After answering love letters in “Tumhari Amrita”, Farooque Sheikh now replies to hate mail in “Aapki Soniya”, a sequel to the celebrated play.

Constant was the only change that happened in the life of famous playwright Javed Siddique, especially when it came to his famous play “Tumhari Amrita”, inspired by the Pulitzer prize-winning “Love Letters” by A.R. Guerney and directed by Feroz Abbas Khan. The play has been doing shows across the world for the past 18 years! It is an amusing yet moving account of the lives of two melancholic people who would not come together and could not stay apart — a love story told through letters exchanged over 35 years. While Farooque Sheikh plays the protagonist — Nawabzada Syed Zulfikar Ali, the Governor of West Bengal – Shabana Azmi plays the beloved.

Now Sheikh is back in the Capital to appear in a sequel, “Aapki Soniya”, which goes on the boards at Satya Sai Auditorium, Lodi Road this coming Saturday, 6.30 p.m.

“The play (‘Tumhari Amrita’),” recounts Sheikh, “got such overwhelming response that it struck my mind that it should have a sequel. I expressed it to Javed. He took it as a challenge.” The result is “Aapki Soniya”, a sequel to “Tumhari Amrita”, directed by Salim Arif. “Aapki Soniya” is an exchange of “hate mail” between Amrita’s daughter Soniya (Sonali Bendre) and the governor recuperating from a heart ailment.

A Spartan setting, with only two sets of chair and table and lights to help create the required atmosphere — the rest depends on the actors’ ability. Admits Sheikh, “Such pattern of theatre presentation is very challenging. Though in both plays, we are reading the letters put in front of us, but the director insists we don’t remember the dialogues. We don’t have great costumes to divert the attention either. Sometimes the lights supporting us fail. So, we always run the risk of faltering while delivering monologues and voice manoeuvring. In such plays, we have to unlearn all we have done in other plays and relearn new technique.”

Sheikh is a veteran now, and with Shabana, he has had a long association. But how did he strike a rapport with Sonali, whose knowledge of Urdu is sparse and who belongs to a different school of acting? “It makes a difference,” notes Sheikh. “With Shabana my comfort level was more as I have known her very long and she doesn’t have to think before speaking a particular Urdu sentence. I didn’t know Sonali before I did this play with her. She has made great efforts to deliver Ghalib’s couplets and tough Urdu sentences. Now, we have reached a comfort level.”

He says this is the production’s first public show after a few private ones. These days Sheikh is frequently seen on the stage, whether as an anchor to Khayyam’s ghazal album launch or in plays like these. But these appearances are not a result of his dissatisfaction with films. “I have never regretted being a film actor because I chose roles that I was comfortable doing,” he clarifies. Apart from being a goodwill ambassador to campaigns like polio eradication, participating in UNESCO seminars, etc, Sheikh is now reading “a lot of scripts”, he concludes.