KK Raina
The first Ibsen Festival in Mumbai (31st October to 3rd November 2014), spearheaded by Ila Arun and her production company Antardhwani will be staging PIR GHANI. The play by Ila Arun is an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's play PEER GYNT. Director-actor KK Raina talks about the adaptation and tells us about this version of PEER GYNT and of what makes it special.

 By Deepa Punjani

Deepa Punjani (DP): You have directed and are also acting in PIR GHANI. What is your response to the text as a director and an actor?

KK Raina (KKR): Ila Arun and I have been working together for about 30 years now. She had written an original play RIYAZ and has adapted about nine plays and I have directed all the plays except MAREECHIKA (based on Henrik Ibsen's LADY FROM THE SEA). So understanding each other and sharing creative inputs and connecting with the basic premise of the play came naturally to us. This does not mean that we don't have creative disagreements. But after discussing the issues it becomes easy to be on the same page. Adapting PEER GYNT was a mutual decision. Ila has done her job of adapting the play and I have directed it. She has done a brilliant adaptation of the play as Pir Ghani, our version, is based in Kashmir. We see glimpses of Kashmir valley from 1980 till 1998. I am a Kashmiri and it has been fascinating to revisit my younger days in Kashmir through PIR GHANI, as we are construct the ambiance. Ila Arun's adaptation has given a different dimension to Ibsen's original play. I am enjoying piecing it together and creating the bigger picture.

As an actor (playing the older Pir Ghani) it is a completely different journey. A difficult challenge. Ila Arun has maintained the poetic form and kept the lyrical quality of the lines in place. It is a huge task for an actor to perform and keep the language structure intact and I hope not to disappoint Ila and the other actors of the group.

DP: What do you think is special about this adaptation?

KKR: Two things are very special in this adaptation: one is the poetic flavour that Ila has managed to give to her adaptation. Ibsen calls PEER GYNT a long dramatic poem. And second is the idea of placing the play in Kashmir from 1980 to the late nineties. I think it is a master stroke.

DP: Have you followed the script as Ila Arun has written it, or have you suggested things differently to her?

KKR: I strongly believe that the script is the foundation of any theatre production and I try my best to follow it to a tee. In our case it is easy because if I need clarity about anything, I have the writer always present in my rehearsals. Besides Ila is also playing Pir Ghani's mother (Aasi) in our play.

DP: This adaptation will be seen in conjunction with the Norwegian production of the play- a solo performance piece by Kåre Conradi. Though the context of the same play will be very different, it will still draw comparisons. Is that exciting for you or challenging?

KKR: I have seen Kåre Conradi perform his solo performance piece of PEER GYNT in Norway. He is a brilliant actor, and performs with grace and lightening energy. Comparison between the two productions will be unfair, because both are in their own spaces and are done with a specific purpose. I would say it will be exciting for the audience to see the same play done so differently but trying to reach the same goal of understanding the struggle of an ordinary village boy who is in search of his real identity.

DP: After the recent play NAMASTE in which you also collaborated with Ila Arun, you are now involved with this play and the Ibsen festival. Will you continue to do more theatre and are there plans to take this play beyond the festival?

KKR: Surnai, our theatre group, which is under the umbrella of Antardhwani Productions is organising the festival with the help of the Royal Norwegian embassy. I am one of the founder- members of Surnai and am therefore involved with the festival. We will try to travel with the play to major cities in India and will also perform in Ibsen's homeland Norway. Theatre is an inseparable part of my being.

Deepa Punjani is the Editor of this website.

Click here to read Ila Arun's interview about the festival

Click here to read Kåre Conradi talk about his solo performance of PEER GYNT

Click here to read what Manoj Shah has to say about his version of THE MASTER BUILDER

Click here for the Preview of MASTER BUILDER

Click here to read about the seminar in which KK Raina will also be participating

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