Sons of the soil

The play A Peasant of El Salvador, which depicts the atrocities of civil war as seen through the eyes of a farmer, will be staged for the first time in the city

Written by Garima Rakesh Mishra | Mumbai | Published:September 5, 2014 1:00 am
A still from the play A still from the play

They say the best things in life come unexpected. A Peasant of El Salvador, too, happened to Mumbai-based actor-theatre director Quasar Thakore Padamsee by chance. In 2009, when Padamsee was researching for his play Project S.T.R.I.P, he came across a book called A Peasant of El Salvador by American playwrights Peter Gould and Stephen Stearns.
Though he found the story very interesting, he left it at that for no particular reason. For four years, each time someone asked Padamsee to suggest a story for a play, he would recommend A Peasant of El Salvador; until one fine day when he asked himself the question: why am I recommending it to everyone?
He reread the play and staged it in Mumbai in September 2013. Later, Act One Scene One presented A Peasant of El Salvador for the first time in Pune at RWITC, Camp last month. “It talks about all the issues that I want to talk about. Strangely, our country is dealing with the same problems that Salvador was facing in the ’80s — the period the play is set in. The parallels between what happened then and what’s happening now are various; and it’s told through a simple peasant,” says Padamsee.
The plot of A Peasant of El Salvador revolves around a hill farmer who owns a small piece of land in El Salvador, Central America. He and his family face hardships during the civil war and bear brutalities like land reforms, repression, guerrilla warfare and military dictatorship. He not only loses his land, but also his wife and children; while his wife dies of hunger, his children succumb to police torture and rebel gangs. After waiting for years patiently, for better days, the peasant revolts, but is shot dead.
Given the graveness of the issue, Padamsee says he has taken conscious efforts to portray it in a non-trivial manner. “Firstly, the play is written beautifully. The protagonist is graceful even under odd circumstances. It’s easy to get swayed by emotions and present these things in a dramatic manner; we avoided that. It’s a story of a simple man, and we have tried to depict it in a simple way,” he says, adding that the play is in three languages — English, Spanish and Hindi. Post its debut show last year, the play had several shows in Mumbai. It was recently staged in Ooty, Cochin and Coonoor. The play’s cast include Meher Acharia-Dar, Suhaas Ahuja and Pramod Pathak.
Despite having Alyque Padamsee and Dolly Thakore as parents, who are noted stage actors, Quasar says he discovered theatre on his own. “I was in a boarding school when I took part in a play. That’s when I realised it’s my calling,” he recalls. However, during his college days at St Xavier’s, Mumbai, when he directed a few plays, he noticed that he is a better director than an actor. “I prefer the dark side of the stage,” he adds.
His theatre production company Q Theatre Productions (QTP) was established in 1999 quite incidentally. “We had a group of 10 people in college who were associated with theatre. In 1999, our play called The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail was invited to be staged by NCPA. When they asked us the name of our group, all of us debated for a while and came up with the name QTP,” he states.
QTP has over 25 productions to its credit, out of which many toured internationally. Some of QTP’s past plays include The President is Coming, All My Sons, So Many Socks, The Birthday Party, Acid, The Tale of Mannaseth and R&J.

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