‘The play is a plea for understanding and friendship’

Published:April 28, 2017 5:50 am

Naseeruddin Shah will be seen in the play A Walk to Remember Nirmal Harindran
DURING a diplomatic session in Geneva in 1982, Pentagon official and architect of the Cold War defence policy, Paul Nitze, and Soviet Ambassador Yuli Kvitinsky pushed back their chairs, left the negotiations table and went for a famous walk. It was too American and the problems of the Cold War, between USA and USSR, were not relevant to India. For all the latest Entertainment News, download Indian Express App now You bring the play to Delhi at a time when Indo-Pak relationships are heated. The Russian character becomes a Pakistani and the American, an Indian. Excerpts from an interview with Shah:
Did you immediately know that A Walk in the Woods suited the Indian political climate? Randeep Hooda and Feisal Rashid did the basic spadework of rewriting. In between negotiations, they decide to take a walk and talk as human beings. Is there a message in this? You feel bad at the end. How do you embody your character? The incident inspired American playwright Lee Blessing’s A Walk in the Woods in 1988, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony award. Both are convinced that they have to find a way forward. We eliminated most of the Cold War references and included issues between India and Pakistan, such as cross-border terrorism. Motley and Alchemist Marketing and Talent Solutions brings the Indian adaptation of the play, directed by Ratna Pathak Shah and starring Naseeruddin Shah and Rajit Kapur, to Delhi on April 29. The play is a plea for understanding and friendship. You play the Pakistani diplomat Jamaluddin Lutfullah while Rajit Kapur is Ram Chinappa. How did you go about this? It sticks to the nitty-gritty of the problem. There is nothing polemical; we are not concerned with taking sides or blaming the other. We like and trust each other and enjoy being on stage together, which is probably a good thing. I encountered the play about 20 years ago and found it interesting but did not think of adapting it. We performed it before in Delhi and LK Advani saw and liked the play. My character is the guy who has turned cynical because it is the nature of his job. It took me a while to realise that it could be adapted. I have known Rajit for many years and have watched his progress with pride and envy. I use a Punjabi accent like all Punjabis from Pakistan. It resulted in breakthrough ideas that, though rejected by their governments, would signal to the world that the Cold War may be starting to thaw.