Sutradhar theatre group will present a live dramatised reading of Sadat Hasan Manto’s ‘Siyaah Haashiye’ on August 14

Sadat Hasan Manto’s Siyaah Haashiye, first published in 1947, is a collection of 32 short and very short stories on the brutal, grim realities of Partition. On August 14, 6 p.m., Hyderabad-based Sutradhar theatre group will present a live, dramatised presentation of the stories on Mumbai Theatre Guide’s Facebook page. The 50-minute presentation will feature Vinay Varma, Deepti Girotra and Rahim Amirali Lalani.

Sutradhar first staged Siyaah Haashiye in 2011 in Hyderabad. Directed by Deepti, the production had its actors wearing sombre colours on a stage that had minimal props. Manto’s hard-hitting words were enough to transport the viewers into the bloody aftermath of Partition. The play has since been staged in different cities, including Ahmedabad and Indore, and each time the presentations have been tweaked to bring in novelty.

This will be the first live, virtual presentation of Siyaah Haashiye for the theatre group and Vinay concedes that the pandemic has necessitated them to explore new possibilities: “We have so far done three digital performances (as ticketed shows on Bookmyshow); we are doing our best and are excited, because it gives us something to look forward to and we don’t get rusted. Virtual performances don’t match up to the energy of staging a play in front of a real-time audience.”

The pandemic has been tough for those in the performing arts, particularly theatre groups, but the actors are hopeful of a turnaround. Some of the members meet at Sutradhar office for rehearsals, maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols, says Vinay: “We cannot rehearse remotely from our respective homes. We need to take the risk to put up a good performance.”

The three actors have been rehearsing for a week and are geared up for the live performance, after a tech run with the Mumbai Theatre Guide team for light and sound. “We will begin with an introduction on Manto and what prompted him to write these stories. Some of the stories are very short, but convey so much in a line or two. Siyaah Haashiye will be a composite performance, combining reading and performance,” says Vinay.

(Siyaah Haashiye will be performed live on Mumbai Theatre Guide’s Facebook page on August 14; 6 p.m.)

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