'Shankar wanted to direct 'Mother Courage'

'Shankar wanted to direct 'Mother Courage'

Thespian Arundhati Nag tells Metrolife about her association with the play and why it will always be relevant.  

What is the relevance of a play like 'Mother Courage and Her Children' today?  

This is a universal tale of greed, courage and the marketplace, about how it dominates our lives. It's very relevant. It was written by Bertolt Brecht before the Second World War as a warning to Europe, that if you dine with the devil, you need to have a long spoon. It holds good even today, holds good any time.

Can you tell us about your previous association with 'Mother Courage and Her Children'?

My association with this play is actually very, very old. When I was in college and all of 17, I did a one-act play called 'Zeenat ke hathiyar' based on Brecht's play. We based it on the Bangladesh War. Years later, Shankar (Nag) wanted to direct 'Mother Courage'. The last conversation we shared in fact before we lost him was him asking me, "'When we go back, will you act in 'Mother Courage'?' I said, 'Yes'. And then he was gone. So, when I was in the hospital after the accident, my friend Surendranath adapted this play to the Karnataka wars, and we did 'Mother Courage' in Kannada as a tribute to Shankar Nag on his first death anniversary. The entire theatre fraternity got together to do a play that a friend wanted to do (but couldn't) in his lifetime. And, now 26 years later this play comes to me again.

What was the best part about working on this production?

The chance to work with so many youngsters. Most of my co-stars are children of my friends. Quasar, the director is the son of Dolly Thakore and Aleque Padamsee, I've seen him from when he was a child. Junaid is Aamir Khan and Reena's son, Abir's parents are my very good friends. Most of the actors are one third my age, I got this amazing chance to work with 18 passionate youngsters. I had to wipe out all my past experience and start learning afresh. Which is very interesting at my age.

You had a cart in your farm, was this the one from 'Mother Courage and Her Children'?

It was. It was in my house on the farm for many years -- a hand-pulled cart. Then I moved it to Ranga Shankara and later, it disintegrated. Time takes a toll on everything material, but not ideas.   An idea is like Mother Courage, it lives on in our minds. So the  cart is gone, now I'm working with a new cart. It's like this story by Ramanujam. A person says, "This knife has been in my family for 300 years. It is very old. Sometimes we change the blade, sometimes the handle, but essentially the knife is the same." 'Mother Courage' is like that, you can change the language, adapt it to a contemporary setting but what continues to ring through is a resilience.

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