A peek at a recent performance of the powerful play, “Ranganath Ki Waapsi”.

“Ranganath Ki Waapsi”, a stage adaptation of Shrilal Shukla's celebrated novel “Raag Darbaari”, presented by Bahroop at New Delhi's Alliance Francaise de Delhi recently, exposes the nexus between petty politicians and local bureaucrats who control village society to meet their selfish interests, destroying the moral and just social order.

Despite a few flagging patches, the production captures the humour, satire, irony and the pathetic condition of aam aadmi in rural India who has to carry the burden of selfish politicians and their henchmen.

Written in 1968, the Sahitya Akademi Award winning Hindi novel “Raag Darbaari” is a powerful fictional work, which lays bare the myth that rural India is an ideal soil to plant the institution of real democracy through panchayats. The strength of the novel lies in its sharp-edged satire and distinct comic flavour inherent in the rural spoken language of Uttar Pradesh. According to scholars, “‘Raag Darbaari' remains one of those landmarks which has raised satirical fiction in Hindi to classical stature.”

The novel has been translated into 15 Indian languages and English. Bahroop, an amateur dramatic group known for its political and social concerns and quality productions, has done commendable work by bringing a great contemporary fictional work to the stage.

The events in the original novel are narrated through Ranganath, a research scholar with idealistic views about democratic values in rural life, being promoted by local bodies and emerging educational institutions. At the end of the day Ranganath leaves his idealised village as a disillusioned intellectual. Girish Rastogi, who has written the stage version of the novel, aptly titled his adaptation as “Ranganath Ki Waapsi”.

Directed and designed by Rajesh Singh, a graduate of the National School of Drama, the play begins with the arrival of Ranganath at the house of his uncle Vaidji at Shivpal Ganj. Gradually, he discovers that Vaidji manipulates the village institutions — college governing body, panchayat and petty bureaucrats and police personnel — to perpetuate his control in the village and meet his nefarious objectives. On the surface, he appears to be a gentleman.

In the play, as in the novel, the characters are recognisable types who operate against the backdrop of stark reality. The main characters' negative traits become more sharp and inhuman towards the end. There are feeble voices of protest against social injustice but they stand isolated and silenced. The nexus between corrupt politicians, criminals and unscrupulous petty officials becomes stronger and with it Shivpal Ganj gets further bogged down in the morass of corruption and decay.

Director Rajesh's production needs more rehearsals. The tuneful music should have been used to sharpen the elements of irony. The novel is written four decades ago. The rural scenario is undergoing changes. The character of Langarh, who symbolises the pathetic condition of the common man unable to get justice, has become politically conscious, and his voice of protest is gaining strength.

The local petty politicians are finding it hard to perpetuate their control. Rajesh should have injected these changes into his production. Similarly, his Ranganath remains on the periphery. In contrast, the shock, dilemma and inability of the intellectual class to act is forcefully revealed in Manu Bhandari's “Mahabhoj” through the character of Mahesh.

Resh Lamba as Vaidji, Hadi Sarmadi as a crook and sycophant in the garb of a college principal, and M.K. Nazam as Langarh give impressive performances.