He says at any given time the shadow of identity, background and pain never leave anyone, anywhere. Precisely why his work revolves around these themes.
Theatre director Sahidul Haque, whose play ‘The Old Man’ won four awards at Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) in 2020 and will be staged during the physical festival scheduled to be held from July 7 to 10 in the capital agrees that it is hard to look at his work divorced from his home state of Assam.
‘The Old Man’ which is an Assamese adaptation of Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ deals with the eternal conflict between human exploitation of nature and nature’s ways of coping with it. Themes of loneliness and isolation heighten the surrounding tumult.
Haque, who also made the critically-acclaimed play ‘Bubbles in the River’ tells IANS, ” One associates Assam with greenery, nature and beauty. My father is a farmer, something that I have seen him doing ever since I was a child. Also, when you live in a state like Assam, the natural surroundings become an indispensable part of you in every way, no wonder the themes of both the plays are so close to the surroundings of my childhood.”
Also a painter, actor and dancer, he says that the visual art has been instrumental in shaping him into what he is today. “Painting teaches you balance and light. The things from my childhood help me in my design. The reason I create movements the way I do is all thanks to the environment I grew up in and my background in visual arts.”
In ‘The Old Man’, he sees the character as his father and the boy as himself. Stressing that his father was always supportive including his decision to do theatre, Haque recalls, “The play did not develop overnight, but was put together over a long time.”
For someone whose plays are known for their bodywork, he says that he forever striving for a magical space that a set of movements can create in time. “I am constantly trying to develop a style of my own. The thing with movement is that there is nothing permanent about it. And I keep that in mind while designing it. Someone moves, then another one does, and a movement is shaped. The same, when done by a different set of people, carries a distinct personality.”
Interesting, a few years back, the director did the play ‘Black Rain’ about children in conflicts with youngsters from Delhi. He says that he wanted to take the metro kids out of the limited circle of what they face into an alien environment. “The play is about a child’s point of view of war. How children are playing games in sites of war and how it affects them psychologically.”
Haque, who has worked with children for several years feels it makes little sense to classify any production as children’s theatre. “I do not see why plays should be different for adults and children. And I don’t force it upon anyone on how to do a play. Like when children talk about LGBT rights, and just because they’re talking about a topic like that, doesn’t mean it’s adult play. There should be no difference. We need to grow up and stop associating children’s plays with animals etc.”
Currently working on his latest production titled ‘Chai Garam’, which deals with the labour that was forced to migrate to North-East, he says, “Even to this date they are being exploited, almost like bonded labour. The play brings forward their plight.”
(Sukant Deepak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)