Front seat: Life in the sub-text
If you go by the views of famous Indian playwright, Javed Siddiqui, then the recipe for an ideal marital relationship is actually post-divorce. And on watching his play, Salgirah, (running at the Arts Council from Dec 15-23) one realises how meteoric a pace it comes through to make the audience think, maybe he’s right.
For if a man and wife are considered two wheels of a vehicle, why shouldn’t they be equal partners in a marital relationship rather than one yielding to the whims of the other? If marriages give more pain than happiness, is the institution becoming redundant?
The ongoing Napa plays, Salgirah by Javed Siddiqui and Sham Bhi Thi Dhuaan Dhuaan by Rafi Anjum, portray stories of a man and wife who divorce each other after 15 years of marriage; and a man and a woman who meet at a strange juncture in life to realise that they can put up with each other and live together, respectively.
Salgirah is a wonderful manifestation of a nuptial relationship that does not find rapprochement until it is given space. The cogent text mostly speaks to the audience through its sub-text which, one reckons, we all have faced as husbands and wives at some point in time: a sense of suffocation from an endless bout of expectations from each other.
Javed Siddiqui argues all the way that it’s the quality of a relationship that matters and not the number of years put into it.
Sameer (Rahat Kazmi) tries to seek companionship in ‘alternate’ love, but that does not compensate for his emotional need.
Sonali (Nyla Jafri) desperately needs a sense of security from a sought after writer-husband (Rahat Kazmi) but feels betrayed all the way. She seeks psychiatric help and drowns in drinking but realises that the institution of marriage does not procure the sense of security that she needs. Their children (Sahil and Tina) however, will throw them back together again and again.
The following play after a short interval, Shaam Bhi Thi Dhuaan Duaan, is translated into Urdu by Rafi Anjum which emphasises that love is the spice that adds years to life. Oma Roy (Nyla Jafri) seeks medical help from a dedicated but boring Dr Parthosaniyal (Rahat Kazmi), and rejects the rigid rules of the sanatorium she is staying in. The disciplinary doctor complains to her about her foul actions but finds her vivaciousness infectious.
Despite a clash of personalities, they seem to connect. Ultimately they strike a chord which leads them to understand each other’s feeling for each other.
It goes without saying that Zia Mohyeuddin has executed both plays with supreme command. At the preview stage, he could be seen supervising every minute detail. But more important is the two-people cast — Rahat Kazmi and Nyla Jafri — who have gotten into the skin of the characters in both plays, and do full justice to the demands of their respective roles. While none of the actors outperform each other, Nyla Jafri marvelously delivers the role of a wounded woman looking for appeasement in Salgirah, while Rahat Kazmi acts the role of an insipid doctor very well until he falls for life in Shaam Bhi Thi Dhuaan Dhuaan.
Anjum Ayaz’s hard work on the backdrop and lights remains commendable. Audiences will enjoy the assortment of plays after Napa’s long absence from the Repertory Theatre platform.