Mumbai Mirror, Friday, July 13, 2007
“The Past Hurrah”
IPTA’s new play Hum Deewane, Hum Parwaane is a true relic of the past, in its theme, costumes, sets and even the melodramatic style of acting
There is nothing new about IPTA’s ‘new’ play. Ages ago some of the brightest young minds of that era with radical ideology on their side fashioned a new idiom of Hindi experimental theatre for social change. It is commendable that years later they remain committed to their cause despite pressing commercial constraints but it is hard to ignore the need for revaluation and reinvention. India’s tryst with destiny and debacle with socialism is now a thing of the past. It stands poised to soar as an economic giant wondering what to do with its starving masses out to sully its new hip image. Indian art, cinema and writing too are focused on confirming to “world” standards. At such a time, this play is a true relic of the past. The sets, the lighting, the costumes, the direction and most of all the loud melodramatic style of acting seem to have been preserved in some mysterious corner which escaped the tidings of time and trends. It is largely due to this archaic rut of the Hindi theatre establishments that it is unable to flower and tragically endangered today. But social responsibility is not the same as artistic responsibility and it might not be fair to burden another’s self expression with the task of taking theatre forward as an art from, especially given that they do not claim to have any such aspirations.
The play consists of two one act plays by Sagar Sarhadi. The first one is about life on the border of two countries. It starts off interestingly, refusing to identify the characters and borders by name and drawing out the tragicomic absurdity of conflict and territorial boundaries. But before you know it the farce degenerates into banal pedagogic lament on the need for humanism and evils of war. The second play, far richer in substance, recounts the tale of freedom fighter Ashfaqullah Warsi who was executed for his involvement with the Kakori dacoity against the British government in 1926. For years now we have been taking refuge in that golden era of Indian patriotism whenever we have to make a point about our ‘glory’. But that does not stop the play from working as a heart felt tribute to the man and his times. It is almost sacrilege to suggest that we should be done with recounting the contribution of our freedom fighters for we never can truly discharge the debt. But beyond keeping their memory alive there is little relevance the play can have today. The strained parallels between the anti communalism and romantic idealism of that age with today’s climate does not go beyond the surface of issues. It is almost exasperating how for nearly 100 years now plays, right from Prithviraj Kapoor’s Pathan and Deewar to IPTA’s latest offering, have been arguing for unity even as riot after gruesome riot keeps logging itself in the annals of history. Nothing has changed but who knows if things would have been worse but for these little voices of sanity. And until we find a better solution it might be imperative to keep this dissent alive.