Sunday, 10 March 2019

'Partition' - seven stories of Manto performed in Mumbai (Versova) by Asmita Theatare Studio on 7.3.2019

The search of humanity in ghastly tales of partition riots

Partition happens in our minds and neither on the earth nor in the air. Even after seven decades of the formation of India and Pakistan by partitioning pre-independence India  the soils of both countries caress each other just in the way they did before. Notwithstanding the ghastly tales of unprecedented level of bloodshed in the aftermath of partition and even in several later incidents both countries share the same culture, same history and same socio-economic milieu. The real issue is not whether we are Hindu or 'Musalman' the real issue is whether we have remained a human being or have reduced to a beast acting merely on instincts. 

The stories of Saadat Hasan Manto are not just stories. They are running commentary of horripilating massacres from the pen of a sensible mature citizen possessing a heart of an innocent child who has not yet grown up to know about his religious identity. 

Six stories of Manto were performed  in a row by the new artists of Asmita Theatre Studio in Mumbai at Veda Factory (Bunglow No. 120, Aram Nagar Part-2, Versova) on 7.3.2019 under the direction of the well-known director Arvind Gaur.

First take a glimpse of the stories then we would come to the review of the show

1. Toba Tek Singh-  After the partition, the governments of India and pakistan decided to jettison a part of the lunatics on  basis of religion. It meant, Hidu and Sikh dements were to go to India and Muslim lunatics were to go to Pakistan. When  Bishan Singh was being handed over to India by Pakistan authorities on the border he came to know that his village "Toba Tek Singh" now actually lies in Pakistan territory. He refused to go to India and fell down on the border sacrificing his life. 

2. Sahay - This story proves the supremacy of humanity in a pimp in comparison with a rioter.

3. Khol Do - After the partition, a large population had to migrate across the border because of their religion. In this mechanically framed decision, thousands of men lost their lives and thousands of girls and women were raped and killed. The ultimate agony of a father who wants to safeguard his daughter by any means after he saw his wife getting murdered is depicted. It reaches the climax when his raped and murdered daughter drops her salwar before him to let him know about what happened with her and the father is yet happy in a false belief that his daughter is alive.

4. Gurmukh Singh Ki Vasiyat - An old retired Judge is sick and lying on the bed while the communal riots are on rampage near his 'mohallah'. His wife, daughter, son and servant all are there inside the house and there is also enough food to survive for weeks. But the problem arises when he suffers a stroke and immediate medical consultation is required for him. Everyone tries to go out to call a doctor but can't dare because of ongoing murderous scenes. Then a Sikh youth knocks at their door who is the son of the friend of the sick retired judge. This judge had freed his father from false charges and every year since then they bring 'sevai' for him before Eid. The Sikh youth hands over the 'sevai' to them and returns. On the way, some riotous persons are waiting for him to ask whether he did what he wanted and whether they can now go to murder the Judge Saheb. The Sikh youth condescends to them saying that he has now fulfilled the words given to his dying father and now the riotous group can do what they wanted with Judge Saheb.

5. Sharifan - A man comes to his house and finds his wife killed by the communal hooligans. He, then thinks of his daughter Sarifan and goes to her room and finds her raped and killed. His heart experiences inexplicable pangs and soul groans. He comes in a frenzy to take revenge and tuns violently rabid. Breaking into the house of a Hindu neighbour he rapes and murders Bimla. the daughter of that house.When Bimla's father returns he cries out on the sight with an unbearable grief. The murderer is also sitting beside Bimla's body repenting on what he did.  Even after taking revenge the grief of Sharifan's father has not diminished rather he is facing now a double grief of the death of two daughters including the one that he killed.

6. Khuda Ki Kasam and 'Saaye'  were also performed. In earlier one a man whose uncle has been slain in Pakistan while gossiping says to his  friend who is to go from India to Pakistan that if a communal riot erupts he is more likely to kill him (Pakistani friend). Hearing this the Pakistani friend is shocked and stops taking food for many days. While departing from India he tells his friend that it is futile for Hindus or Muslims to think to exterminate the other faith as a murderer can only kill a body and not the religious faiths lying in the souls. And this is evident by the fact that even after killing of lakhs of people from both of the communities still each of the religions is growing up in the world as before. 

7. In another story an old woman is noticed by a young man searching his young daughter day and night. She is found on every nook and corner of the city at different point of time. This young man has  full knowledge that the daughter of the old woman has been killed and he tries to convince the old lady that her search is futile. But the old woman states that nobody can kill his daughter because she is sweet fragile girl and extremely beautiful. After many days a young couple comes across the old woman and the husband shouts."O sweetheart, this is your mother." But the young wife says coldly not to pay attention to this mad old woman and steps ahead. Now the old woman really believes that his daughter is no more and falls down on the ground for ever.

The actors were young and learner ones but gave a poof of their talents being honed up. Rahul Datta (Bishan Singh) presented unparalleled acumen in acting whereas narrator Neha Garg also impressed with her forceful dialogue-delivery. All other actors did nice work by following the instruction of the adept director in a natural manner. The accent in dialogue delivery and the body language were fine in general. The lights needed to be more prompt.

One point is yet to be understood how the doors can be locked from inside if the Sharifan was murdered by the rioters?

The other actors were Pradeep, Vivek, Dishant, Jai Singh, Shimla, Piyush, Akash, Jyoti, Vishal, Shandhya, Shamim, Honey, Monisha, Kabir, Mayur, Abhishek, Shubham, Nishikant, Shivam, and Deepika.

And now for the director Arvind Gaur. He who has been acting teacher of the actress Kangna Ranaut is definitely a good trainer. He managed to take the best even out of the beginners in this play.  He also prepared an authentic script sticking to the true version of each story so that seven different stories of Manto could be presented in One and half hours pack with all their necessary details. The seamless manner in which the different stories progressed on the floor was amazing though the common link could be established only in two-three plays. It is possible for the playwright to add some link at the joint points of different stories.

The viewers remained stunned and tears came out in their eyes more than once during the play. The director and his team must be lauded for such a realistic presentation of horrifying stories. We have to learn from our past for having a good future.

Review by - Hemant Das 'Him'
Photographs by - Bejod India blog
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Video of Arvind Gaur about Kangna Ranaut-
Video of Kangna Ranaut about Arvind Gaur - Click here

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