Says writer-director Gulzar, who has dramatised a play based on an unnoticed episode from the Mahabharata. Gulzar is known for his poetic lyrics, scripts and films. The latest example of this octogenarian stalwart of Indian culture’s talent is his Hindi play, Yudhishtar Aur Draupadi, which is directed by Salim Arif, and will premiere today as part of the ongoing Centrestage Theatre Festival at the NCPA.
The play is based on an episode from the Mahabharata, which gives audiences a new perspective to the uneasy relationship between Yudhishtar and Draupadi. In a chat, Gulzar speaks about the piece, his current projects and more.
What made you switch from films and focus entirely on theatre?
Theatre is a recent passion. It allows direct contact with the audience. It’s a field where shows are counted and they still go on, unlike movies, which make a silver or a golden jubilee and then are forgotten. This is what attracted me towards this art form.
Why did you take up Yudhishtar Aur Draupadi?
Salim Arif used to be my assistant director, so I thought of reversing the roles this time (laughs). Actually, I came across a book by Pavan Varma, which was a very unusual part from the Mahabharata. It was written in a sonnet form; I added some folklore and chorus. Salim has taken a very different approach in the play.
For how long have you been associated with theatre?
It’s been about 15 years now. I have made a play called Khauf, with Atul Kulkarni. There’s another one called Lakeerein that is based on 60 years after the partition. Athanniyan is a play on 26/11 and how an attack on the Taj affected a footpath dweller as well as a cop. I have also made a couple of plays for children.
Why did you stop directing and writing scripts for films?
I left films because I think I had a lot more to do and share. I had to enter into theatre and write books. I also had a lot to read. A film restricts you. I wanted to draw a line and switch over. But to earn money, I still write songs. One cannot earn money by writing books.
Are you planning to take up any films in the future?
I am not sure. Films have become secondary for me. Besides writing, I’m also working with an NGO called Koshish, for deaf and mute kids. A few of those kids, who were born deaf, can hear now. After doing all this, I think my life is worth it.
What are the current projects you’re working on?
I have taken up a book with Harper Collins, which is called A Poem A Day. It will have 365 poems in 28 different languages. I am also working on my book called Pluto, which will release next year. It’s a compilation of poems in Urdu and Hindustani.
What do you think about the present condition of literature?
Our country is full of talent and regional works are sparkling the most. Most of it is coming from the north-east. The present generation is very creative and should channel their talent correctly. They should write a lot and should try to do original work.