Theatre

'Topi Ki Dastaan': A tale of two friends

MAKING A POINT A scene from “Topi Ki Dastaan”   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Mention the popular serial of yesteryear Mahabharat and immediately comes to mind its pithy dialogues and of course the man who wrote them, Dr. Rahi Masoom Raza. Having penned several novels, poems, film scripts and lyrics, Raza in his literary career is widely known in the world of letters for his vivid depiction of the agony and turmoil caused by Partition.

One such story is “Topi Shukla” which has been adapted by Tarique Hameed for his production Topi Ki Dastaan in Dastangoi format, which will be staged at Anglo Arabic Senior Seconday School, Delhi on Sunday. Essentially it is a story of two childhood friends, Balbhadra Narayan Shukla aka Topi and Zargham Hussain aka Iffan, but at a deeper level it delves into fissures created among humans on the basis of religion and identity. These aspects are brought to fore through several tumultuous events that take place in the life of Topi and Iffan.

“I read the story way back in 2006 and it stayed with me. I felt close to the character of Topi because I too suffered like him in my childhood. Moreover, the Hindu-Muslim friendship it exemplifies, touched a chord in my heart. It highlights our country’s diversity which is unique,” says Tarique Hameed, director of this 90-minute production.

Having staged it a dozen times, Tarique, feels it ceases to be stale. “It is contextual considering the times we are living in. Every time it is an eye-opener for the audience. Today, we would rather believe what a political or religious leader tells us instead of trusting our neighbour. Just because he or she belongs to a different faith, we tend to forget that many of them have lived with us for generations. The story emphasises that we are Indians or Hindustani first and later a Hindu or Muslim. The first comes by virtue the moment one is born in this land while the latter is given to us by our parents.” He adds that instead of falling for the rabble-rousers, people must believe in what they see. “When in distress, our neighbours are the ones who rush to help us, not these netas and religious leaders,” he quips.

Tarique Hameed

Tarique Hameed   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Having adapted the tale in dastangoi format, Tarique made some changes in its presentation. “Having been written in 1960s, I added a few dialogues keeping in mind the current situation. Also instead of two actors, I decided to use six, four men and two women — Pradeep Bajpai, Mani Purohit, Rochana More, Rajguru Mohan, Abu Yusuf and Vivaan Samrat — to carry forward the narration. This was required because besides Topi and Iffan there are other characters like Subhadra Devi, Sita, Abbu, Ammi and others. Using the same voice for all would have sounded odd. With a different voice, each character sounds authentic thereby connecting with the audience.”

Tarique’s use of rehals placed in front of each narrator immediately catches the viewers’ eyes. “Made of wood to place holy books like Gita, Quran and Guru Granth Sahib, I used it deliberately to underscore our commonality and to show that rehal remains the same irrespective of what is placed on it. It could be a scripture or a script.”

The background music by Ayush Sharma enhances the presentation. “For instance, the sound of train signifies journey while the pathos at Iffan’s grandmother passing away is brought out by a flute score.”

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 10:32:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/a-tale-of-two-friends/article23340915.ece

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