Fervent and eloquent, one of India's best doctors, Dr Farokh E Udwadia masters the art of healing. He is considered a legend in the medical field and perhaps the last of the legendary physicians. An author of several medical journals and books, Dr Udwadia is also a playwright and his one theatrical stroke of brilliance is all set to be back on stage this Sunday (July 16) at National Centre for the Performing Arts, NCPA.
Titled Oganga, the play is an extraordinary saga of an extraordinary man, Albert Schweitzer, who withdrew from the luxuries of life to offer a lifetime of service as a doctor in the jungles of Equatorial Africa. It was Dr Schweitzer's idea of humanity and 'reverence for life' and living beings that prompted Dr Udwadia to write a play narrating his life.
“Moreover, no one seems to know about this great man, not even medical professionals. Either they didn't know him or they knew close to nothing. And I am a great admirer of Dr Schweitzer. I thought he was a great man and it would be important to let people know, particularly medical professionals and general people,” says Dr Udwadia.
Performed by Padmaavat actor Jim Sarabh, the play is directed by Dr Sooni Taraporevala, who uses minimal set to tell the story. However, the play is amplified by the background music and lights. “The focus is on the man. I think it is done very effectively just with lights and sound. I suggested projecting some pictures or scenes from Africa, where the play is based, but she (Sooni) said, 'I would much rather want them to listen to it than look'. It is a remarkably modern and effective way to present a story,” explains the playwright.
The play illustrates the ideal of how every human being should be. It’s about a man who lived for others, not just for himself; It conveys the message of universal love not only towards one’s fellow man but for all living things. Incidentally, the title of the play ‘Oganga’ is derived from the name bestowed on Dr Schweitzer when he was in Africa. “It was the name by which every doctor was called. It was the only way that people in Africa would define him when he said he is a doctor,” clears Dr Udwadia.
While writing comes easily to Dr Udwadia, given that he has authored an illustrious list of medical books, writing a play was more about his passion for theatre. Whether it is Greek tragedies or modern-day dramas, Dr Udwadia has read many of them. It is this passion for theatre that it took him only about three months to write the play. In fact, he says that the last act of the play was written first. “Because that came naturally to me. It's more philosophical and I believe, if Dr Schweitzer was alive he would have approved it. The first and second acts needed some revisions. But overall, the writing of the play came very easy to me because I am so passionate about theatre and writing a play was always in the back of my mind,” shares the doctor.
Telling a story of a lesser-known man in the first person, where one actor enacts and reads the narrative, the play was first performed in 2022. The second show, this Sunday, Dr Udwadia says, has no big changes, however, he does have some in mind for the future. But will the layman connect with the story of this man far from Africa? We ask. “I think so because it's a narrative and it's simple. It's brought to life by dramatising on stage. If you read a book about him, you would say what a good man he was, but if you dramatise him on stage, it becomes even more interesting. The story impresses much more when it is dramatised and acted upon,” he says in conclusion.