kambakht bilkul aurat

I’ve been reading Ismat Chugtai’s ‘Kagazi Hai Pairhan’ and ‘Tedhi Lakeer’. Recently. Reading them, almost back to back, was a little confusing. ‘Kagazi ..’ is Ismat’s almost fiction like autobiography and ‘Tedhi Lakeer’ is her novel, almost like her autobiography. I was completely engrossed in both, but came out, a little annoyed by the books, mainly by the main character, Ismat herself in one, and Shamman in the other, both completely self-absorbed, a little too full of themselves.

That makes me take a pause, at a mental picture, of Ismat Aapa, or anyone else for that matter, full of bits and pieces of other people.

But I will write about these books later, in another post. Maybe.

Yesterday, Teja and I after a long ride back from Surat, actually took another ride down to Prithvi and went to watch Motley’s ‘Kambhakt Bilkul Aurat’ (Ismat Aapa ke Naam – II). This is a rendition of three stories, ‘Amarbel’ performed by Manoj Pahwa, ‘Nanhi ki Naani’ performed by Lovleen Misra and ‘Do Haath’ performed by Seema Bhargava Pahwa.

Manoj Pahwa recounts that Manto had read Ismat’s ‘Lihaaf’ before he met her, and though he liked the story, he was very annoyed at the last line of the story, and thought to himself ‘Kambakht bilkul aurat nikali‘. Damn, just like a woman. But later, when he met her, read more of her work, he realized that her being a woman, made her stories so particular, in their femininity, in their observations.

And indeed it does. Both Teja and I were sleepy, tired. But this disappeared as the power of the words took over, undoubtedly enhanced by masterful performances. Both Manoj and Seema are such fine actors, that they own the stage, they seem so much at ease, that their performances seem effortless.

But yesterday, it was ‘Nanhi ki Nani’ which made me cry. Lovleen, with her burkha, at one moment a child, at another a begum, the next the beggarly Nani, and yet another, a monkey, her burkha not only illustrating the myriad uses that Nani put it to, but becoming a character in itself, now flying around her, now a blanket, now a turban, now a shroud.

The set for each story, and the props were quite effective. Minimal, and yet lending a form, a visual point. The only thing that did not work for me was the music. It was completely unnecessary, and seemed to come in fits and starts, was either too little or too much and therefore seemed arbitrary. But that is a small quibble.

Manoj at the beginning of the performance speaks of their director, Naseerbhai (Naseeruddin Shah) who has become a little senile, and begun doing planchet. He said Ismat Aapa came to him in a planchet session and said she would be very upset if mobile phones rang during the performance.

None did.

But Ismat Aapa did come to life, yesterday. Not admonishing, but just so full of observation, a deep empathy for human helplessness, and such a play of words. motleylovleen

10 thoughts on “kambakht bilkul aurat

  1. Your post is a lovely reminder of a favourite book. “Kaagazi Hai Pairahan” made me fall in love with the feistiness of Ismat Chughtai. Her hunger for learning and her pursuit of learning made me a little ashamed of how I took my own education for granted.
    Chughtai’s Urdu sparkles and her characters fairly dance out of the pages. What a smashing read it is!

  2. You don’t know just how homesick your posts are making me, Banno! Prithvi was a favourite haunt when I was working in Bombay. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    I first read Lihaaf when I was a teenager – not the right time for it. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I re-read it much later and loved it. I haven’t read the others. Time, age and distance have put a world between me and regional language books. Time to change that.

    Thanks for the post.

    1. Anu, perhaps it’s time to visit. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks to Flipkart, I manage to get some books. Though they don’t have that big a collection. But I have been too lazy to actually source the books elsewhere, because it means a long trek in Bombay.

  3. Such a nice review, Banno. Reading your posts about theatre, I always have this longing to go and watch some myself.. but not sure what to do with the husband and the child, and not smart enough to reach these places alone ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    1. Violet, Prithvi has a good open air cafe. Maybe the husband and child could hang out there, while you watch the play. Prithvi also does really good theatre for children, keep a look out on their website. And I don’t believe that you are not smart enough to get there.

  4. Hi Banno, I have returned last month to Karachi after a two months stay in Mumbai and somehow I always squeezed plays in my tight schedule of daawats, shadies, shopping and rishteydaars and had become almost a regular at Prithvi. Daastangoi was completely water off duck’s back to me, I liked Begum Jaan too but Kambakht– was simply amazing, I loved Manoj and seema’s performances but ironically to me Loveleen Mishra’s narration of Nanhi Ki Nani felt like a complete letdown and yes you are right Ismat Chaugtai did come to life.

    1. Nikhat, it’s amazing that you managed to squeeze in theatre at Prithvi amidst all the usual Indian wedding chaos. Daastangoi is a bit hard to follow, even for me, but I still love the sound of the language and all those words. Yes, Kambakht was a fabulous experience. I liked Lovleen, Manoj and Seema are anyway, always good.

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