The play is a psychological thriller that rips the mask off a celebrity. Manjula Sharma is an unsuccessful Hindi short-story writer. Her luck takes a turn when she’s suddenly famous after her book in English becomes a best-seller. However, the writer now begins questioning herself— whether in opting for the global audience, she betrayed her own language and identity. And soon enough, it’s her own image that decides to play confessor, psychologist and inquisitor.
“Although on the surface, it’s a monologue, the play is actually in a dialogue format, as the character Manjula Sharma tries to come to terms with her true identity,” says Padamsee. He picked this particular play because of his fascination with the changing avatars of people.
“I did Karnad’s Tughlaq in English many years ago. What I find most interesting in his writing is his eye for projecting dual aspects of a person and how it all evolves from who you are to what you become in the end,” he explains, adding, “It’s actually a two-woman play although the audience sees one on stage. The play is relatable because of its context and situation, in an age of electronic images.”
‘Identity matters to the academic audience’, the well-known verses of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land rings true in Girish Karnad’s Bikhre Bimb. The theme of identity crisis, according to Padamsee, is beautifully explored in this play. “I needed someone with a strong personality and Shabana fits the bill perfectly. She has a brilliant stage presence and her English is flawless,” he remarks.
“We are doing this play in English on a national scale. It’s premiering in Mumbai first and then we might take it to Delhi or Kolkata too,” he says. Padamsee feels that the present theatre scene is much better than what it used to be 10 years ago.
“Indian play-writing has come of age. There was a lull after Gurcharan Das won a prize for Larins Sahib. Now, with Thespo, young theatre has entered the picture. Plays are now more experimental and identifiable.”
Although he agrees that they are moving away from traditional theatre, Padamsee considers it an achievement that our plays are now entering international festivals.