Politics of peace

Can individual friendships change the fate of two nations?

Updated - August 11, 2012 05:45 pm IST

Published - August 11, 2012 05:09 pm IST

A scene from 'A walk in the woods' directed by Ratna Pathak Shah. Photo: Special Arrangement

A scene from 'A walk in the woods' directed by Ratna Pathak Shah. Photo: Special Arrangement

Ratna Pathak Shah’s directorial debut is an adaptation of American playwright Lee Blessing’s A Walk in the Woods. The original play features a conversation between a Russian and American diplomat along the sidelines of a peace talk in Geneva.

Blessing unravels the rapport between two individuals who have to toe the official political agenda. In reality it turns out that both men feel a personal frustration at the way things have developed between their countries. By the end of the play, a friendship has developed between the two officials and one makes a decision that changes the future of this international dialogue.

A Walk in the Woods premiered in Waterford, Connecticut, and was nominated for both a Tony award and a Pulitzer prize shortly after. The 1988 play did not win either award but found its way to the Russian stage and was adapted for television. It later went on to win The Great American Play award.

The Indian adaptation, quite typically you may conclude, has a Pakistani and an Indian diplomat taking a ‘walk in the woods’ in the midst of peace negotiations.

Both the original and this version showcase an attempt to resolve differences between nations through one-on-one dialogue. More precisely, a frank conversation between two officials takes place instead of their indulging in the usual rhetoric characteristic of bilateral interactions.

“The relationship between the two men progresses through the play. This important element comes to the fore regardless of whether the relations between the countries change,” says Ratna Pathak Shah, who wanted a production that would be fun and challenging for the actors involved.

The play throws up significant questions that underline the nature of international relations. Can individuals play a decisive role in untangling complex political hyperbole to initiate real dialogue? Do one or two or more human beings decide the fate of an entire country or the world and have the power to avoid or influence the possibility of nuclear warfare?

In the Indian adaptation, two of India’s finest actors — Rajit Kapoor and Naseeruddin Shah — take to the stage in lead roles for this production.

A Walk in the Woods

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah and Rajit Kapoor

Director: Ratna Pathak Shah

Where: Chowdiah Memorial Hall

When: August 17 at 7.30 pm

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