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Theatre director Salim Ghouse is bringing Kafka to the stage

Salim Ghouse’s latest theatre production explores the absurdism in today’s world through an adaptation of the Czech writer’s short stories.

art and culture Updated: Sep 05, 2016 08:04 IST
Kaushani Banerjee
Franz Kafka

Salim Ghouse’s latest theatre production explores the absurdism in today’s world through an adaptation of the Czech writer’s short stories.

The modernity of Czech author Franz Kafka’s writing has fascinated generations. Now, a city-based theatre group, The Phoenix Players, is set to premiere a play, Upsidedownside, which is based on Kafka’s selected works, including short stories such as Investigations Of A Dog and A Report To An Academy, and the novella The Metamorphosis. The shows will be staged on September 8 and 9 at Prithvi Theatre, Juhu. The play has been directed by theatre veteran Salim Ghouse.

When asked why he decided to adapt Kafka’s works, Ghouse says, “I grew up reading Kafka. The kind of alienation he talks about in his stories is interesting, and has been an essential part of our growth. Kafka was, in a way, the precursor to the Theatre of the Absurd, which came about after World War II — when everybody thought humanity had gone for a toss. Kafka wrote about man’s disenchantment with life, and that is the focal point of our play.”

Watch an excerpt of Salim Ghouse’s earlier work:

TROUBADOUR : A Collage on Film from The Phoenix Players on Vimeo.

The 70-minute act features theatre actors Aaryama Salim and KC Shankar. Talking about how his association with the writer began, Ghouse reminisces, “In 2007, when I first performed at the Prague Fringe Festival, I visited the Franz Kafka Museum, in Prague (Czech Republic). I was standing there, and reading a little newspaper clipping. Kafka’s parents had written to the editor of a paper that their son had passed away. He died very young, just like American writer Edgar Allan Poe. The day he passed away was June 3. I was standing in the museum on that same date. That’s when I decided to delve deeper into his works.”

Ghouse claims that the play aims to define the word Kafkaesque in the present-day context. “The easiest explanation of the word Kafkaesque is this: the world out of sync. Few people actually read or think. They are not open to any point of view. Anybody who has a different point of view is looked down upon, and is called offensive names. A man gets lynched by a mob in the Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh. The cops, instead of trying to find out who killed the man, try to look for what meat was in his house. Incidents like these are beyond Kafkaesque. Everything is upside down, and no one is aware of it,” he says.

An excerpt from Ghouse’s play Shakespearewallah:

SHAKESPEAREWALLAH from The Phoenix Players on Vimeo.

Ghouse pairs Kafka’s absurdism and existentialism with dark humour, and with a keen insight into modern society. Without giving away anything from the plot, he adds, “The play will follow the journey of Gregor Samsa, the protagonist in The Metamorphosis, who wakes up to discover that he has transformed into a giant insect, and much more. Humour is a rarity today. But it is also the acme of intelligence. So, there’s a lot of black humour with a subtle message for the audience.”