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Sarita Joshi discusses Ittefaq and her play Dhummas

The 1969 film, directed by Yash Chopra which released 47 years ago, is based on the Gujarati play, Dhummas. The play’s leading lady spoke to us about how the Chopras adapted the play and addressed the enduring legacy of its story.

(Photo: Sarita Joshi)

Sonal Pandya

Dhummas, meaning fog, was first made in Gujarati, then Marathi and finally in Hindi. Veteran theatre actress Sarita Joshi, who started out the Indian National Theatre, played the lead in all three versions, a commendable achievement for any stage performer. Madhukar Jhaveri first wrote the Gujarati play and it was later adapted in Marathi by playwright SN Navare.

The hit play premiered in Ahmedabad and went on for a year. Legendary theatre actor-director Pravin Joshi helmed the production, while his brother Arvind Joshi acted opposite Sarita. The duo was praised for their performances, while Sarita was especially lauded for taking on the difficult play in three different languages. Sarita said the play’s concept was developed by her husband Pravin and writer Madhukar Jhaveri.

In 1969, BR Chopra produced Ittefaq, directed by his younger brother Yash. It was by those standards, an experimental film, with no songs and starring Rajesh Khanna and Nanda in unconventional roles. Khanna and Nanda took on the parts played by Arvind and Sarita in the play respectively.

“At that time, everybody used to watch our plays. Yash Chopra has mentioned it in one of his interviews about watching the play and mentioning me. He used to watch most of my plays from Chandarvo onwards. But he especially liked Dhummas and kept coming to watch it. Then, his elder brother also came to watch it. Pravin said that he didn’t have time to help them with the film adaptation, but the brothers said that they would remain faithful to the movements of the play. Later, Arvind assisted them with the film.”

Sarita said Ittefaq added additional characters. In the play, Bindu’s character, Ms Renu, did not exist.
She later reminisced that movie reviewers recalled her performance while talking about Nanda’s role in the film.

(Courtesy: Sarita Joshi)

Speaking further about Dhummas, Sarita stated that she acted in 200 shows of both the Gujarati and Marathi versions. The Hindi adaptation had fewer shows, but is most proud of organising two shows for the military at Khadakwasla in Pune. Dhummas was one of the few plays to be enacted in three languages.

The music for the play was given by Jaidev, music composer of Hum Dono (1961) and Reshma Aur Shera (1972). Sarita said, “At that time, all the film personalities used to watch theatre. Vijay Anand, Madan Mohan, Suraiya dropped by a lot, and in fact, Jaidev brought along Nargis to watch a show at Bhulabhai Auditorium. Nargis had put her hand on my head and said, ‘What acting!’. Bhulabhai theatre is not there any more. My play Santu Rangili opened there.”

Sarita also addressed reports that the film was being updated for modern audiences by BR Films and Dharma Productions. Sidharth Malhotra and reportedly, Sonakshi Sinha, will be playing the leads in the new version. She felt the remake might resonate even more with today’s viewers. “This was an intellectual play, that you make a plan to trap someone, how do you do that. And with today’s technology, you can take it even further. We didn’t have all this in our time. Actually, [Yashji] made the film with such simplicity. He made the film just like the play. I believe the film can be presented even more powerfully today.”