In praise of Parsai

Published: Jun 25, 2019, 07:04 IST | Snigdha Hasan

A blend of storytelling, stand-up and theatre is the best way to present satirist Harishankar Parsai's works. Watch a collage this Saturday

In praise of Parsai
Pratik Kothari will present the three stories as part of one performance for the first time

"The best thing about theatre is how inseparable it is from literature," says actor-director Pratik Kothari, as he recalls how a short story by Harishankar Parsai that he read in school, revealed itself to him in a new light years later, during a script-reading session. "In theatre, you are always discussing the world around you and its politics. And Parsai ji's stories fit right in," he adds, speaking of the renowned satirist of modern Hindi literature, who was born in the Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh and continued grappling with the quirks of human nature, and societal wrongs with his pen until he breathed his last in 1995 in Jabalpur. The Sahitya Akademi Award winner is said to have revolutionised the art of satire writing in Hindi, but somehow, Parsai remains largely unexplored on the city's performing arts scene.

Pratik Kothari

"While we see a lot works by Saadat Hasan Manto, Ismat Chughtai and Munshi Premchand being performed — and very rightly so — Parsai ji's stories haven't been brought alive on stage as much," says Kothari. For his upcoming performance, he has stitched together a collage of three short stories, which he will share with the audience through what he calls a hybrid of theatre, storytelling and stand-up comedy. "These stories were written three to four decades ago or possibly, earlier. I weave in a little bit of interactivity and throw in a few contemporary touches to make them more relatable. But that's about it. His razor sharp satire does the rest," he adds.

Pratik Kothari

The first story for the evening is Ek Film Katha, which Kothari likens to a very good opening batsman. "You can't go wrong with this one. Anybody who has been irked by the mindless song-dance-and-fight sequences of formulaic Bollywood movies will relate to it. We have coined the phrase, 'So bad that it's good', now but Parsai ji had written about it years ago," he shares, adding that he presents the story as a conversation between a scriptwriter and a producer.

Pratik Kothari

Ek Ladki Paanch Deewane, as the title suggests, is the story of a girl who is wooed by five men of varying age groups in a neighbourhood. "Back then, there was no Tinder, and the love interest would be stalked perhaps by keeping an eye out for her appearances on the terrace, but human traits remain the same," explains Kothari. Parsai's political satire is reserved for the last. Bhedein aur Bhediye revolves around the formation of a government in the forest, where the wolves despite being outnumbered by the sheep manage to convince them that they alone can protect them. "That's politics being played out in any corner of the world, really," Kothari points out.

Pratik Kothari

Another reason why Kothari likes to present Parsai's stories to Mumbai audiences is to let them in on his mastery over Hindi. "Hindi is being forgotten, and my aim is to attune people to the sound of the language," he says. "Many audience members in Khar-Bandra don't know what 'chhajja' [rooftop/balcony] means. But once that's taken care of, all that remains is Parsai and his genius."

On: June 29, 7.30 pm
At: Kreating Charakters' Foot-light, Four Bungalows, Andheri West.
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Entry: Rs 250

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