For renowned theatre director Sunil Shanbag, whose earlier works include serious narratives such as Cotton 56 Polyester 84 (2007), S*x M*rality & Cens*rship (2010) and Dreams of Taleem (2010), directing the play Marriage-ology was a different experience altogether. “When one is dealing with larger plays, one is always conscious. There is always some pressure. With lighter plays like Marriage-ology, there’s greater freedom and informality. The ease involved in such plays is very charming,” says Shanbag, who has directed the play with Mumbai-based Sapan Saran. The play, presented by Tamaasha Theatre, Mumbai, was staged for the first time in Pune.
The cast of the play that opened in Mumbai in June this year, includes Shishir Sharma, Natasha Singh, Ankur Ratan, Palomi Ghosh, Vivek Date, Nisha Dhar, Shubrojyoti Barat, Sukant Goel, Gillian Pinto, Dilip Pande, Suvrat Joshi, Avantika Ganguly alongwith Shanbag and Saran. “So far, we’ve had eight performances in Mumbai; the response has been quite encouraging. Hence we decided to bring it to Pune,” says Shanbag.
The play features eight scenes —True Love, Mariam aur Laila, Nok Jhonk, Biwi Ka Khat Shauhar Ke Naam, The City Duet (Churchgate Couple and CCD), Fermina Daza and Open Couple—that explore the idea of marriage. While some scenes are original, some are borrowed from theatre and literary classics. For instance, the scene titled Mariam aur Laila, an adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, is a tale of two women trapped in a marriage in war-torn Afghanistan. Likewise, Fermina Daza, a scene based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, portrays love through the eyes of an old couple. Open Couple, which is an excerpt from Dario Fo’s play, features a middle-age couple exploring the idea of ‘open marriage’.
The play incorporates variety of ways of presenting the concept of matrimony. True Love, one of the scenes that forms this interesting collage of marriage, is a dramatisation of the popular song by Pink on the contradictions and ironies of love. Even the original works that contribute to the scenes of Marriage-ology, are equally fascinating. “For example, Nok Jhonk is based on the traditional form of Deccani Urdu performance poetry, wherein a husband and a wife get into a light verbal spat,” says Shangag. Nok Jhonk is written by Munnawar Ali and Himayatulla. Written by Shafiq-ur-Rahman, Biwi Ka Khat Shauhar ke Naam is another original work, in which a young wife’s letter to her husband reveals the innocence of a simple life coloured by love and longing.
Saran, who has penned Churchgate Couple scene under The City Duet, says, “When I started brainstorming for a story about city couples, one thing that struck me was space. In a huge city like Mumbai, space and privacy is an issue faced not only by couples but also individuals.” The scene is about a married couple, who stay in a tiny room among a joint family of eight members. As they do not get privacy, they spend their time on a bench near Churchgate station. The other scene under The City Duet is CCD, written by Vinod Ranganath, which deals with an elite couple from a metropolitan who, despite possessing all the material things, lead shallow lives.