Amid much noise of the National School of Drama’s ongoing Bharat Rang Mahotsav, plays that are staged elsewhere, often go unnoticed for two reasons; higher ticket rates and location.
Yet, The Reel Theatre group in collaboration with Harfkaar Foundation decided to stage Baap Re Baap at Alliance Francaise, Lodhi Road this week. Much understood from its title, the comedy came as a pleasant surprise for it’s nafees (fine) Urdu than Hindi, and an effortless flow of events in a story, that leaves the audience with subtle messages without being preachy. No wonder, its author was none other than the inimitable KP Saxena, the eminent poet, humourist, playwright and author in Hindi, who expired in 2013. He also wrote songs in films like Lagaan, Swades, Jodha Akbar and Hulchul.
Baap Re Baap, directed by a young Sunil Bhati, is about an old father, Badrinath Bhatnagar, found missing from his rich family in Lucknow, consisting of son Vikas, daughter-in-law Meenu and a loyal servant Noorbaksh.
What follows is reactions of all these members exposing their real feelings about him. An advertisement in the media declaring ₹50,000 cash award for those who would bring him back home, leads to hilarious turn of events, in which three people bring one father each, matching him with details advertised, and forcing the family to accept the man as the ran-away father and hand over the money! The drama subtly exposes family’s actual bond with its older members, social workers, friends, neighbours et al.
The simple tale though stands nowhere in comparison to complex, layered classics from Habib Tanveer, Girish Karnad or Dharmveer Bharti but it still is enjoyable for its smoothness, harmless fun and Urdu zuban. The acts run via liberal doses of funny dialogues, for instance, “Vo jo hain na, Vo mukhtasar (tiny, not used for human beings) sey? Vo aaye hain! Or”Ama miya mere ye baal dry cleaning main safed nahi hue” or “Aaiye, daddy in doubt” etc.
The two actors who stand out in the play are, a young Kokab Farid (as Miya Fazal, Badrinath’s old friend) for his perfect coming timings and Urdu pronunciation, and Sunil Bhati (as Noorbakhsh) for his effortless dialogue delivery, excellent comic timings and natural transition from one mood to the other. Though he needs to work on his Urdu. Deepali as Lily is a natural actor.
Farid, the founder of Harfkaar, a tiny organisation committed to staging good Urdu plays, recently grabbed eyeballs for enacting an inimitable Urdu poet Jaun Elia in a first ever play on him called Jannat Se Jaun Elia. He reasons why Baap Re Baap made it to the stage. “Teaching Urdu zuban to people effortlessly who love this language but can’t speak, can be done initially via only some light-hearted dramas. It is important that the audience takes home some decent fun and a language that enriches them.”
Bhati echoes, “This play was written by the veteran in such a way that it was not possible to add or delete anything from it. But it was penned for the radio, so we had to prepare the costumes, the stage and squeeze some English words which helped making it funnier.”
Notably, the ticklish drama of which Bhati has done some 30 shows (since 2013) in Delhi on popular demand, has never been able to earn through it. Bhati who has done adaptations from Rabindranath Tagore and Anton Chekhov, rues, “People don’t want to buy the tickets costing ₹350-500. Visitors in BRM are paying only ₹50 for tickets. But that’s government institution. Even if they don’t pay, it won’t affect the institution, but for us it is not possible.”
But, for the first time, he shares, with a full house of 112 seats this show, we might be able to pay ₹2000 to our actors. But that’s not sufficient for anyone of them because they have been rehearsing for one month.” All his actors, therefore, work elsewhere to run their kitchen.
Baap Re Baap, that’s the harsh reality of today’s theatre!