The trinity of love
Veteran writer Mahesh Dattani's upcoming play will take the stage this Sunday, featuring three love stories that touch sexuality and age through humour
You know a song is good when the comments section below its video is an outpouring of memories — even years after its release. That's the effect Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to the End of Love has. With a gorgeous video directed by Dominique Isserman, the song pretty much feels like waltzing with the idea of love. And deep-diving into that very theme, is a play co-written by Mahesh Dattani and Avantika Shankar that will be staged this Sunday at the National Centre of the Performing Arts (NCPA), in collaboration with Playpen Performing Arts Trust. And it's named after Cohen's song, too.
The rehearsals began in early May last year with the first performance being held at someone's home. Shankar had been part of Dattani's workshop years ago.
This is thus the fourth edition of the triptych featuring Shankar's The Date and The Dated and Dattani's The Reading. Shankar was part of a playwriting workshop the Sahitya Akademi awardee was conducting. Dattani recalls, "In my workshops I never discuss my work. The idea is to help participants discover their voice. Avantika already came to the workshop with a strong voice that was remarkably mature. Her characters are unique and urbane with more than a touch of quirk. Her style is very Western but totally relatable in a modern Indian setting."
In fact, the genesis of this collaboration was Shankar's The Date, which the noted playwright read out in the workshop and students enjoyed. "Much later, our group produced two of her plays directed by Rahul Valmiki. Last year, I was keen on directing a comedy. I dug her plays out and also added a dramatisation of my short story to complete an evening of theatre. I used a Leonard Cohen song in the play and also chose it for the title!" Dattani shares.
The story follows the lives of three couples — young, old and queer — with a cast that includes Sukhita Aiyar, Ashish Joshi, Deepal Doshi, and Himanshu Talreja. But even though this is the fourth edition, barring Aiyar and Joshi, the cast hasn't been the same. "It's almost like doing a new play... I've had a chance to grow with it and for it to grow on me. For me, I think the central theme is vulnerability — the fact that it doesn't matter what gender you are, your age, how successful you are, what stage you're at in your life and career, everybody just wants to be loved and accepted," Aiyar tells us.
What the play successfully does, according to the actor, is that it picks up stereotypes about love and pushes them a bit. While there's fun, at the end of it, the story gets the audience thinking as well. Aiyar also found elements of herself while playing roles in all three stories. "The beauty of theatre is that it exaggerates and hyperbolises. So, you see parts of who I am, ratcheted up, and multiplied by 500," she says, adding that Dattani also added an amount of sensitivity to the narrative. "In The Date, my character is pretty loud and crack, and that's what the words tell you. But Dattani did a very fine thing by asking me to play her earnestly and it's because of all the nonsense that I'm spouting that the humour comes through."
On: July 28, 5 pm to 7 pm
At: Godrej Dance Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Log on to: bookmyshow.com
Cost: Rs 450
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