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Play explores Indo-Pak relations through a tale of friendship

Sunday, Apr 30, 2017,18:41 IST By anju A A A

New Delhi | As an ingrained rivalry between two diplomats from India and Pakistan turns into an informal companionship, a new play ‘A Walk in the Woods’ explores the futility of efforts to improve relations between the neighbouring nations.

The play opens with an irritable Indian diplomat Ram Chinappa, played by Rajit Kapur, seriously coaxing his Pakistani counterpart Jamaluddin Lutfullah, played by Naseeruddin Shah, to discuss a negotiation proposal between their respective countries.

While Chinappa increasingly grows impatient by Lutfullah’s casual demeanour, the latter goes on to discuss his favourite suit makers and the scenic beauty of the surroundings.

He insists on becoming friends with Chinappa, rather than being a mere negotiator, and each of Chinappa’s sentences is subsequently met with a quick repartee by Lutfullah.

As the play unfolds, the conversation takes a serious turn, transforming into a commentary on the fate of the cross-border relations, which, both agree, depend not on the countrymen’s wishes but on those of the rulers and interlocutors.

“Year after year we are sent here to meet each other, to discuss our problems, and play blame games. But we end up trading proposals, hurling accusations, and measuring our arms and ammunition like school kids.

“What we need is better education, healthcare, employment and birth control. All these meetings are ridiculous. All our proposals invariably amount to nothing. We keep failing,” says an exasperated Lutfullah.

While Chinappa fails to entertain Lutfullah in the first half, the second half shows the two men getting more informal with each other and the Pakistani diplomat getting more cynical.

As the last attempt by the two to reach an amicable status is rejected by the leaders of their countries, Lutfullah’s decision to retire from his service is met with disbelief from Chinappa, who had grown a liking for the diplomat from across the border.

“As so many before us and many more to come after us, we also have done nothing. The new man will also do nothing but trade proposals. There is never going to be any progress here,” says Lutfullah with a sense of loss.

Based on Lee Blessing’s work of the same name, the play was directed by Ratna Pathak Shah.

The play concludes with a dejected Lutfullah asking Chinappa, “What should we talk about now?”

“Let’s talk about nothing,” says a content Chinappa as he takes off his shoes to get drenched in the rain in the woods.

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