For 40 years, Santwana Nigam brought stories from across India into Hindi literature. She translated Mahasweta Devi’s Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, Taslima Nasreen’s Nishidh, Ramu Ramanathan’s Comrade Kumbhakarna and Manoj Mitra’s Bagia Bancharam Ki, among others. Her original works ranged from short stories such as Bachhe, published in magazines such as Dharmyug, Sarika, Kadambini and Sahitya Akademi journals, as well as poems on gender equality, female foeticide, and the disappearance of letter writing and its connect with our memories.
Nigam passed away in February and a play, titled Sahej Ka Sargam, which was staged at Alliance Francaise on June 3, paid tribute to her by staging four stories she had written. It was presented by Nepathya Foundation. The stories Pehali Paudi, Bas Sirf Isliye, Pankh and Saath are about the dynamics of human relations, particularly man-woman relationships, from a feminine perspective. “I had read the stories before these were sent for publication. My reaction to them is not substantially different from my initial one. Except that now that she is gone, the stories have become more poignant,” says Rajinder Nath, Nigam’s partner and director of the play.
Nath, a National Award-winner and veteran of productions such as Vijay Tendulkar’s Anji, Ghashiram Kotwal and Sakharam Binder and Asghar Wajahat’s Jis Lahore Nai Dekhya O Janmyai Nai, brought his trademark minimalism to Sahej Ka Sargam. There were no sets and even the costumes, stage, light and sound designs were pared down. “I have not even adapted the stories. These are being staged as these are written except there are some very minor changes to make them stage worthy,” he adds.
Most of the cast comprises names that Nath has worked with for a long time, such as Mala Kumar, Shipra Das, KK Chandan, Rekha Johri and Sanjeev Johri. “I know their potential. But in theatre the final word is said only after the performance,” he added.