Ahmedabad-based actor-director Abhinay Banker‘s new play Main Tenu Phir Milangi chronicles the live-in relationship between award-winning writer Amrita Pritam and renowned painter Imroz.
Amrita Pritam,the first prominent Punjabi poetess,is known for depicting the strength of women through her works. While a lot has been said and written about her literary skills,very little is known about her personal life. Few people are aware that she was married at the age of 16 to Pritam Singh and that is how she came to be known as Amrita Pritam. Similarly,she had an affair spanning 14 years with lyricist and poet Sahir Ludhianvi that was later followed by her live-in relationship with renowned writer and artist Imroz.
Ahmedabad-based actor Abhinay Banker of Acktors Theatre company decided to portray Imrozs and Amritas relationship in his new play Main Tenu Phir Milangi. He got interested in the writers life after reading her biography. Banker says,I was intrigued by Amritas life and later read another book written by Uma Trilok that chronicles the relationship and personal conversations between the poetess and Imroz. While Amrita shared a passive romance with Ludhianvi as he was quite shy and reticent,she had a different relationship with Imroz as he was gregarious and humorous.
Banker recounts that Amrita,who wrote novels and poems pressing for the need for emancipation of women,led a cagey life when she got married. He says,Since she tied the knot when she was just 16,she never got a chance to interact with people of her own age. But it was the common love for poetry and writing that brought Amrita and Ludhianvi together. She even penned her Jnanpith-winning Hindi novel Aakhri Khat for him.
But what set Amrita apart from others was the fact that she decided to live life on her own terms and even attributed her relationship with Imroz to Ludhianvi. Banker reveals that the writer got introduced to Imroz by her common friends after she asked them to suggest a painter who could design the cover of Aakhri Khat. The chance meeting eventually resulted into a 45-year long relationship between the duo.
Though Banker,who has scripted,directed and even essays the role of Imroz in the play,was keen to stage this story,he knew it would be an uphill task. He started off by reading up on Amritas life and then contacting Imroz. He confesses that he was quite bemused by the painters candour and got valuable inputs from him. The actor-director says,Initially Imroz was apprehensive as he felt that his love story with Amrita was quite simple. In fact,he asked me ,Films and plays thrive on a climax. But in reality,though we face a lot of ups and downs,our life never reaches a crescendo. So how will your play reach a high-point?
But Banker admits that it was Imrozs and Amritas approach to their relationship that inspired him to stage the production. He says,The duo lived together for over four decades and was quite open about their relationship. That was a bold move on their part as even today,though live-in relationship is common,few people proclaim it. Amrita and Imroz never thought of marriage and he accepted her wholeheartedly along with her two sons. They lived life on their own terms and did not succumb to societal pressure.
Banker even reveals that he visited Amritas house and found that Imroz and she stayed in separate rooms and visited each other only when they had to show each other their works of art. After penning the script,he sent several drafts to Imroz,who also lent his paintings to Banker for the play.
The actor-director roped in Ahmedabad-based painter Megha Vyas for the role of Amrita after he saw her exhibition. He says,Megha writes poems and is quite an emotional person like Amrita. She even essayed her role in another play. After seeing it,I was convinced that she fit the bill perfectly. During research,I came across Amritas pictures in her younger days and realised that there was a striking similarity between Megha and her.
Vyas has also contributed to the plays setup by contributing some of her paintings. Main Tenu Phir Milangi,which features poetry and soul-stirring conversations in Hindi and Urdu,opened in Ahmedabad in February this year and has won rave reviews.
Main Tenu Phir Milangi will premiere at Mumbais National Centre For Performing Arts on April 16.