Image Source: Neha Kargeti
Panache Media has announced a new theatrical production titled Ek Haan starring seasoned actor and TV host Shekhar Suman and singer, actor, author Suchitra Krishnamoorti in the lead. The play is based on the story of the notorious life and times of the most influential writers of his time, Saadat Hasan Manto, showcasing the socio-political and emotional turmoil of the pre and post-independence era. RASA AUR DRAMA TIMES speaks to the writer in this interaction on writing the script for the MANTO play!
Q1.) Manto stories are so well known! Why should the audience listen and watch and watch MANTO stories again?
NEHA KARGETI: Manto’s work is a reflection of the soul of our society. It presents a clear picture of the world we are living in, without prejudice and bias, just like a mirror. Times change and so does the world, but the issues we are facing in today’s time are still the same: inequality, gender bias, religious hatred, hypocrisy, materialism, and division of the society based on prejudice, capital, power and religion. Manto’s stories touch the very nerve of the system we are a part of and provide a much-needed perspective. A perspective that is not only liberal and secular but also very human at the core! These stories are and will always be relevant. Manto’s voice needs to be heard..again and again..
Q2.) It seems that you have not adapted one single story of Manto, but many and with your understanding. Could you tell something on it! Which stories and maybe why!
NK: Manto’s writings have always been considered very serious and hard- hitting. This fact distracts us from the wide range and variety of his work. Randhir was sure, from the very beginning, of the three stories we have adapted. The objective was to include stories that are widely acclaimed and well known along with the ones that bring out a side to him that not many people are aware of. So, the main story (that is a blend of fact and fiction) brings out his personal ideologies and emotions, while the three sub-stories bring out three very different sides of his work: Toba Tek Singh explores the affect ‘partition of India’ had on people and the confusion and pain it caused, through the story of a mental patient in a Lahore asylum. Kali Shalwar explores the life and emotions of a prostitute, Sulatana, who has the same problems as any other woman or a man for that matter: financial difficulties, loneliness, love ,and betrayal. ‘Akal Dadh’ explores the monotonous life and arguments between a long-married couple that seems rather funny when you see it from an outer perspective. And finally, the climax (main story) reveals a side of him that is rather unknown.
Q3.) How long did it take to adapt the script?
NK: The first draft of the script took a few weeks of research and a few days of writing. However, it was a long process to reach the final draft from the first one, as ‘Ek Haan’ is not just an adaptation of Manto’s stories; its a fictional story starring Manto himself. So, everything that comes out of his mouth had to match Manto’s sensibilities. That was the biggest challenge. The script kept evolving as I kept getting more and more familiar with Manto. In fact, I did a final round of re-writing after the actors came on board.
Q4.) What are somethings writers could keep in mind during adapting/translating a work of literature? As the writer, Jerry Pinto once put it " Translation is like taking a ship loaded with salt across the sea, which is constantly eroding! Take as much as you can ." Any thoughts?
NK: The most important thing while adapting someone’s work is to first understand the very soul of it. A lot is lost in translation when you are actually ‘translating’. But when you are adapting something, you can always borrow the soul and use your own body and your own fresh perspective to present it to the world. Try to row a boat in a freshwater river rather than sailing a ship in the sea.
Q5.) So, Did one of you write the script separately and then put it together. Or together you sat and completed the script in one year!
NK:We wrote it separately and I then put it together after receiving Neeraj’s invaluable inputs through Randhir. In fact, I only got a chance to meet Neeraj on the day of our preview (first) show!
Q6.) Can both of you speak about your writing experience in more detail for Rasa Aur Drama Times readers?
NK: It was a wonderful and overwhelming experience. In fact, more than anything else, its been a great learning experience for me. I think it is very important for writers to read and understand other writers and their work. Thanks to Randhir, I got an opportunity to write a play on one of the most legendary writers the world has ever seen. While reading and researching Manto’s work and life, I feel I got one step closer to the ultimate craft of writing and the art of storytelling.
Q7.) What are the sources that you generally use while researching a literary script?
NK: The biggest source is Manto’s collection of short stories. Through his stories, Manto has said almost everything that he felt and experienced. The rest of the information comes from his old interviews, the writings of his friend ‘Ismat Chughtai’ and of course, many online news articles!
Q8.) Any tips on scriptwriting?
NK: Every story is different and there are a hundred different ways to express the same story. Hence, as a writer its important to be clear about what you want to say, how you want to say it and how can you make it as effortless as possible. Know that less is more, avoid spoon-feeding and always aspire to create something new and original! It is also essential to keep in mind the medium one is writing for: Cinema, digital platform, television or theatre, as different mediums require a different approach to writing.
Q9.) What creative freedom remains for the actors after a script is closed and frozen. As writers does it interest you?
NK: Yes, I was very deeply involved in the rehearsals and the preparation the actors went through for this play. Shekhar Sir’s impeccable command on the language and excellent sensibility proved out to be the biggest asset for ‘Ek Haan’. He is a perfectionist who doesn’t allow any loose ends in a script or performance so it keeps you on your toes both as a writer and as an actor. He sticks to the script and is always interested in understanding the writer’s perspective. Thus, when he improvises, even a small gesture has a deep meaning and a huge impact. On the other hand, Suchitra mam’s high-spirited attitude, her deep understanding of various emotions and her melodious voice, breathed life into the entire play! Her improvisations, especially in ‘Kali Shalwar’ and ‘Akkal Dadh’, added just the required quirk.
Q10.) What is writing to you in two lines! Rasa Aur Drama Times would love to hear that!
-Writing, for me, is a way to connect with my inner self; for my inner self to connect with the world; and for the world to connect with the divine!
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