Motley Celebrates 40 Years

Motley Celebrates 40 Years

The idea of Motley was born in a small coffee house in Lucknow in 1978 when Naseeruddin Shah & Benjamin Gilani decided to produce plays that they were curious about. They decided to go with Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, though they had no clue as to how to go about it. Godot was in rehearsal for nearly a year and finally opened on July 29th at the newly inaugurated Prithvi Theatre, under the banner of Majma, Om Puri's fledgling company. This was because we hadn't yet found a name for the group but by the next show we had decided on MOTLEY; only thing is that the next show was performed only a year and four months later!

From being an itinerant troupe of two, Motley (later including Tom Alter, Ratna Pathak Shah, Kenny Desai, Shiv Subramanium, Akash Khurana and Jairaj Patil) now has a substantial, but constantly changing membership. The group has regularly toured the country and has even taken their work to foreign shores.

Right from 1979 till date, Motley has brought every possible genre of drama to audiences of professional theatre across the length and breadth of India, and has performed numerous times to student audiences as well, in schools and colleges in different parts of the country. The group has produced several short and full-length English plays and has for the last two decades been performing in Hindustani as well.

Naseeruddin Shah says, "Ben and I had several plays in mind that we wanted to do but for practical reasons didn't attempt them. On the budgets we had for theatre we could only afford to do one-act plays initially and the best ones weren't written in India, so we didn't do anything Indian at that time. Arms & the Man in 1984-5 was our second full-length play, a good 5 years after Godot. We did the plays we did because they were the ones we wanted to do not for any sociological reasons.

Then after about twenty years of work in English I felt I wanted to do theatre in my own language and stumbled upon Ismat Chugtai.

And her stories, apart from being in the league of the greatest writers in the world, felt like they were about my extended family and written for today. Her observation on every kind of relationship is sharp and pithy and insightful and funny." Then followed a series of story-telling productions based on the writings of Saadat Hasan Manto, Harishankar Parsai, Premchand, and Kamtanath.

Motley had always wanted to do a long run of a play and with Father, we found that play. Naseer says, "There was no anxiety about how the audiences would react; I knew they'd accept it if it was well done and luckily I had a great team who made sure it was."

Motley's one and only goal should be to survive on its own terms and continue to push for excellence in performance and presentation. "We didn't plan a charted course when we started off, no reason to do so now. Always, the play's the thing!" says Benjamin Gilani.

In a quick fade-out, forty years and forty-two productions have gone by!

Schedule for Motleyana festival:

MOTLEYANA @ Prithvi Theatre, Juhu

16th to 19th July : Manto Ismat Haazir Hain
20th & 21st July : Kambakhat Bilkul Aurat
22nd July : Ismat Apa Ke Naam
23rd to 26th July : Aurat Aurat Aurat
27th & 28th July : Dear Liar(Show details in the word document)


During the festival Prithvi House will witness readings of works by renowned playwrights, short story writers & poets, along with performances & discussions by various theatre artists.
(More details in the word document)

MOTLEYANA @ Veer Savarkar Auditorium, Shivaji Park

6th Aug :Dear Liar
7th Aug : Aurat Aurat Aurat
8th Aug : Manto Ismat Haazir Hain
9th Aug : Einstein
10th Aug : Ismat Apa Ke Naam

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