Theatre

The Raman effect!

COMEDY OF ERRORS A scene from “Wrong Number”   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Raman Kumar is a man of many shades. Some remember him for his soothing Saath Saath that tackled moral corruption in a middle class household when India was still a socialist country. Some recall how he changed the portrayal of female characters on Indian television with Tara when liberalisation was knocking at the doors. And then there are a few who remember Raman as the sentinel of Indian People Theatre’s Association who learnt the craft under the guidance of Kaifi Azmi and Sagar Sarhadi. And for those who like to remain in the present, he is the purveyor of commercial Hindi theatre, the latest being the rib-tickling comedy called Wrong Number. To be staged in Delhi’s Kamani Auditorium this Sunday, it is a story of extra-martial affairs involving a boss and his employee where Raman’s favourites, Avtar Gill and Rakesh Bedi, will engage in hilarious situations.

What attracted Raman to the comedy of errors, whose original in Marathi he watched in the mid 80s, was its presentation. “I found it way ahead of its time and was looking for an opportunity to adapt it for Hindi audience.” Raman admits there is nothing new in a boss’s wife having an affair with an employee of her husband’s company. The employee’s wife knows that her husband is having an affair but is not sure with whom. “The uniqueness lies in the fact that the stage is not divided into houses. There is no wall between two households. We create the scene simultaneously in both the houses. The characters of one house look at each other but they don’t look at the characters of the other house. However, when the wife of the boss asks a question, it is answered by the employee, and it connects!” The lack of a dividing line, says Raman, is a reflection on modern day relationships and the play shows mirror to society in a humorous way.

Raman Kumar

Raman Kumar  

The seasoned director holds that there is no point in looking down upon commercial Hindi theatre. “You can be a commercial theatre activist as well. One can raise serious issues in commercial theatre provided the treatment is entertaining. This divide between serious and non serious emerged because the tradition of commercial Hindi theatre is relatively new in comparison to Marathi and Gujarati theatre. But we have begun to reap the rewards of the seeds sown by Rajendra Yadav and Mohan Rakesh.”

Having said that, Raman adds that it doesn’t mean he has said good bye to IPTA. “I am doing a play called Ek Mamooli Aadmi with IPTA. It is a about a common man’s travails against corruption. It is based on Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese film Ikiru and is adapted by Ashok Lall.”

Looking back, the director says he always had a rebellious streak in him. When Saath Saath released, he got a call from Tarachand Barjatya, the patriarch of Rajshri Films. “He had heard about the film and wanted to watch it. I took the reels in a taxi to his private theatre and waited anxiously in the projector room till he finished watching. He praised the film but expected me to justify the hero’s actions. I said how could I justify somebody’s corruption? Of course, I was respectful towards him, but we had had a long inconclusive argument.”

Again, at the time of Tara, recalls Raman, there was criticism. “I was told such characters don’t exist in our milieu. My point was that that they do exist in our society; we turn a blind eye towards them. See, I have a literary background. I was doing my masters in Hindi literature when I got a call from FTII and I left it midway. Our literature has always given me the edge to see the world from a different perspective and create well-rounded characters.”

Unfortunately, when Raman Kumar emerged on the scene, Hindi cinema was not looking for a different perspective. “So I took my experiments to television,” notes Raman.

Timeless music

It has been 35 years and yet Saath Saath’s music talks to us. “Ye Tera Ghar, Ye Mera Ghar” continues to be an anthem for any new couple trying to find a footing in a metropolis. Raman reveals that he was a good friend of Javed Akthar and it was he who pushed him to write the lyrics for the film. “This was his first attempt at lyrics writing. Of course, Silsila released before Saath Saath but we had recorded our songs by then. In fact, it was after listening to the songs of Saath Saath that Yash Chopra saw potential in Javed as a lyrics writer.”

The film was backed by NFDC but he had no money to deposit the surety of ₹10,000 with the form. “So I went to Dilip Dhawan, who was the only one in my circle of friends who could lend that much amount. So he became the co-producer. David Dhawan who edited the film was my roommate during FTII days and so was Rakesh Bedi, who played an important part in the film. Deepti Naval had acted in my diploma film and Farooque Sheikh and I used to do theatre together. He wanted to do a serious role and in Saath Saath he saw an opportunity to break the comic mould.” Similarly, Raman requested Jagjit and Chitra Singh to lend their voices for the film’s songs. “It was a first for many people people involved in the film. Kuldeep Singh wanted a break as a composer, so I pulled him in. It was all complementary! They only got the royalties from HMV.”

With Hindi film industry once again showing willingness to experiment with content, Raman is eager to return to the turnstiles. For now, he is working on two web series. “Man-woman relationships still remain relevant, so is corruption. I could observe the angst in society emerging again. Thanks to social media, everybody has an opinion now on socio-poiltical issues. The only change that I see is in technique, the storytelling. This is a generation which reads narratives in the form of Whatsapp and Instagram messages. As my friend Javed says, ‘Chaar Lafzon Main Kaho Jo Bhi Kaho. Kisko Fursat Hai Sune Faryad Sab.’”


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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 11:14:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/the-raman-effect/article23923730.ece

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