It was a sheer delight to watch students of Madhya Pradesh Natya Vidhyalaya performing plays belonging to different genres at Rabindra Bhawan, Bhopal, this past week. Having completed their one-year course in various aspects of theatrical art, their artistry on display in the four-day festival cast a spell on the audience. It was a matter of joy to see the tremendous response of the audience, illustrating the fact that in Bhopal there are true lovers of arts, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the likes of Habib Tanvir, B.V Karanth and Ashok Vajpeyi who were instrumental in preparing infrastructure and environment in the city where serious arts could be pursued and the aesthetic sensibility of art lovers could be enriched.
Apart from exuding youthful energy and enthusiasm with subtlety, these pass-out students numbering 25 truly lived their characters, establishing a deep emotional rapport with the audience.
One of the memorable productions of the festival was “Mati-Gaadi”, an adaptation by Hrishikesh Sulabh in Bhojpuri from Shudraka’s Sanskrit classic “Mrichchhakatika”, a political play immortalised for contemporary audience by Habib Tanvir, who produced it as “Mitti ki Gaadi”.
Directed and designed by Sanjay Upadhyaya, who is also director of Madhya Pradesh Natya Vidhyalaya, the uniqueness of the production was in its musical format. The lyrics written by Hrishikesh Sulabh and the music score by the director himself based on rich folk tunes, carried forward the narrative and reinforced the socio-political content of the play. The music, dances and drama were all intricately woven into the narrative structure of the production.
The adapted version retained the structural compactness of the original as well as the romantic erotic elements. The core of the production was the necessity to overthrow an anti-people regime by force. However, Sanjay’s production tried to give it a feminist angle depicting the silent protest of Charudutta’s wife against the love-affair between Charudutta, a poor Brahmin, and Vasantasena, the highly articulate courtesan. Through the character of Shakar, the brother-in-law of the anti-people ruler, it showed that the foolish and parasite relatives of rulers distorted the system to serve their selfish interest and make a mockery of justice.
The play opened with a composition depicting the war preparations by the deposed ruler. The skilled lighting by Kamal Jain transformed the erotic scene between Charudutta and Vasantsena into intense poetic imagery. The choreography by Lata Munshi and Madhav Barik reinforced the magic of the scene.
Though the entire cast acted, sang and danced admirably but Raviranjan Kumar as Shakar deserved special mention for evoking laughter loud and long through his caricature. Smita Singh Parihar’s Vasantasena was elegant, intelligent and compassionate who loved poor Brahmin Charudutta from the bottom of her heart for his noble qualities. Gagan Shrivastava as Charudutta, Shrutika Jog as Nati and Kumar Saurabh as Maitray, the true friend of Charudutta who remained with him in his adversity, gave impressive performances.
“Khoobsoorat Bala” was a popular play of Parsi theatre which intends to show the fierce struggle between good and evil for supremacy.
The play, under the direction of Hema Singh, offered delightful moments to the audience through its visual and aural charm. Hema Singh, a senior faculty member of National School of Drama, has specialised in the style of Parsi theatre presentation. As an actress of NSD Repertory Company, she has played lead roles in some of the Parsi plays under the direction of the late B.M. Shah, a great admirer and re-inventor of Parsi theatre. She has also done research work in this field meeting leading professional practitioners of this theatre form. Adapting this old text and its acting style to the modern stage, Hema’s production bears the stamp of the maturity of her art.
Shrutika Jog as Tahera, an embodiment of supreme sacrifice to uphold truth gave a powerful performance. Yogesh Pandey as Taufiq, who sacrificed his life for the sake of good and truth, Shweta Ketkar as Shamsa, the source of all evil, and Abhilasha Singh Sengar as Neki, the symbol of good, gave commendable performances.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare was one of the plays featured at the festival under the direction of Alok Chatterjee, a prominent theatre artiste of Bhopal and faculty member of the school. The Hindi version was translated by the late J.N. Kaushal.
This is a play about mutual fascination, infatuations and transient nature of love. Its metaphors are brutal and masochistic which are reflected in the love of Helena for Demetrius. There is a play-within-the play that deals with a tragic love-story, presented by artisans. Here, the character of Puck, ‘who pulls all the characters on strings’ is an instrument to create complications in the life of lovers at the command of Oberon, king of fairies.
Chatterji’s production was neat and sleek which highlighted all the aspects of the play. He aptly focused on the forest scene which was a symbol of freedom and an escape from the cruel world. In the forest, the lovers experienced transitory nature of love, and its madness. The light effects imparted the scene with the aura of surrealism to depict a dream world. Chatterji gave a new interpretation to the play by showing the protest of artisan performers whose clumsily produced play was ridiculed by the royalty. In fact, the play within the play was a source of hilarious laughter.
The festival opened with the play “Hansa Udh Chala Desh Viraane” under the direction of Arun Pandey which revealed the life and work of poet Eesuri who was considered Kabir of Bundelkhand, through dances and songs of Budelkhand region.
All the plays were presented on a stage with multiple layers and a ramp which enabled the performers to move freely with various exit and entry points and to focus on vital dramatic situations.