Surya Ki Antim Kiran Se Surya Ki Pehli Kiran Tak’
Meet the cast of 'Surya Ki Antim Kiran Se Surya Ki Pehli Kiran Tak’. Image Credit: Supplied

Dignity of choice is ill afforded to people unable to meet societal expectations. Then they must step into the rak-chak-chak of a play; the director shall call you on stage as he or she pleases, move you around and settle you in the most convenient (for him or her) way. In ancient India, not even the royals were exempt from the directives of law, if they were not able (for whatever reason) to produce an heir.

The play ‘Surya Ki Antim Kiran Se Surya Ki Pehli Kiran Tak’, which will run at Zabeel Ladies Club on July 1 to July 3, plies at these shackles of civilization through the tale of a king and his wife, who must 'marry another' for one night – in order to give the kingdom its new prince.

Director Shankar Ramachandran tells Gulf News in an interview that while he was in his home country pre-COVID-19, he came across an exchange that had him despairing. “I had gone back [home] for a wedding and I was constantly noticing almost unacceptable conversations about the gender differences. For example, I heard someone say ‘when are you going to give us a son?’ It provoked me – and brought to mind this play,” he says. “Because there are so many layers in this play, some of which relate to this presumptuousness of men making rules for women.”

The play is set in ancient lands and uses sanskritised Hindi. “It’s poetic. It has to be otherwise it will sound vulgar – so the play is very rhythmic, very beautiful,” says Ramachandran.

But language isn’t a barrier to understanding. “I have read this play to a group who don’t speak a word of Hindi. And if every single person understood the play, without exception. And the reason for that is… in my experience, theatre is not an auditory experience, you need to extract meaning from context. Some of it you will – and once you get into the flow of it, you will immediately latch on,” he says.

This poignant story – which builds on rashers of an ancient civilization – is a classic, he says. It was written by Surendra Verma and first published in 1975, but says Ramachandran: “As long as there are human beings, this play will be relevant.”

It’s a sentiment he found echoed during readings and trial runs as participants began to identify with the characters – not because they had been forced into the same situation, but because the pressure of societal expectations had caused tremors in everyone’s life at one point or another.

“The learning [during this project] was multifarious,” says the theatre veteran. “I learnt something about direction myself, I learnt how people can relate to other people, how people are able to draw from their own experience and relate to a script.”

Theatre exists to prod thought, to raise a mirror to the world, to shift perspectives one act at a time. This one is aiming to get you to acknowledge the manacles of gender you put on at birth; it asks you to challenge the road you are forced to accept and the baton of societal pressure that keeps you on the well tread path. No one is exempt … not yet anyway.

Don't miss it!

Tickets to see ‘Surya Ki Antim Kiran Se Surya Ki Pehli Kiran Tak' at Zabeel Ladies Club on July 1 to July 3 at 7pm start at Dh75.