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HISTORY RETOLD A scene from
HISTORY RETOLD A scene from "Mirza Bagh" staged by Yatrik.

ROMESH CHANDER

Yatrik's "Mirza Bagh", an adaptation of the Irish playwright Brain Friel's "Aristocrat", could be top-drawer stuff with some proper editing.

The chronicle of patriarch Abba, three sisters, one brother and the central character Mirza Bagh, as seen through the eyes of the plebeian son-in-law reveals the way in which the ache of one family becomes the microcosm for the passing away of an entire way of life. In a nutshell, this is what Yatrik's "Mirza Bagh" is.

But for the acknowledgement in Yatrik's programme brochure that its latest play "Mirza Bagh" was a translation-adaptation of the Irish playwright Brain Friel's "Aristocrat", it would have easily passed off as an original play about the life of a Talukdari family after the abolition of zamindari system in 1951. One was so impressed by Sabina Mehta Jaitley's adaptation, in a mix of Hindustani and English, that after seeing Yatrik's production one read the original "Aristocrat" and was pleasantly surprised that right from the settings of the opening scene and the characters on the stage one finds a sort of commonality between the Irish landed aristocracy and a family of administrators and lawyers belonging to a Muslim family of Talukdars of the days gone by. The Ballybeg Hall in Donegal county of Ireland is relocated to Mirza Bagh in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh. Credit must go to Sabina for creating not only the corresponding situations but also convincing Indian counterparts of the Irish characters. The transposition is not only in characters but also in supporting elements, like for instance, the marsiyas that replace the sonatas of Western music. The use of bilingual dialogue is yet another plus point and the changeover from English to Hindustani and vice-versa was not only natural but helped immensely in characterisation. As the lights come on the stage we are in the midst of Mirza Iftekhar Ali Beg's family, some of whom are now settled abroad and are back home for a re-union. The sitting room, designed by the director herself, is over crowded with old sofas and armchairs that had seen better days. It is a living picture of prosperity of the days gone by. One by one, members of the family join in except Mirza Iftekhar Ali Beg, the head of the family, who is not seen but his voice can be heard from the room upstairs. The family is joined by Javed Alam who is researching the times gone by. And as Mushirul Hasan tells us in his "Legacy of a Divided Nation", the year is 1975 a time of the year when women in these parts of the country sing Chaiti, songs of longing. To create the atmosphere we have Aliyah Mirza (Mahua Sen) singing a beautiful song. The scattered family has congregated to celebrate the wedding of the youngest daughter. Instead, events take a very different turn.

Central character

The chronicle of patriarch Abba, the three sisters and a brother and indeed the central character Mirza Bagh, as seen through the eyes of the plebeian son-in-law reveals the way in which the ache of one family becomes the microcosm for the passing away of an entire way of life. In a nutshell, this is what Yatrik's "Mirza Bagh" is. The cast is a mix of the old and new. We have Prakash Bhatia playing as Baldev Raj, Ramesh Thakur as Qasim Ali Beg and his wife Zehra (Surabhi Goswami) who live in Germany and then there is Inayat Mirza (Tarannum Ahmad) as the elder sister all as good as ever and of course there is Yatrik's veteran Jasbir Malik. In Mahua Sen we have a versatile singer whose Chaiti right in the beginning holds the audience even if she had a bad throat the evening one saw the play.Here is a play that must be kept alive for the newness in its script and its overall production design. But as it stands "Mirza Bagh" is for too long and at times the pace is a little slow and, one feels if it could be edited by at least 20 minutes or so it would well be a top scorer.


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