Thanks to my dear friend, Astha Dixit, the choreographer and lead dancer of the play Dara Shikoh, I was accorded two seats in Stein, for me and my better half, Indira. We reached the audi a couple of hours before the play commenced and I went straight to the green room to capture the candids at the back-stage. I had a wonderful time doing my captures, while listening to the interesting banters, especially in the green room of the ladies!
In the empty hall, an elderly gentleman, was quickly going around taking stock of the stage and then sitting in different seats on different rows at different corners of the audi checking the visibility of the stage from various directions before he headed to his place in the lights and sound room upstairs.
The play commenced and the action began with a dance sequence and quickly the entire elite audience got engrossed into the proceedings and I was deep into my clicking penance. The play was crisp as it traversed a couple of decades in the storyline before the curtains came down. The actors assembled on stage and were introducing the cast. They called the name of the Director, M S Sathyu. He was not to be seen and everyone was wondering where he was. The announcer realized that Sathyu was doing his duty today at lights, helping the apprentice. A few minutes later, the very same gentleman who took stock of the empty audi, walked in to the audi with a jhola in his hand and slowly yet surely, moved towards the stage and stood there for a couple of seconds to the grand acknowledgement with no emotions on his face. Then he walked into the audience space, took a seat by the side of an aisle and started gazing into the ceiling. That was M S Sathyu.
Meanwhile the audience went about congratulating the cast and shaking hands with the fellow audience. Also asking a question, ‘did you understand the dialogues completely?’ A couple of them asked me too. The Urdu in the play made it difficult for the audience to follow the dialogues, leaving them a tad disappointed. It might not have had any impact on either the director or the producer, because they are passionate about their work..
“Dara Shikoh”, the modern classic is directed by M.S. Sathyu and written by Danish Iqbal, which encapsulates the play’s portrayal of the young Mughal prince and heir apparent to Shah Jahan. The play, being performed after three years, is once again being directed by the eminent director, stage designer and art director M.S. Sathyu and presented by Impressario Asia.
Danish Iqbal, the playwright, talking to the Hindu, attributes his knowledge about writing and stage skills to Sathyu. “He’s a grand old man of Indian theatre. He has a terrific sense of aesthetics. He makes sketches of every scene before the performance, to work out how the stage characters, headgear, beards, dresses, everything would look. He’s a very meticulous person. It’s a pleasure working with him. His art work is tremendously beautiful.” Iqbal adds that while he has indeed provided the dialogues, characters and content of the play, they’ve been given shape by Sathyu.
I slowly went and sat next to Sathyu ji, at his feet on the aisle, and started talking to him. This young man of 84 is brimming with enthusiasm, talking about his flight today to Mumbai to work with the cast from IPTA for the play scheduled on Feb 5th, at Prithvi, and then heading to Bangalore to take Dara Shikoh, on an eight town tour including Bangalore, Davengere, Bellary, Mysore etc, all in the month of Feb. He was very delighted to share that the play will be staged in a school of theatre set up by an ashram in Davengere. I also gathered that he designed around eight new arenas for theatre in Bangalore including Rang Shankara where Dara Shikoh will have three shows. His enthusiasm is infectious.
Indira interacted with Sathyu about his films as she has been a fan of his work from the days of the film “Garam Hawa.” Sathyu shared about directing Habib Tanvir and Safdar Hashmi in a play and the discussion about his works went on…
Sathyu who started his journey as an art director, went on to design sets, lights for productions and then directing plays and finally films. In films, he has worked as an art director, camera-man, screenwriter, producer and director. His filmography includes over 15 documentaries and 8 feature films in Hindi, Urdu and Kannada.
It was an inspiring evening with M S Sathyu. as active and energetic as ever, brimming with ideas and enthusiasm even at 84. Indira and I will treasure this interaction for life time. Looking forward to meeting Sathyu again, very soon.