Following a Greco- Sanskrit style, (if we can call it so), Layla Majnun is an amalgam of the ideas of the playwright, the director and all the participants. It not only talks about the love between Layla and Majnun , but talks of one that transcends all human boundaries & ideas of this emotion, connecting it with the supreme power called GOD. It journeys from the concepts of Ishq-e-Majazi to Ishq-e-Haqiqi and while doing so touches upon many ideas and issues that our society needs to address even today.
Be it the status of women or the right to expression, the duties that one has towards society or the right to live, this play through its very poetic rendition brings to light all these questions very subtly and leaves a lasting impression on the minds of its audiences. In today’s world where violence seems to have become the call of the day, one can say without a doubt that Layla & Majnun have taught us the meaning of Selfless Love. And we hope that our presentation speaks to you in the same way as it has touched our lives.
-Ram Gopal Bajaj
Layla – Majnun is retold yet again as a narrative poem and a play, tracing the lives of two young people, both hemmed in by what was around them; the people, the places and the nature of the nomadic Bedu society in the early years of the 7th Century A.D in the Middle East. The story begins with the chorus, a group of women, introducing this tale to the audience. They give a brief background of how love blossomed in the hearts of these two young people and that its passion and intensity makes people think that Queys is possessed by an evil spirit.
Next we find Layla’s parents discussing how this love between them (Queys and Layla) has brought the family nothing else but shame. Queys’s father speaks to Layla’s father who refuses this proposal. Disheartened Queys slips into melancholy. On a pilgrimage to Mecca, Majnun strikes the Kaaba and cries, ‘none of my days shall ever be free of this pain. Let me love, oh my God, love for love’s sake, and make my love a hundred times as great as it was and is!’ He runs away into the wilderness, becoming unkempt, not knowing good from evil.
Layla meanwhile is married to Ibn Salem. Two years after his death Layla finds Queys but, realizes that the one she loved is lost and has been replaced by a new Queys who is so much in love with the image of Layla, which is similar to that of the supreme power – Allah. Brokenhearted she leaves Queys who has transcended this mundane life to one full of love and light and has become oblivious to Layla’s death.
Best Script: Ismail Choonara & Sabir Irshad Usmani
Ismail Choonara has worked as a research chemist, mathematics teacher and lecturer in science in UK. His short stories, poems, and other pieces, have appeared in books and journals in South Africa, U.K, U.S.A, India and Pakistan. His radio plays have been broadcast on the World Service for the B.B.C. and German Radio network. Apart from Yaadon Ke Bujhe Hue Savere he has also written Layla-Majnun as a verse-play in five acts and Ab Yeh Fiza Khamosh Hai based on the mob violence in Ahmedabad which appeared in Alpjan, New Delhi in 1992 (April-June Vol. II No.2). Currently he is working on possible tableaux on Ghalib. He is also a painter.
Sabir Irshad Usmani (Translator) Born in India Sabir moved to Karachi and then to London, working and studying part time at L.S.E. and Regent Street Polytechnic. He founded the Urdu Trust and the European Urdu Writers’ Society, of which he became General Secretary and editor of Parvaz, an Urdu monthly. His literary works include various articles for Kitab Numa, five parts in Sadah on Khusro and a book on the life of Moulana Mohd. Ali Johar. He has translated works of Ismail Choonara including plays Yaadon Ke Bujhe Huye Savere and Layla Majnun.
Best Stage Design: Aditee Biswas
A graduate from the National School of Drama with a specialization in Design and Direction, Aditee has designed several productions for eminent directors, conducted theatre workshops and directed several plays. Her play Portrait of Dora featured at the Theatre Utsav ’08. She directed Untitled with the apprentices at the NSD Repertory Company, which premiered in their Summer Theatre Festival. Presently she is involved with NSD as a visiting faculty member.
Best Lighting Design: Daulat Vaid
A graduate from National School of Drama in 1997 with a specialization in design and direction, Daulat has worked as a freelancer and visited several countries like Sri Lanka, Japan, Brazil, Kenya, France, Pakistan, Germany for various theatre projects. As a Designer & Stage Manager he has worked with various eminent theatre personalities internationally. He has been an integral part of several theatre festivals like German Theatre Festival in India, Bharat Rang Mahotsav, Russian Days in India, World Social Forum in Mumbai and in Nairobi. Among his directed works Sultan, Nirgunia, Romeo & Juliet and Mahanirvan deserve a special mention.
Best Sound Design: Rajesh Singh
A trained actor, designer, director and musician, Rajesh has won several awards and laurels for his contribution to theatre. He has done several productions with eminent directors, worked with Sahitya Kala Repertory and Shri Ram Centre Repertory as an actor and created music for several productions. He participated in Bonn Theatre Festival, Germany and Lille Theatre Festival, France as a designer. An Inlaks Scholar, presently Rajesh is completing a course in Theatre Design and Stage Management at LAMDA, London.
Best Costume Design: Amba Sanyal
She appeared on the Delhi stage, in Heer Ranjha and in the role of Kaikeyi which she played for several years in the Ram Leela productions of Bharatiya Kala Kendra. She assisted Shanta Gandhi in designing the masks and head gear for the production of Jasma Odan for National School of Drama. She has designed costumes for various productions at the NSD and other theatre groups.
Best Actor (Male): Ejlal Ali Khan
A freelance actor who graduated from Bharatendu Natya Akademi in 2007 and has acted in various television serials, films and plays, Ejlal has worked with several eminent theatre directors like Ram Gopal Bajaj, Salim Arif and Chitrarth Singh. Presently he is involved with the serial Maharaja Ranjeet Singh in which he plays the lead.
Best Supporting Actor (Male): Banwari Taneja
An active theater actor for the past forty years, Banwari Taneja began his career under the guidance of B. M. Shah, B. V. Karanth and Om Shivpuri and went on to become a veteran actor of the Delhi stage, acting in over 100 plays. He is also a radio, television and cinema artist. He lives in Delhi.
Best Supporting Actor (Female): Kavita Verma Kundra
Kavita’s association with theatre started at age of thirteen. A graduate in history from Patna University, she completed her masters in theatre with a specialization in Acting from National School of Drama in 1996. Having worked as an ‘A’ grade artist with the Repertory Company of NSD, she has played central parts in the works of eminent theatre directors like Shri D.R. Ankur, Mohan Mahirishi, Valentine Teplikove, Bhanu Bharti, M.K.Raina, Robin Das, Prassana and Anuradha Kapur.
Best Director: Ram Gopal Bajaj
Ram Gopal Bajaj joined the National School of Drama in 1962, then known as Asian Theatre Institute and got his diploma with a specialization in acting. As a teacher of Drama at Modern High School, New Delhi, he has to his credit 50 children plays that he produced between 1969-73. He was appointed as Reader in the Department of Indian Theatre, Punjab University, Chandigarh, 1973 and joined Department of Dramatic Arts, Punjabi University, Patiala (Punjab) as Professor and Head of the Department in 1979.
Among his recent achievements Mr.Bajaj has to his credit the conception and organization of the first ever Bharat Rang Mahotsav 1999 (National Theatre Festival). He also conceived National Theatre Festivals for Children, christened Jashn-e-bachpan and Bal Sangam held in 1998 and 2000.
Having acted in about 36 plays with eminent Directors, directed more than 45 productions, conducted several workshops and organised many festivals, headed the NSD Repertory company between 1988-94 and served as Director of National School of Drama from November 1995 to September 2001, Ram Gopal Bajaj was awarded the Padma Sri by the President of India, 2003 for his immense contribution to theatre.