Reviews, Vol I, Issue II
If Ismat apa were alive today, she would have felt appreciative and humble towards Naseeruddin Shah and the family to bring out her stories, written in an age of repression and hypocrisy, to life nearly after a century. Ismat apa wrote these stories in 20’s and 30’s which triggered the public debate and caused a panic during those years due to the stories being marginally sexually disposed.
Ismat Apa Ke Naam is a fine blend of three stories written by the late feminist, Ismat Chugtai. The three stories are performed by each performer in a narrative style. The use of lighting all along these three plays is judicious so much so that it conveys the change in the scene and the mood of the character.
Although the setting remains the same, lighting effects that keep changing intermittently bring each story alive on the stage.
Chhui Mui (Touch Me Not) is the first story narrated by Nasseerduin Shah’s daughter, Heeba Shah. The setting of this story is a special compartment attached to the train. The story contrasts a pregnant upper class woman (Bhabijaan), whose marriage depends on her getting through her pregnancy and delivering a healthy male heir to her husband. This is in contrast to an unmarried woman who shamelessly gives birth in the same train compartment without breaking much of a sweat. Heeba Shah really hits her stride when she gets into the characters and physically engages with the story. Her voice is clear and concise and easy to follow.
Mughal Baccha (Progeny of the Mughals) is recited by Ratna Pathak Shah, and tells us the story of a stubborn husband– Kaley Miyaan, and Gori bi and their very difficult marriage. Kaley Miyaan abandons his wife early (really early) in the marriage, and the thing that prevents them from consummating it. Pathak Shah Ratna expertly conveys the two characters using her voice and intonation.
Gharwali (Mistress of the House) is about the relationship between Mirza, a bachelor and his maid (soon to be his prostitute), the stunningly beautiful Laajo. Naseer Shah brought the most physical element to his performance, really giving you a sense of who Laajo and Mirza are. The story is witty, and yes a little bit bawdy, but definitely a fantastic finale.
Reviewed by Kiran Patil
Kiran Patil is a Bangalore based freelance writer and journalist.