INTERVIEW WITH SAIF HYDER HASAN
Of love lost and haunting melodies…
After winning accolades for his recent musical productions ‘Ek Mulaqat’ and ‘Gardish Mein Taare’, Director and writer Saif Hyder Hasan is back in the city with second round of showings of his recent production “Gardish Mein Taare” at Epicentre in Gurgaon on July 2.
Part of trilogy, based on doomed love stories set in the 50s and 60s, his first two productions have been a hit with the audience. While ‘Ek Mulaqat’ was based on the star crossed love between Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam; ‘Gardish Mein Taare’ is loosely based on Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt’s tumultuous marriage. Arif Zakaria and Sonali Kulkarni play lead roles in ‘Gardish…’
Hasan spoke to Navneet Mendiratta about his productions and what made him choose commercial theatre over experimental style.
His penchant for doomed love stories
(Laughs) People have been asking me this question of late… Actually, it depends on the mood I am in at that point of time. But that does not mean I am in a state of depression, it simply means that I like the energy and drama of that point. In the case of this trilogy, it was that particular era and most important, the human aspect of that story — the love story.
But, you will see me taking a break with my next production, ‘Mr and Mrs Murarilal’ with Satish Kaushik in the lead. It is a quirky tale on old age loneliness set in modern times and also a love story. It will be staged in Mumbai on July 16 and 17.
The finale of this trilogy is a play on Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. It should happen next year. That would complete my trilogy on period romance, rather music.
On conscious effort to marry music to poignancy
When I chose ‘Ek Mulaqat’ as a subject, it was about Sahir and Amrita Pritam and therefore, it had to be poetry. Also, there was Sahir and his songs, so the music came in automatically. In ‘Gardish…’ too, it was Guru Dutt and Geeta Dutt, so again it had to be songs.
So it wasn’t as if I was pursuing the set up of this kind. It so happened that when I decided to do such stories, I got into that energy zone that propelled me to do such kind of storytelling.
Which of the two has been more challenging?
Both. I enjoyed doing both the plays. Both have their own dynamism. As for the challenge, it is the same challenge that any director encounters when doing a play — in short, getting on with rehearsals, the lines right and the production going smoothly.
On choosing the cast for his productions
My stories need actors to pull in the crowds and I am being very unabashed about it. I need stars who make my stories, add a certain polish with their performance, who appeal to the crowds. It has to be ‘paisa wasool’ for the audience and it has to be ‘paisa wasool’ for me.
The most important aspect of his productions has to be…
Music. A lot many times music comes in before the script does. Because I know what the subject is and how it is going to play out. A lot many times, the songs are what I start working on, even before I start rehearsing. I tell my actors that it is a package that you are going to get – it is the package of lights, music, set and your performance.
Time taken to out to do each production
‘Gardish…’ was done over a period of 25 days. Though music took a month before that. ‘Ek Mulaqat’ took two months. The music took longer for this one. It took us four months to finalise music. There, we took Sahir sa’ab’s lyrics and mixed them with fresh tunes. It lent a fresh perspective to the songs. ‘Abhi na jao chhod kar’ from the film ‘Hum Dono’ became a haunting rendition in place of the naughty song that it was in the film. And ‘Kabhi Kabhi’ in our production is a celebration of love and not a memory of failed love. It was a gamble, but it paid off.
In ‘Gardish…’ we have not used any of Guru Dutt’s songs, except when Sonali is humming them. But we have got the flavour of the songs of the 50s. An era is being recreated through the songs.
The evolution of commercial theatre
The way I am looking at theatre right now, it is developing the way movies are. Now, people are classifying theatre as commercial and non-commercial or experimental. It is good to have all kind of theatre.
Unfortunately theatre does not have an industry status, unlike film and television. That is a setback of sorts. Because everybody is doing his own thing and everyday it is breaking down the other director.
I really hope that in the coming times, theatre directors, irrespective of the kind of theatre they are doing, are able to come together and create a platform that takes this industry to another level.
On perception that only cinema gives you returns
Theatre may not give you a bungalow but if you choose wisely, you can definitely build a small house. A lot people have chosen theatre their livelihood, especially the technicians. The economy has opened up in the last few years and a lot of international productions are coming into the country. It is to be seen how they manage to hold their own, commercially and professionally. At the same time, a lot of producers are trying to step out of their comfort zone and trying to do something different for the audience. Again, it remains to be seen how this shapes up.
Cities you have loved going back to with the shows
Delhi tops the list and then there is Bombay, where I am based. Kolkata is next… Internationally, it is Singapore.
We have staged the shows in Dubai and would be travelling to the US with this show in November. Within India, we have travelled the length and the breadth of the country with our shows and done tremendously well.
On directing a play in English
I have lost touch with English theatre. I am very comfortable with the Hindi theatre scene. I know how to market my play, I know how to push pedal it. English, not the language, but the theatre I am alien to. I may produce one for someone. But then, as they say never say never.