Mister Behram and Other Plays puts the spotlight on Gieve Patel, the dramatist
Decades have passed since the talented cast and crew of Princes, Savaksa and Mister Behram took a bow. Their stage run might come to a halt, but their life on the shelf has just begun. The three plays, written by Gieve Patel, were back in the reckoning when the compilation Mister Behram and Other Plays hit bookstands recently.
Now, with the book out—it was released recently at Crossword, Kemps Corner— Patel hopes his plays will enjoy the spotlight again. “The plays are now available to theatre enthusiasts. Some group might stage them again,” he says. The three plays are the only ones he wrote. And the Parsi community remained his constant inspiration. “If we takes a close look at a small group and write intimately about it, the writing acquires a universal character,” he says, a Parsi himself.
When he writes his next play, Mumbai will seep into the Parsi story, predicts Patel. But he can’t predict when he would get down to writing it. “I have the material for it for some time now but don’t know when I would start working on the play.” After Mister Behram in 1987, Patel hasn’t gone back to writing plays. “I’m a slow writer. Each one of them took seven-eight years. Writing a play might have lasted two years, but preparations for them look longer,” he admits. The book contains photographs of the productions taken by Madhu Gadkari and old interviews of Patel on his plays.
Apart from the rich use of spoken language as a basic instrument of
theatre, what made Patel’s plays memorable was the association of Mumbai theatre’s who’s who. Pearl Padamsee directed Princes in March 1970 and Alyque Padamsee played the lead role apart from designing its sets and lights. Nearly 12 years later, Pearl directed Patel’s second play Savaksa which opened in 1982. Mister Behram, which premiered at the Bombay Arts Festival in 1987 was directed by Toni Patel.
Theatre had this 68-year-old doctor-artist fascinated since his school days. This became a passion while studying at St Xavier’s College. But itfound the right direction and guidance only when he started assisting the legendary Ebrahim Alkazi. “Though I mostly worked backstage,
I learnt a lot from him,” Patel says. But the characters of his plays are something he has pick up from the people around him. “I have fictionalised their stories and blended them in my dramas,” says Patel.
While the plays have come in long intervals, this medical practitioner has been consistent in expressing himself on the canvas. Poetry too takes up some of his creative hours and the poetry workshop in Rishi Valley School has been keeping his January schedule full for a decade. “For the last two years, I have stopped practising medicine. It’s mostly painting that keeps me occupied while writing remains quite sporadic.”