Mohan Rakesh’s Plays Still Resonate: Ex-NSD Chief Anuradha Kapur

Quint Hindi speaks to former NSD Director Anuradha Kapur, who narrates unheard stories about writer Mohan Rakesh.   

Art and Culture
4 min read

Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma


(This story was first published on 8 January 2019. It has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Mohan Rakesh’s birth anniversary.)

The hero of ‘Nayi Kahani’ movement, Mohan Rakesh, is till date called a legend of Hindi literature.

Four decades after his demise, the plays penned by him – Aadhe Adhure, Ashadh Ka Ek Din and Lehro ke Rajhans – are still considered seminal in the world of theatre.

Mohan Rakesh was born in Punjab’s Amritsar on 8 January 1925. On the occasion of his 93rd birth anniversary, Quint Hindi speaks to former NSD Director and theatre veteran Anuradha Kapur, who narrates unheard stories about the celebrated playwright.

“I believe the language of theatre that Mohan Rakesh gave to contemporary Indian theatre was unique. It made him stand out in comparison to his contemporaries.”
Anuradha Kapur, Former NSD Director 

Having worked in the Aadhe Adhure play, Anuradha talks about how Mohan Rakesh was particular about every little detail during rehearsals.

“I also recall that as an actor he used to even write how sounds must be used. For instance, the first dialogue of ‘Aadhe Adhure’ was, ‘Uff... uff... uff... uff... fir ghar me koi nahi’ (no one is in the house). It is not essential to write this but he would. This contribution, till date is considered a modern Indian classic. Sound, everyday language, language that changes with the character is what he gave us.”
Anuradha Kapur, Former NSD Director
Post-independence there was a trend for stories addressing the struggle of city life, which is referred to as the ‘Nayi Kahani movement’ in Hindi literature. The ‘Nayi Kahani movement’ consists of three prominent writers Mohan Rakesh, Kamleshwar and Rajendra Yadav.

Kamleshwar and Rajendra Yadav themselves considered Mohan Rakesh to be the best out of the three.


People from different age groups, backgrounds and genders could relate to the characters sketched by Mohan Rakesh in his plays, and this is what made him stand out.

“There would always be something or the other in his plays that we all could relate to. Like the ‘Aadhe Adhure’ character of a little girl, Kinni she is a school-going girl who deals with the pressure of school. She gets upset with her mother, gets thrashed by her as well. The elder girl struggles with relationships and marriage. Or the boy who does not wish to work as he believes he would not achieve much by working. These struggles don’t just belong to 1970, they can be seen today as well (through) Kalidas, Malika and Ma. The problems of older generations are dealt with today as well. Anyone who believes that ‘I have felt this too’ is present in the (Rakesh’s) plays.”
Anuradha Kapur, Former NSD Director

In an interview with BBC Hindi, Anita Rakesh had shared interesting details about her relationship with Mohan Rakesh. Anita’s mother was a big fan of Mohan Rakesh. She used to write letters to him. She once insisted that Mohan Rakesh, on his way to Delhi from Mumbai, stays for a bit in Gwalior with them.

Mohan Rakesh accepted the invitation and then began the love story between him and Anita. At the time Anita was not even an adult and Rakesh was 38-years-old. In a few days, Anita left her house to stay with Rakesh and decided to get married. She was Rakesh’s third wife.

Their love story has set an example for many, says Anuradha Kapur. It was a relationship that challenged society’s regressive traditions.
“I knew Anita ji very well. We spent a lot of time together during plays. How to seek freedom in life? Life cannot be spent based on the laws set by society alone. In a way, both Rakesh and Anita ji, lived their lives this way. They have set a precedent for youngsters. If you want to live a certain way, then you should. We could see companionship in their relationship. Their thought process, the way they lived their lives. Taking responsibility of their own lives was visible in their relationship. In a way, it was a message for us. We were much younger then. Social structure does not give us all freedoms; we need to claim them.”
Anuradha Kapur, Former NSD Director

Stories penned by Mohan Rakesh such as Miss Paal, Aadra, Jaanvar and Malbe ka Maalik have changed Hindi literature forever. He has also written famous plays like Andhere Band Kamre, Na Aane Wala Kal, Antaral and Bakalam Khuda.

On being asked what would Mohan Rakesh’s thoughts be on today’s issues she said,

“Mohan Rakesh wanted to witness an environment where people were free and had the freedom to make choices. In today’s day and age, an individual must have freedom, one’s place in society. At the same time, one can neither ignore the society nor become just another majority voice. One needs to struggle. There should be no place for hate, criticism and suppressing someone’s image. There is a lot of struggle in all of his stories. Everyone is passionate about living their lives.”
Anuradha Kapur, Former NSD Director

On 3 January 1972, Mohan Rakesh bid farewell to the world. However, till date he is remembered for the remarkable stories he left us with.

(This story was originally published on Quint Hindi)

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