Addicted to period dramas, tragic love: Playwright Saif Hyder Hasan (IANS Interview)

New Delhi, Sep 23 (IANS) Playwright and director Saif Hyder Hasan loves to linger in the 1950s and 1960s and period drama, dealing with tragic love, is his favourite genre. When he decided to do an Urdu play trilogy, the lives of celebrated artists and actors were his natural inspiration.

“I was bored of doing urban angst stories, and wanted to do Urdu plays. I love stories based on 1950s and 1960s,” Hasan, whose “Ek Mulaqat” and “Gardish Mei Taare” starring Deepti Naval-Shekhar Suman and Sonali Kulkarni-Arif Zakaria respectively were staged here last week, told IANS in an interview.

The plays are based on the love story of iconic literary figures Amrita Pritam and Sahir Ludhianvi and the volatile relationship of actor-filmmaker Guru Dutt and singer wife Geeta Dutt.

For “Ek Mulaqat”, Hasan says he was fascinated by the drama quotient of the Amrita-Sahir relationship.

“Amrita was so smitten by Sahir and she explicitly wrote about it. On the other hand, Sahir never spoke about it. He was an extremely arrogant person and I have given a sanitised version of the poet in the play,” he said, adding that he had tried a fictionalised version of their story.

“For me, it is a great love story. I was fascinated by the unrequited love between the two,” he said.

The play is a soul-stirring conversation between the two great writers, who pour their heart out with generous doses of poetry and ‘shayri’.

However, Hasan admits that casting was the toughest part though choosing Deepti Naval was an instinctive call. “I was lucky to get such a star crew though I was terrified of casting larger than life people. Deepti was an instinctive choice. She is a methodical actor and had a special interest in Amrita Pritam,” he said.

For many, Shekhar Suman was an unexpected choice and Hasan even faced criticism. “It was Deepti who suggested Suman’s name and I immediately jumped on it. Many people were apprehensive when we broke the news because of his image as a comedian. I even got trolled on Twitter for the choice,” he said.

However, Suman turned out to be a huge hit,” he said adding that the themes of the trilogy are unfulfilled love, great artistes, music and death.

Like the first, the trilogy’s second “Gardish Mei Taare” also deals with lost love and pain of separation, and is loosely-based on the tumultuous relationship between Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt.

“When my co-writer Sumana came up with the idea of story based on the Guru and Geeta Dutt, I gave her go ahead. Like the first one, it’s also about tragic love between two great artists,” he said.

Inspired by a collection of letters written by Guru Dutt to Geeta, the play goes deep into what went sour between the two. “A collection of 27 letters written by Guru Dutt to Geeta was the premise of the play. Here too, I didn’t try a biopic. We created a slice of life of the 1950s,” said Hasan.

Though the death of Guru Dutt still remains mysterious and there are ample stories on the Dutts’ friction, Hasan said that he has delved deep into their lives. “I have read lot of books on them and I am privy to authentic information too. Using all these trivia, we pushed the enveloped a little. We have gone into the dark spaces of their lives. Moreover, we brought all the elements of 1950s cinema in the play,” he said.

Dispelling popular perception that actor Waheeda Rehman was the reason behind the Dutts’ split, Hasan said that he refrained from showing her in the play for the same reason. “Waheeda never spoke about the relationship between her and Guru Dutt in public. Showing it in the play will be distasteful. Guru Dutt-Geeta break up did not happen because of her,” he said.

The trilogy’s last is inspired by the life of music maestro Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and his muse Gulzaribai. “It will be ready by next year. The cast is going to be bigger than the other two plays,” promised Hasan.

(Preetha Nair can be reached at preetha.n@ians.in)

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