"The Prophet" staged by Naseeruddin at Prithvi Theatre

“It throws up questions about dilemmas in one’s life including ‘Who am I?’"
( [email protected] ) Nov 19, 2003 10:52 AM EST

Mumbai, India., Nov. 19 - After Ismat Chugtai and Saadat Hasan Manto, actor-director Naseeruddin Shah now takes on Kahlil Gibran’s writings.

Naseeruddin Shah, of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" fame where he portrayed the role of captain Nemo, had enacted Gibran’s The Prophet as a finale to the on-going Prithvi Theatre Festival 2003.

Poet, philosopher and artist Gibran (1883-1931), a Syrian Maronite Christian, was born in Lebanon. His writings in Arabic, and later in English after he migrated to the US, are considered ‘to be a precursor to New Age writing and an expression of the deepest thoughts of man’s mind’.

"The Prophet, a mystical work, takes on subjects as diverse as children and mundane everyday existence," says Shah. “I had read The Prophet during my college days and it had stayed in my mind. A few years back I attended a reading of The Prophet at the NCPA in Mumbai by the London-based actor Renu Sethna. I was totally mesmerised. That’s when I realised that this could be a subject for my next stage production. In that sense I am indebted to Renu for rekindling the desire to enact The Prophet.”

The play has Shah along with child artiste Rishabh Thakker, son of set designer Mihir Thakker. The setting is a hospital room “which most humans consider the last stage of their existence. Lying on the hospital bed all kinds of thoughts cross one’s mind about the end. I lost my parents in a hospital and last year my mother-in-law. The hospital evokes deep metaphysical thoughts especially for those on their death beds,” adds Shah.

Shah describes his rendition of the The Prophet as constantly evolving. “It throws up questions about dilemmas in one’s life including ‘Who am I?’ eventually it is left to the way you interpret Gibran’s sayings.”

With a running time of over two hours, Shah feels his play and its ending is open to the viewers’ interpretations “even I am still trying to understand Gibran’s ‘ordinariness of the plains of existence’.