The 3 best theatre plays of Naseeruddin Shah

John Day is about to release this week and we thought we’d give you something special about each actor in the film. When you talk about ‘actor’, the word is quite synonymous with the veteran legend Naseeruddin Shah. Such is his capability and dexterity when it comes to acting. He has also exhibited his exceptional talent in the theatre field and here is a short list of all the best theatre plays of Naseeruddin Shah.

The veteran actor has always proved his critics wrong, be it when they branded him an actor of art films or when they labelled him a nose-in-the-air celeb. The actor, who has given several commercial hits, is quite the leader when it comes to meaningful cinema.

He believes that theatre is the best way for a person to approach a career in acting. “Acting on stage, for an actor, is like practising on the nets for a cricketer. Theatre will equip an actor with skills that can be used in every sphere of entertainment, even movies. But an actor who starts off in movies may not be able to handle theatre. The best actors of the world have all started with theatre.” he points out.

Anitgone: Written by Sophocles’ as far back as 442 BC, the story, in fact, was prompted by an even older Thebian legend. A tale of two brothers who fought a civil war, leading opposite sides. In Sophocles’ play, King Creon decrees that the rebel brother, Polynices’ body, should be left unburied on the battlefield, prey to animals, birds and insects, as punishment. Antigone, Creon’s niece and Polynices’ sister, defies him.In this version of Anouilh’s story, interpreted by Satyadev Dubey, there’s an emphasis on this essential conflict, amplified by two accomplished actors, Naseeruddin Shah playing Creon and Ratna Pathak Shah playing Antigone.

The Prophet: There is pin drop silence in the theatre as the darkness gives way to light and one sees Naseeruddin Shah on a hospital bed playing the prophet. The play has been adapted and there is a little boy — Rishabh Thakkar — playing his hospital companion, while his wife Ratna plays a nurse and his son Imaad plays a hospital attendant. The entire family save the youngest son is in the play and it’s a treat to watch this family of actors. Naseer’s daughter Heeba is a fine actress in her own right. The two hour play, with its intensely intense lines enacted with Naseer’s perfect diction and intensity, gives you the feel of having been in church – you come out wiser from this bout of acting.

Ismat Apa Ke Naam: Ismat Chughtai would have smiled. The famous Urdu writer, renowned as one of the four pillars of Urdu literature and known for her outspoken and revolutionary style of writing, would have liked her stories being narrated by the actors of the Motley theatre group. The three touching stories- ‘Chui Mui’, ‘Gharwali’ and ‘Mughal Bacha’, although different from each other, fundamentally deal with women and their survival in a male dominated society.

Dressed in a blue kurta and white pajamas, Naseerudin Shah, who is both director-actor here, introduced the audience to the work and life of Ismat Chughtai. The first story narrated by his daughter, Heeba Shah was ‘Chui Mui’.

The second act by Ratna Pathak Shah was easily the best of the three staged stories. Narrating the story in the grand tradition of grandmother’s stories, Ratna manages to move between the roles of a narrator and characters like Gori Bi and Kaale Miyaan of ‘Mughal Bacha’ with an ease that is difficult to match.

The third story of the evening performed by Naseeruddin Shah is called ‘Gharwali’. There is a rawness to the story, which depicts a prostitute cum maid. The story can make people uncomfortable with its sleazy lines and double entendres. However, it is the rawness infact that makes it so real and easy to relate to.

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