Rose Theatre Brampton welcomes Indian Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah and his Motley Theatre Group on February 24, 2011 for a one night only special performance of Shah’s latest play “Ismat Apa ke Naam”. This night will commemorate the first time ever that Naseeruddin Shah has performed in Canada. It is bound to be an unforgettable theatrical experience and a delightful treat for local audiences and for theatre lovers from across the Greater Toronto Area.
Ismat Apa ke Naam is an enactment of three stories in Hindu/Urdu by the famous writer, Ismat Khanum Chughtai (1915-1991). The celebrated Urdu writer, known for her outspoken and revolutionary style of writing, would have certainly liked her stories being narrated by the actors of the Motley theatre group. The three touching stories, ‘Chui Mui’, ‘Gharwali’ and ‘Mughal Bacha’, although different from each other, fundamentally deal with women and their survival in a male dominated society.
Naseeruddin Shah is the main producer, director and actor of this play along with Bollywood actresses Ratna Pathak and Heeba Shah. The first story is narrated by Heeba Shah as ‘Chui Mui’. The act is about a woman whose only ambition in life is to bear her husband a child to carry on his family name. Her reasoning is to ensure her husband won’t leave her for another woman. She is no more than a decorative piece but her character is contrasted with another woman who dares to have a child out of wedlock in a train compartment. This anonymous character represents the desire to live life on one’s own terms.
The second story is performed by Ratna Pathak, narrating it in the grand tradition of grandmother’s stories. Ratna manages to move between the role of narrator and characters like Gori Bi and Kaale Miyaan of ‘Mughal Bacha’ with an ease that is difficult to match. The story is about how the wives of powerful rulers must bear the burden of their husbands’ arrogance and failure. The act is quite enjoyable because Ratna does not try to portray every minute detail of Gori Bi’s’ life. She narrates the story in a way our elders would relate to us, using only the key incidents, thus making the act very personal and fascinating.
The third story in the play enacted by Naseeruddin Shah is called ‘Gharwali’. While there is sensitivity in the story, which depicts a prostitute and house maid, it can make some people uncomfortable with its sleazy lines and double meaning. It is about a beautiful girl Lajjo of no known background but who has hundreds of admirers. Mirza comes into her life, marries her and then forgets her like a forgotten trophy. Her attempts to add some much deprived ‘fun’ back into her life results in a thrashing from Mirza sahib and a ultimately divorce. The fact that Mirza sahib was indulging in some of this ‘fun’ himself does not matter. Lajjo, who long ago realized that marriage was just a way to control the desires of women in a patriarchal world, is happy that such a burden is taken off her. Naseeruddin manages to transform his persona into the character of Lajjo convincingly and his mannerisms as Mirza are also bang-on. His conversational style and actions make him very popular with audiences.
Naseeruddin Shah has seen great success in both the Indian film industry as well as mainstream movies as well as in art films. He has also starred in international projects such as “Monsoon Wedding” and a Hollywoodcomic book adaptation, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (co-starring Sean Connery) where he played the role of Captain Nemo. He has created and performed an Indian adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, titled Maqbool and another adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello, titled Omkara. Naseeruddin Shah has won three Filmfare Best Actor Awards and he was felicitated with India’s third highest civilian award Padma Bhushan. Shah’s upcoming films include “The Hunt” where he plays a recluse, growing marijuana at his forest retreat.
Naseeruddin Shah is perhaps the only actor today who has anchored an explosively successful film like “A Wednesday” even as his Motley Theatre Group completes three decades of outstanding stage performances. In an exclusive interview he said, “If there is any magic in the world, it happens in theatre and on a bare stage.”
Anu Srivastava is the Financial Controller of Arts, Culture and Theatre for the City of Brampton.