Duo aims at self sus­tain­ing stage

The Asian Age - - Theatre+ -

Ak­bar Quadri and Azam Quadri, jointly known in theatre and film cir­cles as Ak­barAzam, are the Gennext ver­sion of Bollywood’s pop­u­lar broth­ers Ab­bas- Mus­tan, ex­cept that the lat­ter duo are mostly seen in white and it’s some­what eas­ier to tell Ab­bas from Mus­tan. In the case of Ak­bar- Azam, who staged Ten­dulkar’s far­ci­cal Jaati Hi Poo­cho Sadhu Ki at the IIT on April 8, it is dif­fi­cult to tell one from the other, es­pe­cially when you meet them for the first time. Last seen in Im­tiaz Ali’s Rock­star, the Quadri broth­ers con­tinue to re­con­nect, re­new their ties with theatre through An­traal, their troupe that has given a plat­form to theatre en­thu­si­asts from all walks of life — engineers, doc­tors, stu­dents, me­dia pro­fes­sion­als, man­age­ment and ad gu­rus — since 2007.

When we meet, a beam­ing Ak­bar tells me how the show for Jaati Hi Poo­cho Sadhu Ki was sold- out, thanks to the door- to- door dis­tri­bu­tion of tick­ets booked on phone that their group has in­tro­duced re­cently. “Theatre never tried to make it­self com­mer­cial,” Ak­bar re­flects, adding that their troupe strives to make theatre a com­mer­cial achieve­ment, a medium that mar­ries en­ter­tain­ment with en­ter­prise.

They re­alised early on in their jour­ney, when they started the Jamia Mil­lia Is­lamia chap­ter of In­dian Peo­ple’s Theatre As­so­ci­a­tion ( Ipta), that for a lot of peo­ple who were pas­sion­ate about the medium, it was dif­fi­cult to pur­sue theatre full- time be­cause of their pro­fes­sional con­straints. The idea be­hind An­traal, which means in­ter­lude in English, was to give an op­por­tu­nity ( or an in­ter­lude) to peo­ple from other vo­ca­tions to ro­mance the ar­clight with the guid­ance of some pro­fes­sional hands. “We re­alised we had to be tech­ni­cally sound, so we re­ceived train­ing in stage’s var­i­ous el­e­ments,” says Ak­bar, adding that while Azam looks af­ter light, he han­dles set, makeup and cos­tumes him­self.

The duo feel that theatre, by and large, is still tread­ing an old path. Old scripts con­tinue to be propped at new stages. “For how long can we con­tinue to stage Ashadh Ka Ek Din ( Mo­han Rakesh), Ek Gadhe Ki At­makatha ( Kr­is­han Chan­dar) and Taj Ma­hal Ka Ten­der ( Ajay Shukla)?” won­ders Ak­bar. “We must re­alise that the times have changed. Those is­sues are no longer rel­e­vant. To­day, peo­ple have new is­sues, con­cerns, pri­or­i­ties. Theatre needs new en­ergy in the form of new scripts,” he adds.

When An­traal’s jour­ney be­gan in 2007, their de­but play, Mausam Ko Na Jaane Kya Ho Gaya, ex­plored the con­flict be­tween two gen­er­a­tions through the story of a Vi­darbha farmer and his son. The play won ac­co­lades for its light treat­ment of a sen­si­tive, con­tem­po­rary so­cial is­sue. In the last five years, the troupe, while oc­ca­sion­ally stag­ing time- hon­oured plays like As­ghar Wa­ja­hat’s Jis Lahore Nahin Dekhya, has con­stantly tried to bring in new sto­ries. Its 2010 play, Udne Ko Aakash Chahiye , dealt with the prob­lems of the new gen­er­a­tion that wants to do some­thing else, but is doomed to do some­thing else.

The duo, who have ear­lier made doc­u­men­taries for ra­dio ( AIR) and TV ( DD, Prasar Bharti) and are on the cusp of be­gin­ning a new chap­ter in Hindi cinema with a film about the ru­ralur­ban di­vide, feel that theatre re­mains their first love. Mum­bai might help them earn money, but to give a vent to their “tech­ni­cal and aes­thetic frus­tra­tions”, they keep turn­ing to theatre. “We are con­stantly try­ing to learn a new life,” say the Qau­dri broth­ers who are cur­rently work­ing on a new play on Par­ti­tion in which they will ex­plore the na­ture of power through the ages and the con­flict be­tween re­li­gion and pol­i­tics.

Ak­bar Quadri and Azam Quadri of An­traal.

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