“Hello, Dolly”, directed by Ravi Raj Sagar, staged in New Delhi the other day, wasn't high on a social message, but provided humour and visual appeal.

This past week we saw the Hindi version of “Hello, Dolly” based on Wilder's “The Matchmaker”, which was adapted into a Broadway musical. It was presented by Dramatech at New Delhi's Shri Ram Centre and offered unalloyed light entertainment to the audience.

Directed by Ravi Raj Sagar, “Hello, Dolly” is remarkable for its visual and aural delights and its uninterrupted flow of dramatic action, which keeps shifting to different locales. Last year, Ravi Raj displayed his artistry by bringing out comic elements in “Ek Jaam, Auntiyon Ke Naam”, a black comedy. In his latest offering he reveals his ingenuity by bringing to the fore undemanding entertainment and out of stock characters like a rich, stingy and cruel man and a lady matchmaker who has the last laugh. The secret rendezvous, romance and love expressed through songs, rendered beautifully by the cast, enhance the appeal of the production.

Here are two principal characters — Dolly, a widow, who claims to be a matchmaker, and Horace Vandergelder, a wealthy middle-aged man who hires the services of Dolly to find a wife for him. They interact in such a way that they create comic situations, evoking laughter long and loud.

In contrast, there are young couples in love but not able to marry because they are poor. Here again, Dolly plays her clever card by helping them out. The director has treated with a comic touch the slapstick situations, mistaken identities and absurdities of a rich middle-aged man who considers himself wise. The most hilarious scene is the one in which two clerks in the employment of Horace, pretending to be rich to impress young women, are terrified to suddenly see their employer coming to propose to the same woman the senior clerk is in love with. They hide unsuccessfully and then timidly face their angry and arrogant master.

Sets and costumes

Though the comedy does not intend to convey any profound social message, towards the end, one of its principal characters becomes transformed into a rational and better human being.

The highlights of the production are the sets and costumes imaginatively designed by Suchitra Chauhan, who displays her feel for colour and beauty to capture the mood of the play and emotional world of the characters. Using painted cloth as the backdrop, she is able to create the illusion of the right kind of milieu for the action. Praveen Shandilya's choreography is stylish and elegant, imparting aesthetic appeal to the production. The director harmonises all these vital elements into an artistic whole.

Pooja Shankar, as Dolly, creates a brilliant portrait of her character in an unaffected and confident manner. Her Dolly faces complicated and intriguing situations with wit and intelligence. She remembers her late husband fondly and decides to remarry to implement his ideas of ‘spreading money around' to create human happiness. Rakesh Gupta, as Horace Vandergelder, is eminently comic. What makes his portrayal a potent source of humour is his character's reactionary views about women, his pompous manner, stinginess, arrogance and absurdities. Other noteworthy performances are put up by Rajat Sharma as Cornelius, Horace's much-exploited head clerk, and Madhu Rajesh as Irene who, wanting to get rid of her lowly business, finds in Cornelius a most suitable match.