From Bob Dylan to film-maker Muzaffar Ali, many have fallen under the spell of Jalaluddin Rumi — the 13th century poet and Sufi mystic. Author and playwright Mohini Kent Noon is no exception. Intrigued by his writings and legacy, Noon was hooked on Rumi, who most famously wrote The Masnavi, an epic poem about man’s search for god.
Enchanted: Set in an era 800 years ago.
After introducing his works to her mother, Amrit Kent, an Urdu scholar, Noon decided she wanted to explore Rumi as a man, and not just as a great poet. Kent spent years researching Rumi’s life, while Noon worked on versions of the play. The result of their four years of work, Rumi, Unveil the Sun, premiered in New Delhi last May, and has now been highly lauded by the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META).
Although the META winners will not be announced until 6 March, Rumi, Unveil the Sun distinguishes itself from the other nominees by sheer numbers. It was nominated twice in the supporting actor category and once in every other category, with the exception of best actress — but only because the play didn’t have a lead actress role.
But it is not just the number of nominations that sets this play apart; the story looks back 800 years to the moment when a proud, religious student underwent a profound personal transformation, forever altering the world of poetry and Sufism. While other plays in the category are based on fictional stories, Rumi, Unveil the Sun takes its plot line from historical fact.
“I think people respond to it because we are talking about a human being,” Noon says. “We can see that he is a great man. But when he was going through a very difficult period in his life, he was just another man trying to cope with events as best he could.”
The play takes a moment from Rumi’s life when he encounters Shams-e-Tabriz, a wandering mystic. The director, Sohaila Kapur, says it was this meeting that attracted her to the play. “(Shams’) negation of Rumi and Rumi’s anger at being criticized for the first time really fascinated me. I had never done a play dealing with philosophy.”
Despite the profound ruminations on Rumi’s mental transformation, Noon denies the play is too cerebral to be entertaining. “It is very moving because it is about a real human being, and his human condition.”
Actor Oroon Das, who doubles as lead actor and set designer, agrees. “The play is not too abstract, it’s a pretty real depiction,” Das says. “It’s a play of ideas and a journey of Rumi’s thoughts, but it conveys those ideas through staged incidents in his life.”
Das, like many other cast members, was only vaguely familiar with Rumi when he joined the production. He dedicated himself to reading Rumi’s work and tried to abstain from drinking and smoking to prepare his body for the role. After acquainting himself with Rumi’s poetry,Das was inspired enough to ask for the job of set designer in addition to playing the lead. Noon says that like Das people have responded strongly to the play because it reintroduces Rumi to them. “A lot of people have heard the name Rumi but haven’t actually read his poetry, and a lot of people have read his poetry but they don’t know much about his life,” she says. She considers the play her contribution to spreading Rumi’s message of love.
At the Little Theatre Group, New Delhi, today, as part of the screenings organized by Mahindra group, leading up to the announcement of the META Awards on 6 March. Tickets are available at Teksons Bookstore (011-24617030), South Extension-I, New Delhi.
The complete schedule of META-nominated plays
LTG (LITTLE THEATRE GROUP)
# ‘Rumi, Unveil The Sun’ on 1 March, at 7.30pm
SHRI RAM CENTRE
# ‘Karnnabharam’ (‘The Anguish of Karna’) on 1 March, at 4.30pm
# ‘Ilhaam’ on 2 March, at 7.30pm
# ‘Jazz’ on 3 March, at 4.30pm
# ‘Rajkumar Hemendrajit’ on 4 March, at 4.30pm
# ‘Charse Koti Visarbhole’ on 5 March, at 4.30pm
# ‘Transposition’ on 3 March, at 7.30pm
# ‘Matra Ratra’ on 4 March, at 7.30pm
# ‘Bikhre Bimb’ on 5 March, at 7.30pm