Manu Joseph’s Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous gets a stage makeover by The Madras Players
Six years after staging the adaptation of Manu Joseph’s Serious Men, Nikhila Kesavan of The Madras Players has chosen another of the author’s acclaimed books for her upcoming production, called Laila and Jamal. Based on the 2017 book titled Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous, it is a gripping satirical thriller that questions the present societal system, in Manu’s distinctive style. Talking about why she chose this book, Nikhila says, “When I read Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous, while I enjoyed the book in its entirety, I was very moved by the story of Laila and Jamal, the protagonists.” Unlike Serious Men, which was adapted from the entire book, Laila and Jamal “is an adaptation of one strand of the novel”. “The plot of my play, like the book, starts with the building collapse in Mumbai, and is set in a time frame of 12 hours that ends with all the clues leading to the big revelation in the end. I think the play has an unusual structure and treatment, with parallel narratives moving towards one climax,” says the director, who is best known for her adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone.
Two in focus
The play essentially follows the two titular characters, who are terror suspects and are being followed by intelligence agent Mukundan. Delving deeper into the plot, Nikhila shares, “As Mukundan follows them, the story of Laila and Jamal unfolds engagingly through the words of other characters — an old politician’s intriguing telephone conversations with a powerful bureaucrat, stinging exchanges between Laila and her widowed mother, eleven-year-old Aisha’s hero-worship of her Laila aapi, the quiet pain and regrets of Jamal’s old father, and Mukundan’s prolific interior monologues.” She is also all praise for Manu’s writing skills, saying, “I think the audience will find the lines in the play entertaining, intriguing and moving. Manu’s beautiful writing makes the dialogues and monologues of this play suit my directorial style. However, it was quite a challenge trying to condense around 200 pages into two hours of stage time.”
One for all ages
The cast of Laila and Jamal boasts of an age group of 11-70 plus. It comprises of Aashna Madan, Balaji K Moorthy, Deepa Nambiar, Ketan A Mehta, Nilu, S Radhakrishnan, Rutva Satish, V Sarvesh Sridhar, Shubh Mukherjee, Sudhir Ahuja, and Vidya Nair. “We rehearsed for three months and it’s been a wonderful experience,” she says, adding that the costumes have been designed by Kamala Krish, and Gibran Osman of Bassam Apparel Studio. The set, on the other hand, has been designed by The Madras Office for Architects and Designers. After premiering it in Chennai, Nikhila plans to take Laila and Jamal to other cities in the future. “I have my hands full with this pllay now. Later, I will look forward to another story choosing me,” she says.
June 28-30. At The Museum Theatre. Tickets available online from Rs. 300 onwards. Details: 93819-11977.
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