The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic redefined conventional theatre performances, especially the digital theatre. From live audiences in the auditorium to bringing the play on their mobile screens, theatre and artistes have fit themselves into the mould to let the show go on. And the recently released 'Koi Baat Chale', a series featuring six stories that begin with Saadat Hasan Manto's 'Toba Tek Singh' and 'Hatak' narrated by Manoj Pahwa and Sadiya Siddiqui respectively, is just another name to add to the list.
The former story follows the plight of inmates in a Lahore asylum, some of whom are to be transferred to India following the 1947 Partition, while the latter is a story of the everyday struggles of a prostitute. Directed by veteran actor Seema Pahwa, the series is streaming on Zee Theatre, Dish TV, D2H Rangmanch and Airtel Theatre.
“The process of preparing this play was not like a regular play. Here, the stories are narrated and performed as well. So, writing is a very crucial part of these kinds of performances. At the same time, it should aesthetic look good so people stay hooked to their TV,” says Seema Pahwa, who finds Manto's stories most relevant in today's time. “Manto’s stories have been performed for many years as they hold relevance till now. The dispute over land is a major conflict that we face today and Hatak is a story about a woman and her self-respect. All the basic human emotions such as love, longing, rejection, hatred, survival instinct are portrayed by the characters in the Manto’s stories with stark vividness,” says the veteran actor.
When asked about why she cast Manoj Pahwa and Sadiya Siddiqui for the roles, the 'Bareilly Ki Barfi' actor says she was able to visualise both of them in these characters.
On the other hand, Sadiya Siddiqui, who is the protagonist, a sex worker in 'Hatak' says, her character is a representation of a strong woman. “We had a month to prepare and I would read the story multiple times in a day. Seemaji and I had a great time synergising and collaborating,” says the actor adding that digital platforms can build the audience for stage plays. “Hopefully once they (the audience) see a good story, they would be willing to go in person and see the performances live. Teleplays can be a source to make the literature reach the masses.”
Still from play 'Hatak'- Sadiya Siddiquia plays the character of a sex worker |
Talking about the format of the storytelling (performing and narrating), Sadiya says it's an intriguing process. “Seema told me about this project and I found the format very intriguing because even though you are reading it from a book, the intensive rehearsals make you memorise the story so thoroughly that you can engage with the audience to express its subtle layers and nuances,” she says and adds that she loves storytelling. “I have always been interested in storytelling because it is a challenging concept that demands keeping the audience engrossed. I agreed to the project instantly, despite having a torn ligament and prescribed bed rest due to my medical condition.”
Other stories in the teleplay ‘Koi Baat Chale’ are Harishankar Parsai’s ‘Ek Film Katha’ narrated by Gopal Dutt, Manto's 'Mammad Bhai’ narrated by Vineet Singh, and Munshi Premchand‘s famous stories; 'Gulli Danda' and 'Idgah' narrated by Vivaan Shah and Vinay Pathak respectively.
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