ITPA revives one of its classic plays, Ek Mamuli Aadmi, to celebrate its 75th year
Indian People’s Theatre Association is set to revive its play, Ek Mamuli Aadmi, based on Japanese film-maker Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 classic, Ikiru, after 25 years.
The Indian People Theatre Association, popularly known as IPTA, which was founded by theatre stalwarts such as KA Abbas, Prithviraj Kapoor, Anil D’Silva and Ali Sardar Jafri, among others during the Quit India movement (1942) has entered its 75th year.
As part of this celebration, the group is set to revive one of its classic productions, Ek Mamuli Aadmi, which was last performed in 1992. The play has been written by Hindi writer Ashok Lal and directed by Raman Kumar, who has helmed films such as Saath Saath (1982) and the television series, Tara. “The play highlights different aspects of our society that exist even today such as the consumerist culture, superficial relationships, loneliness in old age and existential angst,” says the director.
Interestingly, Ek Mamuli Aadmi was inspired by Japanese film-maker Akira Kurosawa’s acclaimed film Ikiru, which is based on the life o an ageing clerk Kanji Watanabe. Due to its socially relevant themes, the film has inspired several television and theatre adaptations. In its Indian stage adaptation, the protagonist has been named Ishwar Chand Awasthi and is essayed by veteran actor Aanjjan Srivastav. Srivastav is remembered for portraying the role of the middle-class man, Wagle, in RK Laxman’s Wagle Ki Duniya. Srivastav is also the vice-president of IPTA.
A common man’s tale
Similar to the film, the play tells the story of a man who finds out that he has limited time to live as he contracts a terminal disease. The protagonist on retirement realises he has led a meaningless life and searches for bonds of closeness in his family members, but fails to find happiness. Finally, in a moment of enlightenment, he decides to build a playground; and by dedicating his remaining days to this cause, he is able to find peace.
Talking about the resemblance between the play and the film, Kumar says, “As far as the feel of the subject and the character is concerned, we have stayed true to the film. But the play has a different approach, the circumstances are different and the element of humour is also different. What we’ve taken from the film is its soul. We’ve also stayed honest and have given credit to the original film.”
Close to the original
Ek Mamuli Aadmi switches between the story of Ishwar Chand and his office colleagues who are giving an account of the time they’ve spent with the old man in a parallel story line. When asked about the new elements of the show, Kumar reveals, “We have changed the set, lighting and the language. The language has evolved in the past 20 years, so we had to update that. Earlier there was only one set. Now we have five sets — a house, restaurant, hospital, office space and road.”
The theatre circuit is not new to Ek Mamuli Aadmi, and many groups have staged their version of the script. But Kumar says IPTA’s rendition of the play is the most authentic. “IPTA is not in the business of theatre, it is in the service of theatre. We are not performing for commercial reasons but for a creative need. So, we have remained very close to the script and have made changes, which are needed to make it match with the current generation. We are honest to the script, soul of the character and soul of the content,” exclaims the director.
Addressing an issue
Even though the play has been performed by several theatre groups over the years, its significance only seems to have become greater with the passage of time. The core theme of the play — a need for public spaces, especially in metropolitan cities, seems to be a growing problem.
“The play deals with the fight of an ordinary man to build a playground. This fight is more apt now. The problem of open space and every citizen’s fight to retain common spaces still exists. In fact, the common man has become more aware of the issues of space and how public spaces are being taken away by corporations,” says Kumar, while talking about the relevance of Ek Mamuli Aadmi. The actor adds, “When any city is planned, public facilities are always allotted, but later on these spaces vanish. For example, The Juhu Citizens group in Mumbai have fought for the Kishore Kumar Park and Kaifi Azmi Park. Those spaces were actually allotted to be parks but suddenly it was given away to a private body. The group protested for a long time until the space was freed. Even our PM echoes this thought and has said, ‘pehle sauchlaya fir devalaya’ (First build toilets then build temples).”
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