Nostalgia is my urja: Saif Hyder Hasan

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After the critically-acclaimed Ek Mulaqaat, Saif Hyder Hasan returns to the period milieu with Gardish Mein Taare that harks back at the volatile relationship between Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt. Excerpts from an interview with Krutika Behrawala
Q. Gardish Mein Taare is supposed to be inspired by the turbulent relationship between Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt. Your thoughts. 
A. It definitely is not a ‘bioplay’. Yes, Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt are the pivots around who the play has been staged. Their lives have been extremely volatile and brimming with dramatic possibilities and hence, when we were putting the project down, we did sort of keep their pictures in front of us while working on (the characters) Devdutt Bose and Bhavana. There are similarities. They are a director-singer couple of the 1950s, and their relationship is put under a microscope. However, the relationship is dramatised, and not that of Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt.

Sonali Kulkarni and Arif Zakaria in Saif Hyder Hasan’s play, Gardish Mein Taare
Q. What kind of research did your writer Summana Ahmed and you undertake?
A. The research was more about getting the ambience right — the kind of words used by people then; the world of 1950s Hindi cinema needed to be pitched just right, the music (composed by Parivesh Singh) and other aspects needed to fall in place. I also believe in emotional realism and give it slightly more importance over social realism. And, that probably gives any subject its universal language.
Q. Why did you choose Arif Zakaria and Sonali Kulkarni in particular? 
A. That’s a tough question, almost similar to asking someone, ‘Why did you marry your spouse?’ The answer is also similar. Something ticks; something that says, ‘Yes, I’m going to share my life with so and so…’ Here, the director says, ‘so and so is going to share my vision’. In this case, it is Arif and Sonali, both lovely actors, lovely people. It’s been a real pleasure and honour working with them.
Q. Your earlier play, Ek Mulaqaat was also about two yesteryear artists — Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam. What is it about the 1950s or the artists of that time that appeals to you?
A. These days, I’m thriving on nostalgia. It’s my urja (manure). But honestly, it’s nothing like that. I found a lot of dramatic possibilities in the story of Sahir and Amrita. And now, inspired by Guru Dutt’s story, I’m going back in time. Gardish Mein Taare is the second part of my proposed trilogy on artists, unfulfilled love, music and death. Ek Mulaqaat was the first. I have plans of staging a play inspired by the relationship between Bade Ghulam Ali Khan sahib and a courtesan, Gulzari bai.
Q. In terms of visual appeal, how do you deal with the restrictions involved in staging period dramas vis-à-vis, say films?
A. One simply lets one’s imagination go scot-free. Be brave, be imaginative and do not lament about budgets. If theatre cannot compete with Bollywood for budgets then Bollywood cannot compare with Hollywood on the same grounds.
On: Today (premiere); 7 pm onwards
At: Jamshed Bhabha theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
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