For a story written about a century ago, Munshi Premchand’s Beton Wali Widhwa could well have been a modern-day tale. The story of Phoolmati, a widow, who goes through a loss of status, power and respect after the death of her husband, Beton Wali Widhwa is a critique of the status of women in a patriarchal household, and their lack of access to property.
Dramatist Ravi Raj Sagar of the city-based amateur theatre artists’ group Dramatech, says he chose to dramatise Beton Wali Widhwa and Panch Parmeshwar from Munshi Premchand’s repertoire of 300 short stories because of the inherent social message in these works. Today, Ravi’s group will be staging Panch Parmeshwar, a story of two close friends and their tryst with justice, and on Sunday, Beton Wali Widhwa.
“Premchand has fascinated dramatists for many years now. But I picked these two stories because they are among his lesser known works,” says Ravi, adding that these set of performances, collectively titled ‘Marmik Premchand’, are being staged close to the legendary Hindi littérateur’s 136th birthday that comes up on July 31.
The director, who has been a corporate professional and done theatre on the side for over three decades, says that in the past, he has staged some of Premchand’s well-known stories such as Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Nimantran, and Do Bailon ki Katha, which were particularly targeted at families and children. “Those plays had elements of wit and satire. But these stories are more grim and touching. Panch Parmeshwar, for instance, is about concepts of justice, and fairplay; a precursor to our modern-day justice system of courts,” he says.
In the dramatisation of the stories, Ravi says that he has tried to retain the flavour and the “timeless” feel of the stories, right down to the dialogue. “What worked was that these stories had enough dialogue; too much narration, and the audience gets bored and one needs to innovate with the role of the sutradhar. In one of our earlier performances of Do Bailon ki Katha, we used children as narrators,” says Ravi.
Ravi says that he has always been fascinated by Premchand’s command over language, his choice of words, some of which were the writer’s own creations — for instance, the word “matek” or “consensus” had been devised by the writer.
Which is why the director says he has ensured that the actors speak only in Premchand’s language — a mix of Hindi, Awadhi and Urdu. “These plays are aimed at literature connoisseurs, but one hopes that they will appeal to a wider audience too,” says Ravi.
(The plays will be screened at 7 pm on July 16 & 17 at Shri Ram Centre, Mandi House. Tickets @bookmyshow.com)