Their life, our life

A scene from Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha PHOTO: R. RAGU

A scene from Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha PHOTO: R. RAGU   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

Mera Woh Matlab Nahi Tha was a heart-warming tale of love lost, and love almost regained

For nearly two hours on Sunday, the audience at The Music Academy travelled to Delhi — to Chandni Chowk, Ballimaran, Golcha Cinema and the famed chhole bhature sold outside it, and to the tradition of eating ice-cream at India Gate. It also took a walk down memory lane and caught snapshots of the fledgling star-crossed love of ‘Bangalan’ Hema Roy (Neena Gupta) and Pritam Kumar Chopra (Anupam Kher).

The couple, which became ‘ek se do’ (from one to two) thanks to parental control and distance — she in Santiniketan and he in the U.S. — meets after 35 years, on Hema’s insistence.

In the meanwhile, hundreds of letters brimming with love and yearning have never reached the other. She wants to get the load off her chest, and also ‘forgive’ him, because she feels he’s not so bad to have betrayed her.

The setting for their trauma-filled present and flashbacks to a sylvan past is Lodhi Gardens. A laughter club meeting is in progress, Raj Kapoor (director Rakesh Bedi) jogs in ever so often asking for the time, and Pritam and Hema dissect their past. There’s lots of love, playful ribbing of the kind that binds childhood friends, concern for the other, and the overwhelming grief of leading life without one’s love.

Hema is married to a tyrant and drunkard, the son of a family friend, and she eventually kills him using a pair of tailoring scissors. “I’m guilty because I killed him, but not guilty because he deserved to be killed,” she tells Pritam, now a judge, before breaking down in a scene that lingers for long.

Pritam is married to Nigar (we’ll leave you guessing the actress), a Class X fail, who loves him in her own charming way. Their relationship grows under the veiled threats of Nigar’s hooligan brother (a brilliant Satish Kaushik). Pritam has his share of grief. Their son abandons Nigar and Pritam by a distant lake in the U.S., and the heartbroken couple returns to India. Nigar dies.

So, will Pritam and Hema learn to share their life again? Raj Kapoor, who cares for unwell wife for 20 hours a day, suggests they ignore the world and resume their relationship. Responsibilities beckon Hema, but Pritam takes a stand. A stand that proves that love must always be given a fighting chance.

It’s hard to forget the brilliant script, which weaves so many disparate strands, the past and present into a seamless tapestry.

It’s harder to shake off the believability of the play, mainly because of the chemistry between the leads. Neena and Anupam outdo themselves on stage. She’s the brave one, he’s the hesitant lover who keeps explaining himself with “Mera woh matlab nahi tha”, a phrase she hates.

The play fused onstage performance with recorded bits (the flashbacks, especially) for a whole new experience. On the day of the play, Neena was unwell, and her intermittent coughing went well with Hema’s upheaveals. Anupam battled a limp, because of a knee injury, and all of that added to the realism on stage. What they did was a textbook class in acting… do it so well, and so realistically that the audience feels they are a part of the characters’ life.

The play has been staged more than 150 times in India and abroad, and that shows in the effortlessness on stage. It’s not without reason that the cast and crew receives a standing ovation every time.

The play was brought to the city by Thenandal Entertainment. The Hindu was media partner for the event.)

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 10:28:38 AM |

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