Ten years ago, I hardly saw any women who were single by choice. Now, there are a lot of girls who don’t marry because they don’t want to. This is a very interesting thing in our society,” says Manav Kaul. If he is more famous as a character actor in films, it is because Kaul got bored of theatre in 2002. He was midway through a long monologue for a play in Mumbai, when he had looked out into the darkened hall and thought, “If I had been in the audience, I would have left this boring play.”He made an exception in only one production, Peele Scooter Wala Aadmi, which he performed in 2004-05.
Kaul has returned to the stage with a play, Chuhal, which he has written, directed and acted in. Chuhal opened at the Prithvi Festival in November and will be staged in Delhi on January 15. It is also the first time that Kaul, who has written 13 plays, approached a story from a woman’s perspective.
“The reports of mass molestation in Bangalore don’t make you proud of our country. I have a huge problem with how society treats women. When I was writing Chuhal, I wanted to understand what happens when two people fall in love but want to retain their independent and individual identities,” he says. Chuhal is a relationship drama between a school teacher, Sudhir, and Aarti, who works in a private company, played by Sugandha Garg. She believes that love is a fulfilling journey in itself while he thinks of it as a stepping stone to marriage. A series of light-hearted conversations — which give the play its name — arises from the contrasting personalities of the two protagonists.
“I am very conscious that I never, ever want to give a message in my plays. Chuhal is a love story set in a small town between a single girl and a man who is looking for a bride,” says Kaul. The setting of a small town in the 1990s is integral to Kaul’s idea of romance and influenced by his upbringing in Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh. “The play is set in an era without mobile phones. I feel that one WhatsApp message can kill the mood; there’s no mystery left. I have to go back in time to write the play,” he says. Sudhir is a simple man whose beliefs have been conditioned by society — but there are layers that Kaul is digging into.
Cinema and theatre have changed in the past decade, he says. Kaul’s interest in experimental theatre — one of his plays, Park, can be staged in any park with three benches — fits into the contemporary scenario with avant-garde stage design, play treatment and processes.
Cinema is packed with surprises. In Kai Po Che! (2013), Kaul essayed a charismatic and fanatical right-wing politician and, in Wazir (2016), he played off against Amitabh Bachchan as a murder suspect. A new film, Maroon, about an insomniac professor, will have a digital premier. Chuhal, which Kaul has been writing for more than three years, was given its final shape after discussions with his aRANYA theatre group. He changed the ending three times until it was acceptable to all cast members.
Chuhal, presented by Advait Media Productions, will be staged at Sri Sathya Sai auditorium on January 15 at 4 pm and 6.30 pm. Contact: 9990915468.
Entry: Rs 500-Rs 1,500