The festival presenting plays written by Mohan Rakesh Samman recipients revealed a widening chasm between directors and playwrights.
The Mohan Rakesh Samman Arpan Evam Natya Samaroh organised by Sahitya Kala Parishad at Shri Ram Centre recently is an annual event that generates excitement to watch the new and original plays being written in Hindi. It is also an occasion to honour the playwrights whose plays have been awarded by a jury to encourage significant new playwrights. Over the years, in its search for the best dramatic works, SKP, the cultural wing of the Government of NCT Delhi, has discovered some significant plays like “Komal Gandhar”, “Court Martial” and “Taj Mahal Ka Tender”. However, in recent years a new trend has emerged. The awarded plays staged neither impress the audience, nor the honoured playwrights. This trend was in evidence at the recent event. Most of the playwrights felt that their plays had been distorted by the directors and strongly felt the directors should show fidelity to the original work, both in terms of content and structure. They admit that a pedantic fidelity is not required, and the directors, through their interpretation and innovation, can enrich any play, but before ruthlessly pruning and rewriting a script, a director should consult the playwright.
These are questions which SKP should answer. One of the ways to resolve the differences between directors and playwrights could be by inviting the playwright during rehearsals, and having any changes required by the director written by the playwright himself or herself. In case of strong differences the playwright should have the right to withdraw his script. A brief review of the four awarded plays produced by leading theatre directors may provide an overview of the state of fresh dramatic writing in Hindi.
“Ram Kabhi Marta Naheen”, written by Santosh Kumar Nirmal, was presented by Abhigyan Natya Association under the direction of Lokendra Trivedi, a senior director who graduated from the National School of Drama. The play is a celebration of the composite culture of India and the community participation in the enactment of Ramlila, which vested interests try to give a communal colour to. Written in the format of a play-within-the play, it has been transformed by the director from a straight realistic script into a musical that enthrals the ears. The director has also given another dimension to our composite culture by bringing alive the character of Kabir and his poetry that focuses on the need for universal brotherhood. In an aptly rehearsed production, Trivedi’s cast gives an impressive performance. N.K. Pant plays Panditji, the Ramlila manager, martyr to the cause of communal harmony. Moh. Faheem’s Kareem Khan, the father of a Muslim boy who plays the character of Ram despite opposition by a handful fundamentalists, sings Kabir’s couplets with heartfelt intensity. (His excellent musicality diverts our attention from Ramlila sometimes). Dhirendra Gupta as the sarpanch and Dashrath gives a credible performance. Asked for his comments on the production, playwright Nirmal simply said, “Music and songs are not mine.”
“Mare Gaye Gulfam”, written by Sandeep Lele, is a comic exposure of the lack of mutual respect and faith between a husband and wife and their hypocritical domestic life. The way it explores the comedy of mistaken identity evokes laughter loud and long. The comedy is directed by Shyam Kumar and staged by Natsamrat, which has been catering to the tastes of theatregoers who love to see family comedy. The central character is a swindler who achieves his sinister objective through his servant who is adept at conning his targets, but the swindler is not paying his dues. The aggrieved servant is impatiently waiting to take revenge on his cheating master. Finally, he gets an opportunity when he is assigned the duty of collecting information about the wealth of a rich businessman. In the process the relationship of the main dramatis personae gets entangled and resolved in a way that is at once funny and full of suspense.
The imaginatively designed sets capture the ambience of the house of a wealthy businessman. The cast displays a fine sense of timing, bringing their comic talents to the fore. The playwright admits that his original script has undergone changes without his knowledge, but he feels these changes have enriched the comic element of the play.
“Kath Ke Ghore” written by Gyan Singh Man seeks to bring alive the drab and hopeless world of two lowly paid clerks in a private firm who dream to marry into a family of the rich and famous. Suddenly they descend from their fantasy world to confront the stark dismal reality. Their boss tells them they have been retrenched due to the economic recession. However, on compassionate grounds, their services would be continued if they agree to accept half the salary they were being paid earlier. The exposition and resolution of complex emotional and economic situations appears to be superficial. The audience is hardly able to identify with these characters. The play is directed by Sohaila Kapur for Katyayani. Here the playwright admitted that the director had not made any substantial changes.
Krishna Kant is an imaginative stage director who has offered several memorable productions to Delhi’s audiences, like “Look Back in Anger” and Arther Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” in which Saurabh Shukla, the popular stage and film actor, played the role of Edie Carbone. At this festival, he produced “Sapno Ki Dehari Ke Us Par” written by Aditi Jain . The play is a study of the tragic life of a young woman who passionately dreams to become a theatre artist and marry a talented Muslim youth, but the cruel patriarchy shatters her dreams. The production, by Shri Ram Centre Repertory Company, is neat and captures the middle class milieu and its suffocating atmosphere. The actors give commendable performances. But the denouement lacks logic and vitality.
Just after the curtain-call, young playwright Aditi commented that her script was distorted, projecting a worldview of the protagonist that was just the opposite to the one depicted in the original.