Hyderabad: Shakespeare’s phrase, ‘All the world’s a stage’, seems to be coming true for Vinay Varma, actor and director for the theatre group Sutradhar in the city. Vinay, has been invited by the Aligarh Alumni Association, Washington DC, and the Society of Friends International, London, to stage his play Main Rahi Masoom.
Talking about the inception of Main Rahi Masoom, which is based on the writer Dr Rahi Masoom Raza’s philosophy, Vinay says, “No one had ever thought of doing anything on this great unsung hero."
Not the Aligarh University, not the Hindi film industry, not even any theatre person or filmmaker had ever attempted to pay any kind of tribute to him.And it was never an easy task. Vinay, along with the director of the play, Bhaskar Shewalkar, lights designer Dr Adesh Yadav and Sundeep Hemnaoni, had to go through a 519-page journal written by Rahi and then attend a script-writing workshop to perfect the script of the play.
“The final script is a result of a lot of churning and personal effort. At first Nadeem bhai (Rahi’s son) seemed dismissive about the whole effort. He wasn’t convinced, and mentioned that there were too many people who had tried to do something on Rahi, but their efforts never took off. But when the script was mailed to them, they were astonished with the results, and gave us a go ahead. Both Nadeem and Nayyar aunty (Rahi’s wife) gave us inputs about his personality, where and how he used to write, what and how often he smoked, and even which paan he chewed.”
Sutradhar has often exhibited works of writers like Manto, Ismat Chugtai and now, Dr Rahi Masoom Raza. But chronicling the life and times of such expansive writers is a difficult task. Vinay agrees.
“You have to live up to their reputation and do justice to their classics. Their personalities, lifestyle, thoughts, era and characters have to come across undiluted, and that is like walking on a double-edged sword.”
It goes without saying that even at the international stage, there will be no changes in the script. “Each word in the script is Rahi’s and not ours. In fact, we refused to change or modify anything in the script when the Gujarat Censor Board refused to clear it for a performance in Ahmedabad. Instead, we preferred not to perform, rather than put up a lame show. It makes sense because it is about a man who stood up to the fundamentalists on both sides of the religious divide.”