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They Came to Baghdad

There’s more to Baghdad Wedding than band,baaja and baraat.

Written by Dipanita Nath |
March 2, 2012 3:44:22 am

The war is over in Iraq. Saddam Hussein is on the run. In London,three young Iraqis meet in college to discuss the changing situation in their country. What follows in their lives is a roller-coaster ride through cultural,political and sexual dilemmas ,“ and a wedding that goes horribly wrong”. Baghdad Wedding,a critically acclaimed play by a London-based Iraqi molecular biologist Hassan Abdulrazzak,comes to Delhi in an adaptation by Akvarious Productions of Mumbai. To be staged at the ongoing Mahindra Excellence in Theatre festival in Delhi on March 4,it is a strong contender in the Best Play category.

Abdulrazzak,(nominated for Best Original Script),used to visit Baghdad frequently between 1998 and 2005,where he found human lives that political turmoil had shaped in different ways. These experiences were translated into Baghdad Wedding,his first play,which opened at the Soho Theatre in London in 2007 — forcing the West to look at the political crisis in Iraq through the eyes of an Iraqi.

Director Akarsh Khurana,on the other hand,had come across the play more than three years ago and he “felt it was too complex to be staged immediately. I felt I wasn’t anywhere near ‘ready’ to direct it,even though I also knew that it was something I had to do someday,” he says.

The two-hour play travels between London and Baghdad,following doctor Salim,the beautiful Luma and the engineer Marwan. Does Salim,who had once defended the US invasion of Iraq,find his conviction shaken when a US missile attacks his wedding party,almost killing him? And how does Luma balance a life in a forced marriage with her carefree spirit? Faisal Rashid as Marwan and Karan Pandit (winner of the META Best Actor award for last year’s The Interview) as Salim have been nominated for Best Actor in Leading Role and best Supporting Actor categories respectively. “The actors have paid attention to details such as Iraqi mannerisms and the nitty-gritty of wedding processions. Some of the actors also speak in Iraqi accent,” he says.

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“I prepared for this play for three years,trying to find enough maturity inside me to be capable of taking it on. It has been one of the most challenging theatrical experiences of my life,” adds Khurana,who has been nominated for the Best Director award. Last year,Khurana’s previous play The Interview had also won the META Best Stage Design award,among others. For Baghdad Wedding,he has dressed the stage in vast swathes of jute,creating a rugged look of a terrain after conflict. “I wanted a fluid stage with many levels,where actors could create the atmosphere of London and different parts of Baghdad,” he says.

The play premiered in Mumbai last year and this is its first outing in Delhi. “What struck me most about Baghdad Wedding was the emotional code. I know a lot of people who leave India and then look back at the country differently. I have never been able to settle abroad myself. I am constantly told that the theatre infrastructure is better abroad but I would rather world with the limitations here,” he says. The lives of his three protagonists would have been very different if they had stayed back in London. “But all three return to Baghdad,and each has strong reasons to do so,” says Khurana.

The play will be staged at Kamani Auditorium on March 4

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