Ghalib’s contemporary poet Zauk once wrote, “In Dinon Garche Dakan Me Hai Badi Qadr-E-Sukhan, Kaun Jaaye Zauk Par Dilli Ki Galiyaan Chhod Kar”. We are not sure if Ghalib approved of these lines or not but Pierrot’s Troupe must believe so, that’s why they bring Ghalib back to Delhi with each performance of “Ghalib in New Delhi”. The successful play of the troupe has been staged over more than 300 times. This review is of the performance on July 12, 2013 at Sri Ram Center, New Delhi.
The play, written and directed by Dr M. Sayeed Alam also features him in the lead role of Ghalib. It is a comic take on what will happen if Ghalib returns to Delhi in the present era. Certainly he will have to face problems in terms of the language, the change in the geography of the city and also the inflation over the years! Sayeed Alam does justice to the character of Ghalib with his own interpretation of old man Ghalib would have been. Highlight of the play are the supporting actors from the troupe, especially Hareesh Chabbra who beautifully plays the character of a Bihari UPSC aspirant who lives in Laxmi Nagar and takes Ghalib as his room partner! Hareesh looks even better in the initial Chandni Chawk market scene when he takes the character of an autowala, the Sardar Ji, who gets angry at every matter and is also prepared to fight with everybody despite his old age. Hareesh looks fabulous in this small character and there is no blinking to the fact that people remember this character long after leaving the auditorium. He perfectly dons the gesture of an old Sardar Ji. Later he does equal justice to the character of ‘Jai Hind’, the Bihari UPSC aspirant.
Arguing with the room partner
The director chooses to play different songs of Ghalib during the change of scenes, which add to the beauty of the production. The play exhibits numerous rehearsal room improvised jokes, which also work occasionally. There are few very distasteful jokes as well in the play. One joke is related to Shahnaz Hussain whom the Actor addresses as “not so beautiful Beautician” (‘Aap beautician ho sakte hain agar aap beautiful naa ho’). But audience laughs at every joke, and it seems that was the only purpose of the play, which it has been able to accomplish. Playwright also has a take on homosexuality and men who ‘look like women’. The concluding scene of the play, when Ghalib talks on phone, seems too dragging and gives very less reason to laugh.
All the jokes together make it a mediocre play when compared to the Troupe’s other productions. Without doubt, still there are few outstanding performances to witness. Hareesh Chabbra steals the show, and his real life wife Anju Chabbra gives him equal competition in form of Chhada Aunty. Sayeed Alam succeeds as an Actor but fails to impress as a playwright in this particular production.
The modern Ghalib
This review was first published in My Theatre Cafe on July 16, 2013