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Exploring the many lives of Mirza Ghalib

Sayeed Alam’s play on Mirza Ghalib portrays the poet with all his flaws and strengths.

art and culture Updated: Apr 30, 2016 16:39 IST
Danish Raza
Syeed Alam
Ghalib, the play by Pierrot’s Troupe, portrays four phases of Mirza Ghalib’s life. (Pierrot’s Troupe)

This Sunday, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, will be face to face with Delhiites. It will be 78th time theatre enthusiasts in the city will peek into the life of the famous poet who has fans spanning generations. Ghalib, the play by Pierrot’s Troupe, portrays four phases of Mirza Ghalib’s life. Veteran actor Tom Alter plays the eldest part.

Sayeed Alam, playwright and director with Pierrot’s says, “The play is a portrayal of an average person who was an extraordinary poet. This Ghalib with all his flaws and strengths,” says Alam.

Sometime in 1994, Alam, former journalist and political science lecturer met Ashok Purang, founder of the theatre group Pierrot’s Troupe in Delhi. Alam, who hails from Basti, Uttar Pradesh, pursued higher studies from Aligarh Muslim University. He spent much of his time in the University watching plays. In his meeting with Purang, Alam spoke vehemently about his disenchantment with the theatre scene in the capital. Based on the theatre he watched in Aligarh, he told Purang that he found Delhi’s theatre scene quite dull. “I was mighty surprised to discover that 75 per cent of plays were adaptations of European plays. It spoke volumes about lack of creativity and originality. World- over, you find 75 per cent originals and rest adaptations,” says Alam.

Read: Kathak, poetry and couplets to remember Mirza Ghalib

What also appalled him was how theatre was considered a director’s medium.

Theatre personality M Sayeed Alam has carved a niche for himself by doing what he calls ‘bio- theatre’ or plays centred on lives of significant historic personalities such as Iqbal, Maulana Azad, Ghalib, etc. (Saumya Khandelwal/HT Photo)

Alam, whose association with theatre until then was only as audience, joined Pierrot’s Troupe, as a playwright. Incidentally, the first project he worked on was Hindi and Urdu adaptation of Italian author and journalist Oriana Fallaci’s novel Letter to a Child Never Born. “In spite of my grouse, Ashok sir said first play had to be an adaptation,” recalls Alam.

Read: Film, couplets to pay tribute to Mirza Ghalib

In 1997, he directed Cut, Cut, Cut – a funny portrayal of backstage of a stage performance.

He has carved a niche for himself by doing what he calls ‘bio- theatre’ or plays centred on lives of significant historic personalities such as Iqbal, Maulana Azad, Ghalib, Shahjahan and Mumtaz. Alam says he had a fascination for biographies from student days.