THE century-old novel Devdas caught the fancy of director Saif Hyder Hasan a couple of years ago, when a friend of his put together a stage production, based on the novel, in Sindhi. Unfortunately, they could manage to hold only one show of the play. When Hasan revisited the play for an ambitious theatrical experience, he remained faithful to the original story, by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.
However, Hasan chose to introduce a twist and narrate the story from Chandramukhi’s point of view. Hasan recalls, “The first question I asked myself before I began scripting was, ‘What happens to the characters of Paro and Chandramukhi after Devdas’s death?’ That is what my first scene is.”
In spite of not being a heroic character, there is something about the character Devdas that appeals to audiences. Hasan believes it is his sensitive nature and the story of unfulfilled love that draw people to the character and story. “Most people have experienced unfulfilled love in their lives. Devdas’s character is portrayed as someone being unable to let go. This strikes a chord with the audience. The drama in the story too is enthralling,” says Hasan. The play will premiere on November 16 at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA, at 7:30pm. Shows will continue till November 25.
Set in Bengal in the early 20th century, Devdas is played by Gaurav Chopra who believes the biggest challenge for the cast and crew has been to recreate that period. “The play is the director’s tribute to the original classic. This leaves a very little margin for error and we have worked very hard over the past couple of months to make sure the audience enjoys the magic we are trying to create on stage,” says the actor, taking a break from hectic rehearsals going on at a studio in Bhandup.
Sukhada Khandkekar, who plays Paro, has been one of the earliest actors to be cast. “I have been associated with the play for a year. However, we started rehearsals around two-and-a-half months ago,” she said. One of the things in the play that Khandkekar enjoys the most is dancing. “Being a Kathak dancer, I really enjoy the dance sequences in the play. Whenever our choreographers, Shampa Gopikrishna and Bertwin D’Souza, hold rehearsals, I’m always so thrilled,” she adds. Manjari Phadnis, who plays Chandramukhi, says, “The play shows how Chandramukhi’s life changes after the death of Devdas. Saif sir has spent time on every single detail of my character.” Phadnis believes that this adaptation of the novel gives a kind of closure to all of the characters.
So far, there have been about 15 cinematic versions of Devdas in various Indian languages, one of the most popular being Sanjay Leela Bhansali-directed movie featuring Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the lead in 2002.
Speaking of Bhansali’s film, Hasan says, “I have seen his film many times. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is like a guru to me. I take a lot of inspiration from the movie as he is a filmmaker with a distinct style. The way he uses pain as a metaphor and how he uses background music to transition scenes is unique.”