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On Marx’s 201st birthday, a play offers a peek into his personal life

Marx and Mrs draws on private letters and essays to examine the most epochal moments in the lives of Marx and his wife.

mumbai Updated: May 02, 2019 19:37 IST
Vanessa Viegas
Vanessa Viegas
Hindustan Times
Karl Marx,Jenny von Westphalen,Marx and Mrs
Satchit Puranik and Michaela Talwar will play Karl Marx and his wife Jenny Von Westphalen in the play that debuts in Mumbai.
MARX & MRS
  • When: May 5 at the NCPA, Nariman Point; and May 12 at G5A, Mahalaxmi
  • Ticket prices start at Rs 300; tickets are available online

This Sunday, two actors will try to recreate what life between the German philosopher and his wife, Jenny von Westphalen, was like and what that means for viewers today.

In Marx and Mrs, a play that debuts at the NCPA on Sunday, Satchit Puranik, 37 and Michaela Talwar, 31, in addition to directing the show, play the iconic couple, with a touch of pathos and humour. They draw on private letters, speeches and essays; travels through India, London and Germany; and cover war and revolutions as much as births, deaths, love and tragedy.

Puranik and Talwar juxtapose these milestones with contemporary realities: labour atrocities, women’s rights and social inequality, much of it prophesied by Marx well over a century ago. “We chose parts of their lives that would be relevant to our time,” says Puranik. “We want to connect Marx to India and the world at large.”

They also want viewers to understand Marx as more than the most hated figure in Capitalism. Marx and Mrs is a look at the man through the eyes of his wife, comrade and unrelenting lover. “We’ve touched upon everything that makes him human, from his infidelity to his lisp and even the deaths of their four children,” says Talwar. “In the end, they were a married couple who couldn’t decide what food to bring to their table or how to raise their kids or deal with their daughter’s boyfriend.”

The research yielded plenty of surprises. The actors learned that “in private conversations, he carried his heart on his sleeve,” says Puranik. It has helped that Talwar is German. “When I started researching Jenny, a theatre critic and an avid letter writer, her works were either poorly translated or not translated at all,” she says. “To be able to read the German texts gave me a huge insight into her personality. She was very intellectual and well-read and despite being confined to the house due to their financial circumstances, she was very political and very engaged.”

The play is largely in English, with smatterings of German, French and Hindi, depending on where the scene is set. The piece has been produced by Karan Talwar of Harkat Studios.

First Published: May 02, 2019 19:37 IST