Walking the tightrope

Updated: Dec 03, 2019, 10:02 IST | Prachi Sibal | Mumbai

...between classic and contemporary, Abhinav Grover's play Tughlaq returns with a deeper understanding of Karnad's text

A still from the rehearsals
A still from the rehearsals

"Do a classic in a new way and a new play like a classic," these words by noted theatre director Abhishek Majumdar remain Be Taal's Abhinav Grover's mantra. So, when he decided to revisit a classic, he knew he had to in a never before seen way. And when it's an oft-performed piece like Girish Karnad's Tughlaq, it is an uphill battle.

Smaller budgets here turned out to be a boon and the question of replicating earlier, more grandiose productions didn't arise. Grover chose a minimalist approach that was bare enough to be performed in small, intimate spaces. He also occasionally gave into temptation, attempting a surreal transition or two when he could. For instance, when Tughlaq kills his mother, his face is smeared with red gulaal by the subjects. It's a Shakespearean moment, where the crime is viewed from the culprit's internalisation giving way for a new language on stage.

These lofty experiments though, are few and far apart. Largely, Grover's Tughlaq stays true to the text. "We knew we wouldn't run away from the words, but understand them and tackle them instead," he says. The result is a play that has a ring of naturalism without the larger-than-life treatment. "So, the chaupal turns into a newsroom," he explains.

Abhinav Grover as TughlaqAbhinav Grover as Tughlaq

Grover attributes a lot of his methodology to veteran director Sunil Shanbag, who he worked with as an assistant director. "His classical realism approach inspired me and helped me deal with the greatest challenge — making a three-hour text move seamlessly on stage," he says.

After its premiere in September this year, Tughlaq is a shorter, tighter play with two new cast members - Sanket Aggarwal and Priyasha Bhardwaj. "The script also resonates more with the actors and we discover new things. For instance, the play is as much about the ruled as it is about the notorious ruler," he says. "It has also brought new questions to the fore that lay at the heart of the text — Is there such a thing as an ideal ruler? And even if there is, does that result in an ideal world?"

On December 6, 7.30 pm
At Veda Factory, Bungalow No 120, opposite Gulshan Co-Op Housing Society, Aram Nagar Part 2, Versova.
Call 8080441000
Log on to insider.in
Cost Rs 300

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