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Every shade of love

Wednesday, September 19, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Purva Naresh’s ‘Aaj Rang Hai’, which she co-wrote with her mother Vijay Naresh, and co-directed by Gopal Dutt, opened almost eight years ago, but its popularity on the theatre circuit refuses to wane; so even though she has written several plays since, this first production of her group Aarambh (with Trishla Patel’s T-pot) is still running. Most of the original cast has undergone changes, without affecting the power of the production.

The title of the play, comes from the famous Amir Khusro song on Holi — the thirteenth century Sufi mystic-poet’s words and thoughts form the foundation of this play, on which story of friendship and romance is built.

The time is post-post Partition, the place is a mohalla in North India, where an elderly classical singer Beni Bai (Trishla Patel) lives, with the house-bound Phuphi (Sarika Singh) in another house across the courtyard.  Beni is stern but open-hearted, Phuphi fusses over her Krishna idol and the purity of her kitchen, but is as kind as her neighbour. There has been communal harmony maintained in the area till then and no eyebrow raised when a Muslim boy falls for a Hindu girl. The two matriarch women dominate the locality with a blend of affection and strictness, and keep an eye on the pranks of two little girls —one Hindu, one Muslim —who speak in unison. They have an anecdote from the life of Amir Khusro for every occasion. And the narrative moves from the past (when Khusro lived, so did Allauddin Khilji and Rani Padmavati) to the turbulent period in which the play is set, when such bastions of peace and love crumbled everywhere. The other significant character is Beni’s loyal but cranky retainer, Munnu.

The production is a blend of poetry, music (the original had qawwals from Lucknow, later local singers), dance, beautifully written dialogue — humorous and poignant — and marvellous performances.

Beni Bai, inspired by Purva Naresh’s grandmother, appeared in a trilogy of musicals, ‘Afsaneh — Bai Se Bioscope Tak’, ‘Aaj Rang Hai’ and the more recent ‘Bandish 20-20000Hz’; of the three Aaj Rang Hai remains the most memorable, worth multiple viewings to appreciate its many merits.

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