There are many ways one can get modern audiences interested in classical and vernacular art forms, but who knew that cooking food for them would be one of them? So when Mumbai-based Kopal Theatre staged their play Saag Meat in the city on Sunday night, audiences were in for a double treat. Directed and performed by Seema Pahwa, the performance was a 45-minute long monologue. Seema plays the character of Sumitra, a middle-aged Punjabi woman, who reminisces about her former house help Jagga, and is set in a kitchen. As Sumitra narrates stories about Jagga, she cooks the dish Saag Meat. Through the course of the narration, Sumitra reveals that Jagga eventually killed himself, after finding out that his wife was involved in an affair. At the end, the dish was served.
Originally written by playwright and actor Bhisham Sahni, Seema had first performed the play in the 1980s. “After many years, I felt I should take it up again because I liked the concept. I thought I’d add the element of cooking to make it interesting,” says Seema, adding, “Today’s youth have lost touch with literature, even though there are so many good writers in the genre. So I thought at least the lure of food would get them interested in it!”
The play was performed for the first time in Hyderabad, but has been performed more than 100 times across the country, ever since the theatre group’s debut two years ago. Seema’s daughter, Madhuwati, who also produced the play, says, “We started off with terrace performances because auditoriums usually don’t allow cooking. It was a unique concept, and we started calling our friends and families and somehow it just took over. We keep doing these performances, especially during this season because the weather’s quite nice to have hot food after the performance.”