THIS is a drama that has emerged out of the desire to have conversations with lost stories,songs from the past,dynamics of love,and feelings of loss and forgiveness. The Last Tale,Neelam Man Singh Chowdhrys new play,does not come from a script or text,and thats why the director says its been a challenging journey. To be staged in Chandigarh for the first time this week (it was staged at Bharat Rang Mahotsav in Delhi earlier this year),Chowdhry is busy with last-minute touches and letting her lead actors Vansh Bhardwaj and Gick Grewal explore new grounds during rehearsals at her studio.
The Last Tale is a production that has been with her for some time,and came together during workshops and improvisations set around Punjabi love stories,traditional songs of mourning,loss and forgiveness,and Shakespearean tragedies. The narrative has been done by poet and author Surjit Pattar,who has brought together many seen and unseen layers.
A series of ideas,however,that emerge from improvisations do not simply make a play,reflects Chowdhry. They create a potentiality that challenges directors,writers and actors to make something communicable and real. But with all potentialities struggling to actualize,there are elements that are buried; treasures we hope that the audience will discover, explains the director. A mixture of sensations,situations and improvisations structured as narrative is how Chowdhry sums up her new production.
The play revolves around a woman named Bihaag,who has been murdered by her husband Udav three days after their marriage. After death,they re-emerge and speak as the dead,of things that they could not when alive. In this space between memory and mourning,they begin to find their voices and tell their stories. Bihaag,born into a privileged family,is trained in the customs that sustain her social class. Udav,the orphaned son of a blacksmith,on the other hand,grows up as a master of storytelling and subterfuge. The Last Tale opens with the suicide of Udav,right after he kills his wife.
But,once death is out of the way,what does the audience look forward to? A series of flashbacks rerun on state,yet this is no love story as the first scene depicts. The play,in association with People For Animals,will be staged on May 2 by the Samarpan Foundation,and at Rock Gardens Phase One amphitheatre on May 1 to 5 at 7.30 pm.