Mahesh Dattani on his play Final Solutions and how theatre has always been a place of uncertainty for him

Bengaluru-based theatre group Alchemy Theatre Society performed the last show of Final Solutions at Jagriti Theatre on Sunday
A picture from the Final Solutions show
A picture from the Final Solutions show

Although India and Pakistan underwent the horrific and bloody partition in 1947, the aftermath of the event leaves a pang even today. From hatred to stereotypes and religious conflicts to communalism, the emotions run high between the two communities. This is what Mahesh Dattani seeks to explore in his play Final Solutions, which was written in the late ’80s. 

Bengaluru-based theatre group Alchemy Theatre Society performed the last show of Final Solutions at Jagriti Theatre on Sunday to throw light on the different shades of the communalist attitude between two communities. Written by Dattani, the story is a result of his interaction and observations on the riots in Ahmedabad. 

“I wrote this play in the late ’80s at the request of my mentor and theatre personality Alyque Padamsee. The story is a result of several interviews with people who experienced riots in Ahmedabad, and also personal stories of Muslims and Hindus who helped save people during riots. The narrative by the young bride in the story was inspired by my mother’s stories of her childhood in Jamnagar,” says Dattani. 

While it may have been a hit here, the story faced many obstacles over the years. According to Dattani, the first show in 1991 was canceled due to the “incident” in Ayodhya. “After 1991, it actually took two more years for the play to be staged in Bengaluru which was being organised by an NGO. In fact, Padamsee produced the play in Bombay and toured with it to all the major cities. However, there has been no criticism of the play’s political content,” says Dattani, who went on to receive the Sahitya Akademi Award for Final Solutions. 

Dattani’s journey with theatre started at the early age of 12. His ambition to pursue it more seriously grew only when he joined a theatre group in Bengaluru. “I was always fascinated by the world of theatre after seeing a play for the first time when I was 12. Many years later, I joined an amateur theatre group called Bangalore Little Theatre,” he says.

“Theatre showed me a world of possibilities where stories are re-written or created afresh, where there is a direct interaction with audiences, and I am free to express and explore the human condition as I experience it and observe it around me,” says Dattani, who also started his own theatre company called Playpen in the ’80s.

Dattani has also worked on plays like Dance Like A Man, Thirty Days in September, Big Fat City. The story behind many of these plays has been inspired by Dattani’s view of the world and how people respond to certain emotions in their own unique way. 

“ There are multiple perspectives to a story. The more I write, the greater the inadequacy to fully explore all perspectives. We are bonded through timeless and universal human concerns and yet each one of us is so unique. What makes us unique is how we see the world and our responses to it. That is what makes every story so unique,” says Dattani. 

Describing his journey as a theatre personality, he says that his career was filled with uncertainty. “I don’t think I ever wanted to do anything else apart from theatre. It hasn’t always been easy and there is always the insecurity of what the future will hold. Success or sustenance is not guaranteed. I have been praised and criticised for my works. Through the years, I have taken both in my stride,” says Dattani.

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