Theatre

Satire for our times

From Laila and Jamal, The Madras Players’ adaptation of Manu Joseph’s novel, ‘Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous’

From Laila and Jamal, The Madras Players’ adaptation of Manu Joseph’s novel, ‘Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Madras Players’ latest is an adaptation of Manu Joseph’s novel, Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous

There has just been an earthquake. A man buried in the debris deliriously mumbles about an imminent bomb blast. He mentions a couple who are thought to be terror suspects. There’s panic in the air. Where is the bomb? And who is the man, and how does he know what he knows? In The Madras Players’ latest production, Laila and Jamal, based on Manu Joseph’s 2017 novel Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous, the answers to these questions will reveal themselves like a jigsaw puzzle.

Nikhila Kesavan, director of the play, says, “It is conceptualised like a thriller, with four narratives running in parallel.” There is the ageing politician and a bureaucrat, trying to unravel what’s happening. An intelligence agent, Mukundan, shadows Laila and Jamal on the highway. There are snapshots that give insights into Laila’s family life, and the story arc of the mysterious man under the rubble. “Each narrative offers clues, and the audience have to keep connecting the dots in every scene to make way for the big reveal. With this unusual structure and treatment, it will be anything but spoon-fed,” explains the theatre artiste of 15 years.

Satire for our times

Page to stage

Miss Laila... is set to be a TV series soon, while Netflix announced the screen adaptation of Joseph’s Serious Men. Kesavan has been ahead of the curve, having adapted both books for the stage. “Manu’s writing is beautiful, and his strong plot lines lend themselves to drama. It’s a great time to be working on adaptations, as novels offer a wider array of contemporary content which can be brought alive through performance. That said, it is not easy to translate such novels for stage, as maybe compared to a film, due to the constraints of the medium itself,” she says.

It took her nine months to write the script, and three to get the production together. Kesavan’s most exciting challenge was finding the form and structure to bring the tone of the novel alive on stage — the fast-paced thriller comes complete with a highway chase scene and very descriptive writing. “We’ve been very faithful to the novel, except that it is not in its entirety. I’ve chiseled out the part of the story that was most moving to me, like the questions it raises about our socio-political scenario and the value of a human life.”

Laila and Jamal will be staged on June 28, 29, 30 at 7.15 pm at the Museum Theatre, Egmore. Passes at ₹300, ₹400 and ₹600 on in.bookmyshow.com. 9381911977

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 12:33:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/satire-for-our-times/article28098160.ece

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