Have you ever had the opportunity to watch yourself acting on a theatre stage?
Well I did… last night. And if you are thinking that I was looking into a mirror on the stage, I was not.
This was a galaxy moment when I was the actor and I was the audience!
OK, don’t chase your tail! Let me elucidate.
Miren Productions, a la Sujata Soni Bali, staged a consortium of five plays based on short stories, last evening at Epicentre, Gurgaon. The sequence was named ‘Once Upon A Time’ and each play was an attempt to arouse audience empathy for a specific emotion. Sujata picked five stories focused on human sentiments. Stories like one by Manto about anger and retribution or the sorrow of a father on losing his daughter through Dipankar Mukherjee’s ‘Last Letter’. I was thrilled when she selected my story. It is called ‘Classroom Wiles’ published by Readomania and re-titled ‘Who teaches whom?’ for the stage. Sujata wanted to profile the sensitive bond of a guru-shishya relationship which is its theme.
Which writer would not be elated to watch the characters she created come alive; speak, laugh, cry, be afraid or happy? I was no different. Ever since I came to know that Sujata was dramatizing my story through an adaptation by Twinkle Pandey, I was on tenterhooks. What would I see? Had my voice come through in the rendition? Had I made my characters human enough?
This is a dilemma I face even when I write. For me it is not a cliché that Art reflects Life; I actually believe in it. So all my endeavours are towards creating characters that are neither black nor white; rather a bit like sparkling silver-grey. I have often been asked about my stories as to why a specific protagonist did this or that when he/she should have done something else. My response has always been that nothing is more complex than human nature. No two people react to the same situation the same way. Besides, logic hardly ever dictates human responses. Most of the time we don’t act, we react… usually emotionally! So when Charu Shankar, Tom Alter and a couple of teenagers emoted as the protagonists of my story, I held my breath… and didn’t release it until I heard the rest of the viewers in the theatre express their views. Oh! What a relief when they professed that they loved the story and its characters!
Another weird aspect of my story, ‘Classroom Wiles’, was it was based on a real-life personal experience. So I had decided to call the main protagonist of the story, Mrs Basu, with no inkling that it would be staged one day. Twinkle Pandey went a step ahead and even used my name in her adapted script. It was very touching, but to see ‘Me’ on stage was also a ‘one-in-a-million’ experience… never ever to be forgotten.
In fact, Charu Shankar, playing the main protagonist, had asked me backstage, ‘Do I look like Mrs Basu?’
I assured her, ‘You look much, much better than the real Mrs Basu.’ And the beautiful, talented actor, Charu, certainly did.
Eventually, when Sujata invited me on the stage to take the curtain call with Tom Alter, Sunit Tandon, Charu Shankar, Twinkle Pandey, herself and the Miran production team, I really choked up. It was an honour unanticipated, stunning and amazing to be up on the stage taking the bow from a thunderously applauding audience with stars such as them beside me. Surreal, to say the least!
First published on www.storyfuntastika.com @Sutapa Basu