Group: Atelier Repertory Company

Director: Kuljeet Singh


Kuchh Afsane

Dramatization: Atelier

Source: Manto

Recommended: 4 stars


Khusar Phusar

Adaptation: Sidhant Mago

Dramatist: Neil Simon


In an encouraging development for inter-metropolis theatrical interaction, Atelier Repertory Company of Delhi exchanged visits with our own Padatik under a joint initiative named Sanjh, bringing down two productions directed by Kuljeet Singh in Hindi and Urdu this week.


Kuchh Afsane delivered the greater punch, as Atelier dramatized six of Saadat Hasan Manto’s famous short stories, all prosecuted for obscenity in either India or Pakistan. Singh began with Dhuan, about a schoolboy’s initiation into sexuality at home, then quite innovatively communicated Bu without words, showing the man’s feelings about the one girl he cannot forget. Kali Salwar (in the photograph) captured the innocent woman’s betrayal by her lover, while Thanda Gosht and Khol Do set during communal riots evoked the horror of assault. Upar Niche aur Darmian concluded with Manto’s light narrative of a nawab and begum reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover confiscated from their son.


Unlike most directors of Manto, Singh displays exemplary restraint by abjuring scenes of in-your-face violence, relying on subtlety and suggestion instead. He particularly expresses Manto’s sensuality with tactile delicacy, taking extensive time to linger over some descriptions (as in Dhuan and Bu). The unimaginably terrifying irony in Khol Do after the teenager’s rescue creates a proper culmination, but renders the subsequent Upar Niche anticlimactic because of the latter’s levity, comparatively weak acting and poor costumes – it can serve better as a curtain-raiser.


Sidhant Mago Indianized Khusar Phusar from Neil Simon’s Rumours; mentioning Simon’s name might have fetched Atelier a larger audience. Rumours is a typical American screwball comedy, therefore not rated highly in Simon’s oeuvre. Four couples arrive to celebrate their friends’ anniversary, to find that the host has accidentally shot himself in the earlobe and the hostess has absconded, so they try to outwit an inquisitive police officer. Inexplicably, Singh assembles only three and a half couples, breaking Simon’s symmetry, edits the knockabout plot a bit too much, and overlooks the Bengali inspector’s totally incorrect Bengali. But the whole cast exhibits perfect pacing and timing, performing like a well-oiled ensemble as demanded in a farce. Since all of them feature in Kuchh Afsane too, their versatility impresses.


(From The Times of India, 6 December 2019)