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Milestone for monologue

Vinay Varma in ‘Main Rahi Masoom’

Vinay Varma in ‘Main Rahi Masoom’  

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Vinay Varma reminisces about his 50-show journey of ‘Main Rahi Masoom’

Main Rahi Masoom, a monologue on the life and times of late Rahi Masoom Raza, directed by Bhasker Shewalkar and enacted by Vinay Varma, completed its Golden Jubilee show at Ravindra Bharathi recently. This powerful play of a man, who was way ahead of his times, and is popular for scripting the iconic B R Chopra’s Mahabharat television series, will be performed at the Eighth World Theatre Olympics on March 31, 2018 in Chandigarh.

The play was first staged on October 25, 2008 at Bhaskara auditorium. Sharing the origins of the play, Vinay Varma says that Bhasker Shewalkar had given him a 519-page journal titled Abhinav Kadam, dedicated to Rahi’s 75th anniversary and asked him to read a long poem Vaseeyat. The actor-director takes pride in the fact that the monologue on Rahi Masoom Raza is unique in that it has been given importance only in apna Hyderabad.

“Rahi Masoom was known for popularising Urdu in Devanagari script. Bhaskerji asked me to go through it and see what I could make of it. I read it and for the first time made a 14-minute monologue, then expanded to 30-35 minutes. We knew this was too short to be staged. I re-read it and gradually developed the 75-minute monologue that is staged. All this work took close to five months. We did not want to add anything on our own and wanted to have the original flavour and present the man as he was,” he says.

Varma shares that once the script was ready, it was sent to the family of Rahi for approval and a workshop was conducted to sharpen the nitty-gritty. Speaking of the person he depicts, he says, “One must say that Rahi saab always dressed in white and just buttoned the first two of his sherwani, left others open. His papers would be strewn around, he loved chewing Kolkata paan with qiwam, was a chain smoker and preferred a special brand and walked with a limp.” Varma has incorporated all these aspects in his production.. “Many in the audience, who have seen the play, have come up to me and said that I have enacted Rahi saab with perfection, including his sarcastic tone,” says the actor.

For Varma, getting into the character of Rahi took two months, a commitment that has won him and the play a lot of acclaim. When the play was first staged in Mumbai, a lady, who watched it, came up to him at the end of the play; he recalls, “I had done total justice to Rahi saab, even though I have never met him. Even great stalwarts like Javed Akhtar and Nida Fazli, was late by a couple of minutes and hence was not allowed in Prithvi. Yet, he preferred to stand at the door and listen and applauded,” shares Vinay. When the play was staged at Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai, actor Shashi Kapoor missed the show as he was late.

Vinay Varma recalls that when the play was staged in London, they had not got the license for smoking. “Personally, I don’t smoke; I would take the cigar hold in my hand and then crush it and pick up another,” he says, adding that it is a challenge not to get out of the character. He says that there has been no change from the first time it was staged to the 50th one. “It is the same movement and if you watch the video, you will find it is just a copy with different dates.”

Vinay shares an incident that happened in Ravindra Bharathi, where there was a commotion in the audience. “I did not stop the performance in the middle or raise my voice, but I continued with the play. People, who come to watch the play, maintain pin drop silence and enjoy it.” He says that before every staging of the play, he prepares for a week.

The 75-minute poignant monologue shows how Rahi fought against communal and divisive forces in the country through his writings. His belief of Nationalism can be understood by his thinking. “Rahi once said that Partition did not take place on August 15, 1947; it started on that day,” shares Varma, who says Rahi Masoom Raza was Bharat Ka Anmol Ratan, who in his nazm, Vaseeyat, willed that he be laid to rest in the lap of Ganga, whom he considered his second mother.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 4:48:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/vinay-varma-discusses-his-50-show-episode-journey-of-main-rahi-masoom/article23259784.ece

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