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On this day, My Fair Lady based on the play Pygmalion premiered in NYC. Four theatre persons share their favourite play-to-film adaptations
On Gandhi Jayanti this year, veteran director Manoj Shah, known for his contemporary Gujarati plays, adapted Abhishek Majumdar's Salt into a short film Meetha No Satyagrah. So, Shah knows the power of transforming theatre into cinema and that, he feels, is also evident in the Al Pacino-starrer Glengarry Glen Ross, adapted from a play by David Mamet. "It's brilliantly shot. Whether you read the script or the play, you end up with a feel of both theatre and cinema," Shah says.
K Asif's iconic film Mughal-E-Azam was, in fact, based on a play called Anarkali by Imtiaz Ali Taj. And Iqbal Niyazi, the founder-president of Kirdaar Art Academy who has been associated with Urdu and Hindi plays for three decades, votes for it. "It was made into a film called Anarkali in 1953 before Mughal-E-Azam in 1960. To have two superhit films based on the same play is, for me, a big achievement in Indian cinema," he says. Niyazi also likes the 1958 drama Yahudi, which was adapted from the Urdu play Yahudi ki Ladki by Agha Hashar Kashmiri. "It was a huge hit in Parsi theatre," Niyazi adds.
Playwright Abhishek Majumdar has two favourites — Angels in America by Tony Kushner that was adapted into a mini-series, and Mohan Rakesh's Ashadh Ka Ek Din, which was made into a film directed by Mani Kaul. "The two writers are, in my view, two of the greatest playwrights ever. Their plays are visual, poetic and deeply philosophical. And these films are hard to make; Angels in America has a lot of magical realism captured very well in the film, and Ashadh Ke Ek Din is a deep examination of life. It's not paced like the play, but not like the usual film either," Majumdar shares.
Mind the parallels
For theatre artiste Vara Raturi, Vishal Baradwaj's Shakespearean trilogy — Maqbool, Omkara and Haider — makes for an interesting watch. "There is a strength the script brings to the screenplay. I remember watching Haider just because everyone was talking about it and read Hamlet later, and I had fun just drawing out the parallels."
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