and metaphorical, are confronted

(From left) Donna Munshi, Rahul Bagga, Ila Arun, KK Raina and Gaurav Amlani
(From left) Donna Munshi, Rahul Bagga, Ila Arun, KK Raina and Gaurav Amlani

It was five years ago when Ila Arun decided to launch an Ibsen festival in the city, to celebrate works by the Norwegian playwright that remain relevant a century later. What struck Arun deeply was their resonance in today's world with regard to his portrayal of women. She knew however that she had to adapt these works for an Indian audience and do "Ibsen in tradition."

"I knew the characters must look like they were born here," she says. So, the acclaimed yet controversial Ghosts by Ibsen, became Peechha Karti Parchaiyan set in an ancient haveli in Rajasthan, much like Arun's first such adaptation where Lady from the Sea found herself in the parched desert of Rajasthan. "A woman in the desert is as thirsty as one by the sea," quips Arun.

Directed by KK Raina and featuring Arun, Raina and Rahul Bagga in the cast, Peecha Karti Parchaiyan that premiered two years ago, not only places the story in an Indian setting but also finds a way to challenge tradition and superstition in its context. The characters became her own over a process that spanned six months, several morning walks and writing sessions before daybreak.

Arun believes in the power of the stage as a medium to address socio-political issues and hence uses it, time and again, to make a point. Here, she peppers it with mythological references and those from contemporary times to give the audience an immersive experience.

The story is of royalty in decline in Rajasthan where power may have diminished but the palaces still stand. Yashodhara belongs to one such royal family that is steeped in tradition but also limited by it. Like other youngsters from his generation, Yashodhara's son is in Paris to pursue a degree. He returns to accompany her for the inauguration of a children's home and Yashodhara believes he will stay longer. All hell breaks loose and the ghosts emerge. Arun is careful not to let too much out, but says, "The idea is to engage the audience and not just scare them."

Ila Arun

The story progresses as Yashodhara decides to confront these ghosts of the past and the priest custodian, in the process, challenging age-old taboos and superstitions. "It's not only money that we inherit from our ancestors but also their regressive thought process. It follows us like ghosts for generations to come,"
explains Arun.

While being mindful of its place and context in the contemporary world, Arun also wanted to add a touch of Rajasthan to it. So, while the play is in Hindi, it comes with local flourishes in both language and costumes. She recalls about a staging of this play in Assam last year, "I was apprehensive of the reactions I will receive there. But, someone walked up to me after the show and said that it felt like they had entered an ancient haveli and were suddenly privy to the world inside them."

ON January 23, 9 pm
AT Prithvi Theatre, 20 Jankti Kutir, Juhu Church Road, Juhu.
CALL 26149546
COST Rs 500

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