Returning to stage after 25 years, veteran film actor Om Puri gripped the audience with his poignant performance in Teri Amrita, an adaption to the Indian context of A. R. Gurney’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play, Love Letters (1988).
The play is a love story told through letters exchanged between the two protagonists, Zulfikar Haider and Amrita Nigam, over 35 years. Incidentally, Teri Amrita was also the first presentation of the Punjabi version of the play in India on Thursday.
Writer Amrik Gill, famous for his dialogues for the Bollywood blockbuster Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, has translated from playwright Javed Siddiqui’s Hindi (Urdu) adaptation Tumhari Amrita in just five days.
The Hindi version of the play was performed by prominent artists Shabana Azmi and Farooq Sheikh, who have been performing the play for the past 20 years and have staged 9,735 shows so far.
“Javed Siddiqui is the real hero and this play will do well in any language as the content is so rich in itself,” said Azmi who was also present for the show. Simply enacted through a recitation of letters without any background set or props, Teri Amrita follows the life of star-crossed lovers who pursue different paths, yet keep the flame alive through their evocative letters. A girl with soaring aspirations, Amrita (played by film actor Divya Dutta in her theatre debut), writes about her deepest emotions to her childhood beloved Zulfi, who reciprocates his unconditional love through his replies.
About missing theatre, Puri said, “Yes and No…I did theatre for 20 years with a two-year break till 1987….then joined parallel cinema which helped me reach a larger audience. I am happy to come back because at my age, there are hardly any good roles. Also, compared to those times, theatre has evolved a lot with many players. Earlier, there were just two dominant groups.”
Having watched the Hindi version of the play five times, Dutta said she had lived her dream, “I had thought if ever I do stage, I must do this.”
The play staged on Thursday was the curtain raiser for the 11-day Centrestage Theatre Festival premiering 16 plays in six languages organised by The National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) and Ashvin Gidwani Productions (AGP). The festival will also feature theatre workshops, film screenings and outdoor performances.