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It appears we have taken no lessons from history, says playwright-director Arvind Gaur

Five stories by Bhisham Sahni come alive in one play to be staged by Asmita Theatre Group this weekend

art and culture Updated: Jan 13, 2018 08:53 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Bhisham Sahni,Arvind Gaur,Asmita Theatre Group
A scene from the play Amritsar Aa Gaya.(Photo courtesy Asmita Theatre Group)

On Sunday, Asmita Theatre Group will present, Amritsar Aa Gaya, based on a selection of short stories by acclaimed Hindi writer Bhisham Sahni (photo below right). Emotions, conflicts and the struggle for survival form the backdrop of the play set during Partition. Arvind Gaur, playwright, director and founder of Asmita Theatre Group, talks about the play and his love for Sahni’s works.

Is the play based on the short story Amritsar Aa Gaya by Bhisham Sahni?

Yes and no. The play is inspired by five stories written by Sahni. Amritsar Aa Gaya is one of these stories. The others are Pali, Nimit, Jhutputa and Chief Ki Daawat.

Pali is about a Hindu boy who is found and raised by a Muslim family during Partition. When his biological family takes him with them, they discover that he follows rituals of the Muslim community. It is an identity crisis. Jhutputa is set in the 1984 riots in Delhi after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Chief Ki Dawat is a story from post-Partition India. Through these stories, we want to convey that Partition is not only physical. It encompasses division of identities, thoughts and ideologies. How relationships evolve in difficult times is the thread that runs through these stories.

Why did you combine five stories rather than adapt one?

There were two reasons. One, the play based on the story Amritsar Aa Gaya is of only 20 minutes duration. We wanted a longer time span. Secondly, we thought it would be better to take situations, characters and drama from more stories and develop something new. The end result is very satisfying.

Writer Bhisham Sahni. ( HT File Photo )
Asmita’s first production Hanoosh was also based on Sahni’s work. You have also adapted his book Mera Rang De Basanti Chola. Why this fascination with him?

Sahni is brilliant when it comes to gauging human emotions, particularly in a conflict situation and weaving it with the larger scenario of the country. No one has captured people’s internal conflicts better than him. He mastered the art of putting people right in the middle of a conflict and then telling the story through them.

Look at Tamas. Show me one book that can match it in terms of the reaction it evokes in readers. It’s a true masterpiece.

How relevant is Sahni’s work today?

It was never more relevant. Look at our surroundings. Every year we are turning more intolerant towards different religions and castes. These are dangerous times. It appears that we have taken no lessons from history.

First Published: Jan 12, 2018 22:04 IST