Danish Iqbal talks about his upcoming play “Ek Kutte ki Kahani” and his addiction to bio-dramas

As people on both sides of the Radcliffe Line trade outbursts of hate, the dog of Tetwal returns to the stage. Danish Iqbal’s play Ek kutte ki kahani, based on Saadat Hassan Manto’s short stories Thanda Gosht, Kaali Shalwar and Tetwal ka kutta, is scheduled to be staged at the Bhartendu Natya Utsav on March 19.

Danish had written the play for the Urdu Drama Festival last year. It is directed by renowned dramatist Salima Raza, and performed by the Wings Cultural Society. The writer has used the dog of Tetwal , killed in the cross fire between Indian and Pakistani troops, as a metaphor for Manto. “I believe Manto wrote the story keeping himself in mind. He even died like the dog, in misery, torn between two countries,” he explains.

The play is a critically acclaimed work, which uses magical realism and the Brechtian sense of reality to drive home the point of Manto’s alienation. It is a plot with multiple layers of opinion on the human condition created by Partition.

Explaining the plot, Danish says that the play starts when Manto is referred to a psychiatrist by the court. The psychiatrist happens to have read all his works. As they engage in discussion, the stories come to life. Manto is a writer in one reality and a participant in the other, in the ‘stream of consciousness’ narrative. Manto is played by Tarique Hameed.

Danish has scripted 24 stage plays and several short films on the armed forces and conflict areas. He manages the FM Gold channel and the Central Drama Unit of All India Radio and, is known for his biographical plays on historical and modern personalities like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sahir Ludhianvi and Muhammad Shah ‘Rangila’. His plays Dara Shikoh and Amrita: A Sublime Love Story, based on the life of writer Amrita Pritam, were directed by the legendary M. S. Sathyu.

“I am comfortable with biographical plays as the audience comes prepared for it. They fill in the gaps and share with the play. The basic plots exist and I don’t have to write from scratch. The flipside is I can’t take creative liberties. I do not offend personalities or their families,” he says.

Amrita, in fact, was put on hold for almost a decade until her partner Imroz withdrew his objections to the script, says Danish.

At the moment he has scripts ready on Pervez Musharraf, Raj Kapoor, Meena Kumari and Guru Dutt, and is on the look out for the right troupe. So preoccupied is he with commissioned work that Danish admits he has not found the time to do what he really loves.

“I am eager to write on intense personal struggles, modern life and political struggles. I want to do a play on Maoist violence. But I am completely flooded with existing offers and my day job at the radio,” he reveals.