The Delhi Theatre Festival returns after a prolonged hiatus of three years with a compelling start: Naseeruddin Shah’s Ismat Apa Ke Naam. This play, situated on the edge between one-act plays and readings, pushes all boundaries and evokes raw, powerful emotions.
Right from the beginning, Mr. Shah makes it clear that this will not be a smooth ride. He delves into the controversies surrounding Ismat Chugtai’s name, notably the controversy surrounding her work ‘Lihaaf.’ It sets the uncomfortable yet perfect tone for what the show has in store.
Under the direction of Naseeruddin Shah himself, the show is divided into three compelling parts, each featuring a captivating reading of Ismat Apa’s stories. Heeba Shah starts with the extraordinary tale of ‘Chui Mui,’ followed by Ratna Pathak Shah’s impeccable narration of ‘Mughal Baccha.’ Naseer Sahab concludes the play with one of Chugtai’s most popular stories, ‘Gharwali.’ These performances invite introspection and bring out suppressed emotions.
The three stories are told in a manner that Ispat Apa herself would have desired, as affirmed by Naseeruddin Shah. The Shah family’s brilliant performances serve as a testament to the relevance and profound impact of Chugtai’s thoughts and words. Additionally, Vishal Bharadwaj’s music and Rekha Bharadwaj’s melodious yet quirky song add the perfect finishing touch.
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