Thirty years ago, with building blocks drawn from his own life, director Mahesh Bhatt had created a film, Arth. The story of a simple, homely woman, who has to pick up the pieces of her life after her husband leaves her for another woman, had won Shabana Azmi a National Award. Arth was also the story of several other women, among them a domestic help, and their struggles for self-assertion in a patriarchal society. As Bhatt prepares to adapt the film for the stage for the first time, Delhi-based actor Imran Zahid finds himself playing the man at the centre of the love triangle, the role of a philanderer that’s coloured in entirely grey.
“I’m know this is a woman-centric play. Yet, the male protagonist has a full-fledged role because the story starts with him. He’s the one who falls in love and wants to leave his wife, creating the narrative of trauma and ultimate victory for the women,” says Zahid. He is in his thirties, tall, his hair casually spiked and the top buttons of his shirt opened — Zahid is a shoo-in as a cad.
Bhatt says that Arth would be Zahid's “litmus test”. The actor agrees. Of course, he can draw comfort from previous, equally strong, roles. Zahid had played Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who had thrown a shoe at the then US president George Bush, in the play, The Last Salute. In his last production, Trial of Errors, Zahid had essayed the role of a journalist who is framed by the security agencies as a terrorist. Both plays were directed by Bhatt. “At the first performance of The Last Salute, al-Zaidi, who was present in the audience, embraced me and we both had tears in our eyes” says Zahid. He had read up and researched for al-Zaidi’s role, he says. For Arth, however, he is drawing upon everyday experiences. “We all know people whose partners have cheated on them, or who are cheating on their partners. I don’t have to think; I have to feel this role,” he says. He isn’t sold on Method acting and,