Four years ago,Om Bhutkar,now 20,happened to listen to some ghazals. It felt like a puzzle,which slowly unraveled itself, he says of the experience. He admits that he didn’t understand the words too well then,so the purchase of an Urdu dictionary came next. The sher now made more sense; Main jannat mein chala gaya, he gushes now. Most of the sher mentioned in the dictionary were by Mirza Ghalib,which opened up another door of discovery for Bhutkar. He read up Diwan-e-Ghalib next,all the while never thinking of making a play. But that’s how the story of Mi Ghalib begins. The play came about because we wanted to participate in the Thespo theatre festival at Mumbai. It is not a biography of Ghalib,the focus of the story is on his heart,on his thoughts. Because to understand a poet,one needs to understand his poetry, Bhutkar says. Mi Ghalib will be showcased at Nehru Memorial Hall,Camp,on February 25.
The 100-minute play flits between Hindi,Marathi and Urdu,and presents a format where Ghalib from the 18 th century meets a young writer from the 21 st century. The two strains of stories gel together to form one narrative,though the garb and the language of the characters differ. The young writer interprets Ghalib’s poetry,about how it is relevant and fresh even today, says Soumitra Gapchup,actor and production manager. The writing of the play too was split into two processes. The earlier script was only about Ghalib. But then a suggestion was made that making a period play would push the audience a bit farther away. So we decided to add a contemporary bit,where the experiences would intersect, continues Bhutkar.
To keep the play comprehensible ,the Ghalib in the play speaks colloquial Hindi,with even English words invading his conversations. Even if he is dressed like how Ghalib did,he is closer to our times. In that sense it is a Ghalib that is different from what,say,Naseeruddin Shah has played, says Gapchup. People usually think that Ghalib’s poetry is difficult,but I have come to realise that it is so simple and relevant,and how he never tries to give solutions to the problems he speaks about.
The play has been produced by city-based theatre group Natak Company,and will feature nine actors. Bhutkar has tried to retain the lyrical quality of the conversations of Ghalib’s era,and admits to even being influenced by singers Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s style. It is impossible to attach one meaning to Ghalib’s poetry; there is so much space,so much abstraction there, he says.
(The play begins at 9.30pm at Nehru Memorial Hall,Camp,
on February 25)