It was a love story he wanted to tell. But when Makrand Deshpande, renowned actor, playwright and director, sat down to write Sir Sir Sarla, he was sure of one thing - it wasn't going to be your run-of-the-mill, boy-meets-girl narrative. "Love is about knowledge," he said, with his quiet manner, talking to Deccan Chronicle on the phone a few days before his play, Sir Sir Sarla, makes its Bengaluru debut, 16 years after its premiere. "It is knowledge for you seek things when you're in love. It gives you that drive." This he found through the character of Professor Palekar, a poetry teacher and his relationships with three students.
It was an unusual approach, a leap of faith, really, but one that Deshpande took without a second thought. "When I performed it in Kanpur, where the average person hasn't really been exposed to theatre, a member of the audience came up to me and said the play had inspired him to read poetry. That brought me a real sense of achievement!"
"We grow up at home, listening to our parents and everything we know is founded on what he hear within those four walls, or in school," said Deshpande. "Then we enter our teens, which is when we really attempt to understand the world. That's when your teachers become important." His own life, he said, was shaped by three professors, all of whom left different impressions on him. "If I'm writing or doing theatre today, it's because of them. They taught me that there was a world outside of my curriculum."
Professor Palekar has three students - Sarla, Phanidar and Keshav, who appear to have very little common with each other aside from their love for their teacher. Sarla is full of ambition, charming but demanding of her professor's affections. "She wants to know more poetry, to learn new things, to find new avenues in life," said Deshpande. Keshav, the second student, a stereotypical rich kid, who, unfortunately, just doesn't have a way with words. Then there's Phanidar, whom Deshpande describes as the most sensitive of the lot. "He's also the one who has the least to say at that point," Deshpande explained.
Five years pass, during which time Sarla and Keshav marry each other. "Only Phandidar remains with his professor and the time has come for him to speak." This is where the play begins, with Phanidar finally expressing his feelings, having taken years to muster up the courage. The story oscillates between memory and reality, with Sarla bringing things to a climax in the latter half by arriving at the Professor's house once more. "It's a very structured play, but the characters are fluid, so you feel like you're watching people, not a theatre production," said Deshpande.
Starring Makrand Deshpande, Aahana Kumra, Sanjay Dadich and Faisal Rashid, the Bengaluru debut has been a long time coming. "I'd been thinking of this for a while, hoping to perform a festival of plays in Bengaluru, which never came to fruitiion," he remarked. "I'm glad I'm finally here!"
To him, it is a story of expression and the importance it holds in our lives. "Phanidar is a sensitive boy and speaking out is something that troubles him. But can we really say that he must? Can we defy our true nature? Can we be compelled to do so? These are the questions the students have for their teacher - and what answers can he really provide?"
What: Sir Sir Sarla
When: October 14, 76 pm onwards
Where: Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Vyalikaval, Malleswaram
Ticket prices: Starting at Rs 150