After being a part of Jhumpa Lahiri’s book The Namesake and Mira Nair’s subsequent film, the work of Russian author Nikolai Gogol now finds itself at the heart of Hindi playwright Bhanu Bharti’s latest production, Doobi Ladki. It’s a story inspired by three of the legendary satirist’s famous short stories, The Overcoat, The Nose and A Night in May and will be staged at NSD from March 18-21.
The story is told from a mohalla (society) called Betab Nagar in Bihar. Doobi Ladki is a love story, set in part -fantasy, part-real interplay of human complexities. Bharti, known for his work inspired by Rajasthan tribal rituals and for studying traditional Japanese theatre in Tokyo, says he has always been attracted to Gogol’s work for his “poetic density”. Gogol’s writings acquired a special meaning for the director after his interactions with the Indian tribals and their culture.
“He mixes folk devices in a modern setting and brings a mix of real and surreal which is magical. In this production, I’ve combined three of his independent stories into one play.”
Interlaced with absurdity, tragedy and comedy, Doobi Ladki is the story of Gul and Nanhe where Nanhe avenges the death of Gul’s ancestor who comes back to haunt her. Their love is a reference to Gogol’s A Night In May, in which the boy exploited by his father is rescued by a ‘drowned maiden’. Rakhi Gound who plays Gul says “Doobi Ladki has a connection with Gul and that’s why she haunts her before Nanhe is able to rescue her.” There are other characters like the Nakkal Nawees, a copier clerk, whose story is inspired by the Overcoat, and The Nose finds itself used as a metaphor for vanity of the upper class.