Every week for the past five years, city playwright Mujeeb Khan has sat down religiously with a Munshi Premchand story, and adapted it into a play.
Actors at his Ideal Drama and Entertainment Academy (IDEA) spend five days rehearsing the play, stage it on a Friday, and by Saturday, they move on to the next play in the series.
Khan takes a break from this weekly cycle just once a year, to organise a Premchand theatre festival involving a series of plays around the Hindi author’s birthday on July 31.
This year’s Prem Utsav is a 10-day celebration from August 1 to 10 at Vile Parle’s Sathaye College auditorium, where IDEA has staged all its Premchand plays for free.
The festival will include 53 plays, most of them written in the last year and some popular favourites such as Eid Gaha and Gareeb ki Haaye.
“I see myself as an archaeological department in theatre, responsible for preserving the literature of fading greats,” said Khan (50), who describes Premchand as the most original and pious of Hindi writers. He has already adapted 238 of Premchand’s 283 stories, and hopes to complete the entire collection before next year’s festival.
“Premchand’s stories were about strengthening social and family relationships, making him particularly important for a generation that is losing touch with its roots.”
Most of Khan’s actors come from a generation of English speakers, and as a director he is strict about flawless pronunciation in Hindi and Urdu. “My effort is to preserve the languages, so I refuse to simplify the vocabulary when I adapt a play,” he said. Khan has written more than a 100 plays in Hindi and Urdu and also directs street plays on social issues.
“He has the courage to motivate Hindi literature despite coming from an Urdu background,” said Hirdesh Kamble, a filmmaker and an ardent Mujeeb Khan fan who has seen over 35 Premchand plays at Sathaye College.