Life is never over; it's full of infinite opportunities. If you have the spirit of adventure and don’t believe that life has come to a standstill, there is always much to explore. This is not only what comes across through the English play, ‘Salaam Noni Appa’ but also what Lillete Dubey, the play’s director, echoes. Based on Twinkle Khanna’s comic short story by the same name, the play is a heart warming tale of an autumn romance. “The story is sweet and simple which adds to its charm,” said Lillete who also plays the protagonist, Noni Appa.
Having completed over 25 shows, the play returns to the city, where it premiered last year.
“When I read the story, it just resonated with me. I had lost my husband in 2015 and I think the story of this slightly older woman, very correct, proper and a widow reunited with self-discovery and love is what worked for me. Also it had been ages since I did a romantic comedy and I guess I was looking for some change,” added Lillete.
“It's true that at some point when you are old your nest becomes empty, your children move away and you are sort of back to being single again, rediscovering yourself. You are no longer a wife or a daughter or a mother,” said Lillete who chose Adhir Bhat to write the script which portray the older woman’s story, wonderfully written by Twinkle through a young boy’s perspective garnished by his ‘wacky humour’.
“Twinkle's writing has a very tongue-in-cheek tone; it’s gently humorous, warm and witty. She observes the minutiae of life that casts a wonderful spell. And despite having quite a predictable narrative arc, the play appeals to everyone for it's a story of hope, optimism and romance.”
The play is also about breaking stereotypes and taking chances. Noni Appa, and Binni, opposites in nature, are two sisters whose world after marriage, children and widowhood, is once again a shared one, where they laugh, bicker, fight and love. And then one day, Noni Appa, who has always lived in the norms of society, finds herself falling in love with a married man a few years younger than her, and is torn between choosing companionship over respectability.
Lillete believes art is a powerful tools to break stereotypes and stars have a responsibility towards the young.
While she is known for her work spread across a variety of genres, the common thread is always love: ‘it is about the human relation, which shows when people connect it doesn't matter where the set up is. Our common denominator is our humanity and art shows us that if you strip away religion and beliefs we are all same.’
While her father wanted her to be a nuclear physicist and her mother wished her to be a doctor, Lillete could not keep herself away from following her passion; overcoming her fears of survival. A graduate in literature and post graduate in mass communications, Lillete started her own theatre company in 1991, years after marriage and kids. Her accidental break into movies happened in 1997 when she moved to Mumbai after she had crossed the age of 40.
“Although my parents thought I am barely educated, they always taught me to not do things for the sake of doing them and I have only encouraged my children to believe that if they want to excel in something, the need to have a passion for it.”
Her legacy to achieve something in life comes from her mother who was an extremely beautiful woman but never took that for granted. “Her parents always told her that is something given, not something she achieved and so she must work hard on herself.”
As she concludes while talking about the transformative power of art which needs to be harnessed well, she reveals her mantra towards life; ‘to feel good from inside’. “I believe as you grow older what you are inside, reflects. Life is such a big gift, we must make the most of it; getting over the limiting contemporary obsessions.”
What: Salaam Noni Appa
When: Friday July 13, 7 pm
Where: Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Malleswaram