Dividing Lineshttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/dividing-lines/

Dividing Lines

Students of the English department at Nowrosjee Wadia College have adapted Mahesh Dattani’s play,Final Solutions,for the first time.

Students of the English department at Nowrosjee Wadia College have adapted Mahesh Dattani’s play,Final Solutions,for the first time.

In February,an idea floated by the head of the English department at Nowrosjee Wadia College to bridge the divide between classroom readings of plays and the real deal on stage,got the students and professor Yogendra Mane fired up. A month later,the students are now smoothing out last-minute glitches as they prepare for their maiden performance at Bharat Natya Mandir on March 20. Amateurs in the world of dramatics,the students will stage an adaptation of Mahesh Dattani’s Sahitya Akademi-winning play,Final Solutions.

Mane says that Jayant Salve,HoD of English department,had requested to conduct a theatre workshop and adapt a play for stage so as to give students a better idea of drama as a subject. “It sounded logical and practical,primarily because the students would be the biggest beneficiaries and more than learning in the classroom,they would get hands-on experience participating in one. The exercise was called ‘From text to real’,” says Mane.

The story is about a Hindu family that gives shelter to two Muslim boys during communal riots in their area. An overtly religious woman tries to instil the same rigid values in her daughter and a silent father battles the angst of a world gone wrong 40 years ago while housing the boys. There are bits of hatred that have been passed down from a generation which has seen the Partition.

Mane points out that he was very clear about the roles that the students would play. “Muslim students played the roles of Hindu characters and vice-versa. It was important because the play has many layers and students had to break out of their own comfort zones to understand that it was not just about communalism but about spreading the message of peace and harmony,” Mane says.

So,while working on the play,which addresses issues of communalism and attitudes prevalent among the Hindu and Muslim communities,the cast had to break free from their own prejudices. “Final Solutions is about carrying and passing down hatred across generations. For us as students,understanding the play,getting into the characters and dealing with a different time period was not easy,” says Priyanka Menon,who plays the role of Hardika,the grandmother.

Seconding the thought is Afsheen Jivani,who plays Hardika’s daughter-in-law Aruna,a rigid Hindu. “Playing Aruna made me look at the power that religion wields over people and how difficult it gets for them to understand that all religions are really one. She is a woman who never questioned her faith but her very foundation is shaken when her daughter Smita (played by Fiza Shaida) says that she is ‘stifled by the religious beliefs imposed on her’,” she says.

To keep the production cost real and with the given time and space constraints,the play was cut to half of its original length of three hours. “None of the students have ever performed on stage before,so obviously three hours is unrealistic. We rewrote it and reduced the length. We have retained it in English though,” says Mane.

The play also has three undergraduate students essaying key roles. D Smithraj,who plays the angry boy Javed on stage,laughs at being the youngest in the lot. A final-year student,he says,“There is so much to learn. We are first-timers but the workshop and the amount of knowledge we gained about ourselves off stage was phenomenal.”

Mane says they will be staging a repeat performance at Pune University. “We want to take it to other places too. The students are enthusiastic and we are hopeful,” he adds.

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The play will be staged at Bharat Natya Mandir on March 20,6 pm.