The man who redefined the role of the lyricist in the Indian music industry meets the man who took literally took theatre apart — that too on stage. Sahir: His Life and Love, a play based on the life of the great poet-lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi, comes to Delhi in a Brechtian avatar. Director Pramila Le Hunte, who has been directing plays in London for the past thirty years, says, “Bertolt Brecht and Sahir have so much in common — one was a radical Marxist and the other looked at the oppression of the poor.”
It was her conversations with Delhiwaalas, says Le Hunte, that revealed that the Capital was not too familiar with Brecht’s revolutionary Marxist theatre. And so, she decided that her first play in the city would be an introduction to his radical style.
With its use of Brecht’s famous devices of the ‘alienation effect’ — through which the audience doesn’t identify with the characters but question them instead — and ‘fragmentation of a linear, chronological narrative, Le Hunte’s script is experimental and engrossing. She says, “The audience must come and sit up, enjoy themselves, of course, but also use their heads. It’s a fast play, almost a T20 play.”
While the play is not strictly a biography, it does look at Sahir as a toddler, his unfinished love life and his four girlfriends. “He died a bachelor yet he wrote the most amazing love poetry. He once said, ‘I can write about love but I can’t make it happen’,” explains Le Hunte.
Adding to the genius of Brecht and the drama of Sahir’s life is Le Hunt’s innovation of ‘song-bytes’ — the play accesses Sahir through his poetry and words. “Over 30 song bytes have been used. His words were an integral part of him. He once had a run-in with Mohd Rafi because he believed that lyricists were as important as the directors. The fact that lyricists are now mentioned with the main credits is thanks to him.”
Produced by Arts, the play is on at L’Alliance Francaise, 72, Lodhi Estate, on November 14 and 15, 4 pm and 7 pm. Tickets available at the venue