Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Reviving Parsi Drama

Apart from saving the Parsi community from extinction, theatrewallahs must take the onus of saving their rich cultural heritage as well!

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We’re talking about the revival of Parsi-Hindi rangmanch. Parsi theatre, inspired from Persian culture, flourished during the postIndependence years. It included musicals and epics, which were based on social, moral and political issues.Though virtually nonexistent now, National School of Drama graduate Imtiaz Ahmed has tried to recreate this style of theatre with his play RustomO-Sohrab, being staged for the first time in Mumbai. The play is based on Agha Hasher Kashmiri’s Urdu adaptation of the popular 10th century Persian tragedy Rustom and Sohrab, a story from Firdausi’s monumental epic, Shahnama.

Just like any rangmanch performance, this adaptation has music, songs, poetry, emotions, action sequences and loads of drama. Strangely, the first thing that strikes you about this musical are the vibrant costumes. The women, who play princesses, courtesans and belly dancers are dressed in gorgeous outfits, while the men look dapper in their clothes – them seem like they’ve timetravelled all the way from medieval Iran! The music by Ishtiaq Ahmed is hummable.

Now if you’re a regular at watching plays, you’re going to find the acting in Rustom-OSohrab rather loud.Which means, the actors are shouting out their dialogues, every word is accompanied by a hand gesture, female characters are giggling and sighing while essaying their part etc. But that’s the style of this kind of theatre.

Though the story is a tragic one, there is enough comic relief provided by some of its characters, so even if it is a dramatic or intense scene, you’re going to burst out laughing at someone’s expression or dialogue in the play. Whether intentional or not, I can’t deny that you will be highly entertained most of the time.

Unfortunately, the two-and-a-half hours duration is excruciatingly long. Also, the play is highly experimental and you must keep an open mind if you want to watch it.

Play: Rustom-mo-Sohrab

Director: Imitiaz Ahmed

Duration: 150 Minutes

Cast: Sohan Dev, Arif Siddiqui, Prachi Beniwal and others

Language: Hindi/Urdu