Dressed in a blue shirt and beige trousers,Mohan Maharishi is sitting on a chair placed right in front of Studio number 5 at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII),so that he can scrutinise the actors,props and performance. Carrying a wooden plank,two students walk up to him and suggest that it be used as a blackboard required for the play. The perfectionist that he is,Maharishis go-ahead comes only after the students shift the planks position several times on the stand,till it is placed at a height that,he feels,is just right. One can clearly see that there is no room for mediocrity in this huge hall,where a number of young actors from FTIIs acting department have come together to rehearse for their upcoming play,Deevar Mein Ek Khidki Rehti Thi (A window lived in a wall) which will be staged at the institute on September 24 and 25,7 pm onwards.
If one were to go by Aristotles famous statement,there is no drama without conflict,Maharishis play may not fit into the genre of drama. Yet,it has not only commanded rave reviews since its maiden show in 2001,presented by National School of Drama Repertory Company,but also remains one of Maharishis most acclaimed productions,with multiple shows across the country. It is a plain story with no conflicts. It revolves around a newly wedded schoolteacher called Raghuvar Prasad,who falls in love with his wife,Sonasi, says Maharishi.
However,he admits that despite the simplicity of the story,every time he narrates the play to a new bunch of actors,their first reaction is not so good. Every actor is looking for concrete characters to build upon. But this play doesnt have such well-defined characters, says the veteran playwright and former director of National School of Drama (NSD). The Sangeet Natak Akademi Award-winner is known for plays such as Raja Ki Rasoi,Dear Bapu,Vidyottama,Natak Ke Beech,Main Istanbul Hoon and Einstein.
Deevar Mein Ek Khidki Rehti Thi,he says,is an abstraction of Vinod Kumar Shuklas novel by the same name,which won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1999. The novel was Shuklas but the play is mine. Even the former agrees. To put it in a drama format,I had to make a few changes. Yet,the spirit of the novel and its purity remains intact. Even the dialogues havent been changed, he says. Throwing light on the title of the play,Maharishi says that while the wall is opaque and one cant see through it,one small window on the wall can fire the imagination.
Comprising elements of magic realism,which were quite prominent in Shuklas works as well,the 100-minute play challenges concrete ideas of portrayal and constantly travels between dream and realism. Many times,even the audience wonders whether what is being shown on stage is reality or is it going on in the mind of characters. As Raghuvar and Sonasis love progresses,the society begins to help them. In reality,they are not helping two individuals but are supporting the idea of the complete meeting of two souls and continuity of life in the universe, says Maharishi.
Over a month ago,the Delhi-based playwright came to Pune at the invitation of Meeta Vasisht,HoD of acting department at FTII. Since then,he has been busy preparing the students for the performance. We wanted to give the students an opportunity to work under someone who could act as a teacher-cum-director and go through the whole process of learning that will enable them to understand the text in a larger way. When the students learn from a person like him,who has decades of rich theatrical experience and knowledge,it definitely gives them a certain depth and the end product is always good, says Vasisht.
The play will be staged at FTII on September 24 and 25,7pm onwards