A Veteran’s Debut

The 'write' in playwright is very, very tough," says Feisal Alkazi. If there's a playwright locked away in every actor and director, Alkazi has just set his free. The Delhi-based theatre person, with 40 years on stage and countless plays behind him, is making his debut as a writer of an original production, A Quiet Desire, revolving around one of the significant episodes of Bengali literature — the relationship between Rabindranath Tagore and his sister-in-law Kadambari Devi. The play will be staged at Epicentre, Gurgaon, today.

"It's me putting myself out there, starting from a blank page and creating characters. I had to find the individual voice of each character, find a style of writing, and this combination of narration, music and dialogue took very long," says the director, whose group, Ruchika Theatre, is well-known for its exploration of human relationships.

After the evening's rehearsal a few days before the first show, Alkazi reads out dos and don'ts to his cast — "careful about pronunciations", "wear drop earrings that catch the light but not too much", "bangles will be distracting but one bracelet will do" and "get some cold management" (the last one to sniffling actors).

To Alkazi, 58, a relationships counsellor, the story of Kadambari Devi or Kadam — a girl from a humble sandesh-taster's family who marries into a wealthy household and becomes close to her young brother-in-law — is filled with possibilities. The 80-minute play traces the changing dynamics of their relationship, but leaves the tragic ending filled with questions. "Did Kadam kill herself because Rabindranath got married? Or was it because she was in depression or lonely?" asks Feisal, adding that he did toy with the idea of naming the play, Kadambari.

Tagore, Alkazi says, walked fully developed into his imagination as he relaxed in Chennai after signing a book deal on games for children based on the Nobel Laureate's works. Since 1988, he had been reading works on and by Tagore, significantly British poet-writer William Radice's translations. "Kadambari Devi seemed to be a lingering motif in his works and I was intrigued by her," he says.

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