New Delhi, Feb 13 Celebrated writer Ismat Chughtai did not live just one love story in her life and this is what the play 'Ismat's Love Stories' tells us.
The drama was held at the Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, where sweet yet foot-tapping melodies of late 1940s like "Chanda Re Ja Re Ja Re" floated in the auditorium and gave a warm welcome to the audience, spanning across both age and gender.
The play written by Anuradha Marwah suggests why the legendary feminist writer is still relevant today.
The 100-minute play directed by Sanjay Kumar begins with Ismat, played by Shilpi Gulati, appearing for an interview where she is repeatedly questioned about her controversial short-story 'Lihaaf' much to her irritation.
The act displayed Ismat's disapproval of a general stereotyping of her works because of 'Lihaaf', which deals with elements of homosexuality.
According to Ismat, the idea of lesbianism "was not dirty or perverted, it was simply the truth" and "was something that women indulged in when men visited prostitutes".
The next act played out a portion of "Terhi Lakeer", which is considered Ismat's semi-autobiographical work, which explores complex relationships between women in a male-dominated society.
The play also explored Ismat's relationship with her husband Shahid and the famous Urdu author, Saadat Hasan Manto.
Manto, who became Ismat's admirer after reading 'Lihaaf', felt she was "just like any other woman" on meeting her.
When asked about the rumours of her romantic liaison with Manto, Ismat says she "loved Manto... She was his friend. But she loved his wife, Safiya more." In fact, there were times Manto turned green with envy watching the close friendship between Ismat and Safiya flourish.
Talking about this side of Ismat's personality, lead actress Shilpi said, "Ismat loved women more than men and didn't hesitate in writing about them."
Shilpi said that this play was important also because "even Left-liberal male writers like Manto often ended up not letting women speak for themselves, on their own."
In a vivid show of emotions, the play portrayed Ismat's feeling of betrayal when Manto leaves for Pakistan without informing her, while in her grief she also feels responsible for his untimely death.