Theatre

Playing the pain of Partition

BACK TO THEATRE: Actor Yashpal Sharma in New Delhi. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar  

For versatile Bollywood actor Yashpal Sharma, life has come a full circle. He started off with theatre at the National School of Drama here before acting in path-breaking films like Lagaan and Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi. And this Wednesday he was back to Kamani Auditorium here playing a central character in Kharaashein, a play on communal disturbances.

Initially Yashpal had reservations about returning to theatre but agreed to come on board after learning that the play was part of a festival celebrating the creative genius of Gulzar’s poems and short stories. “After bidding adieu to theatre, I was hesitant to act in a play. But director Salim Arif persuaded me to come on board as the play was adapted from Gulzar Saheb’s poems and writings.”

Another factor that compelled Yashpal to return to theatre was that the play talked about the painful memories of Partition and had the Gujarat riots and other such instances as “reference points”. “As I had a first-hand experience of watching riots at Hisar in Haryana, I could not say no to the role. When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984, I saw Sikhs being dragged out of their homes and burnt alive. Their homes were set ablaze and their properties destroyed. I was gripped with revulsion.”

Yashpal saw Kharaashein when it was staged for the first time about a decade ago in Mumbai, but he feels the play brings a certain freshness with it every year. It probably has to do with the fact that the director ropes in new actors each time.

In the play, Yashpal is playing a Bengali character who sits idle at home even as riots break out in the city. “The next morning he reads a newspaper which has a picture of a girl who has been gang-raped. And right next to him lying on a plate is a dead hilsa. So the play draws a comparison between the girl and the fish,” he says.

In the recently released Akshay Kumar-starrer Rowdy Rathore, Yashpal played a cop. Yashpal’s wife is kidnapped by a village lord and sexually abused by his son. But he cannot protest against the humiliation because the village lord is a powerful muscleman whom the entire village dreads.

Though Yashpal is playing a small role in Anurag Kashyap’s much talked about film Gangs of Wasseypur, he is quite excited about it nevertheless. “For the first time, I am playing an item boy who is a singer with a band. The singer lives in a world of illusion thinking he is as good as the late singer Kishore Kumar.”

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 4:33:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/playing-the-pain-of-partition/article3553365.ece

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