Shilpi Marwaha


Saadat Hasan Manto’s stories have been adapted on stage for decades now. Every work of the acclaimed writer kindles powerful emotions and emotions reactions. One such attempt was put forth by less than a year old Sukhmanch Theater. Held on 25th December at Lok Kala Manch, the production was named “Manto Ke Afsaane”. Like the name itself suggests, the play comprised of six short stories written by the Manto himself. The stories were carefully picked, where the protagonist was a woman. While the subjugation of women was a common theme across the six stories, communalism, politics, and poverty were also talked about. Changes and variations to suit the contemporary and current scenario were skillfully integrated by Director Shilpi Marwaha. In terms of storytelling, one can argue that masterpieces like “Khol Do” and “Mozail” weren’t played as skillfully as they are originally written. The haunting emotions and nuances of the text didn’t unfold on the stage. But this difference or observation is apparent only to those who have read the stories. To those who didn’t, the acts were engaging enough. There are several moments in the 2-hour long play where an audience would laugh, cry, and feel very uneasy owing to the uncomfortable realties of the society. As a female, I was very uncomforted by the heart-wrenching scenes depicting of sexual violence, but to neutralize this intensity there were several lighthearted moments spread across the play. For me, the best act was “Khudkushi”- a hilarious piece encompassing the thoughts and musings of a young girl’s about eternal love stories. The play involved more than 40 actors and one could tell that almost all of them were amateur (and as we found out later, most of them had started theater just eight months ago). However, despite the occasional fumbling and lack of convincing dialogue delivery, they all manage to pull great performances. Pragya Sharma, who played the role of naïve ten Sarita in “ 1O Rupaye” stood out for her innocent and unpretentious acting skills. The play starts with a scene where all women protagonist is present in the same stage and voices out their opinions which soon dissolve in a tumultuous chaos signaling the muffling of women’s voices. After all the stories are enacted one gets the significance of this first scene because we can identify the characters. Shilpi Marwaha should be applauded for genius orchestration. The stage setting was kept minimal and the lighting was handled well by Ayan Banerjee. The background score consisted of soulful piano versions of Christina Perry songs which didn’t suit the play at all. P.S. – After the end, Shilpi Marwaha addressed the audience and introduced the cast an crew. Shilpi in her delightful and charming style established his direct rapport with the audience. What followed next was a 20-minute long heart-to-heart. The production was great, but I suggest you should watch Sukhmanch Theater for the pleasure of meeting Miss. Marwaha.   Feature Image Credits: Niharika Dabral for DU Beat Niharika Dabral [email protected]]]>