Director Surendra Sharma showed mastery in his theatrical adaptation of Munshi Prem Chand’s novel “Gaban”.

Munshi Prem Chand dominated Delhi stage this past week, thanks to the efforts of Hindi Akademi, Delhi. In the stage version of his 10 stories presented at the LTG auditorium — they were produced during the course of a one-month summer theatre workshop, about 400 children participated. One of the most exciting children theatre festivals in recent memory, the productions were presented to jam-packed halls. It was truly a theatre of children by the children and for the children. Prem Chand’s moving realism and lucidity of his language impart his works an enduring appeal. This memorable event would not only develop a love of theatre among the children but would also make them interested in going through the stories they acted out on the stage.

To illustrate Prem Chand’s contemporary appeal also for the adults, the Akademi concluded its theatre event with the presentation of one of his popular novels “Gaban” under the direction of Surendra Sharma at Shri Ram Centre. Through Prem Chand’s works runs a thread of essential goodness inherent in man and his moral awakening at the time of crisis. “Gaban” depicts the same moral crisis. At one level it indicts the obsession of women for jewellery and the false sense of prestige displayed by men to spend lavishly on marriages. As a social critique par excellence, Prem Chand warns people that all these obsessions and pretences lead to the destruction of family happiness.

The novel is adapted by Surendra, a graduate from the National School of Drama who has a great fascination for the works of Prem Chand and who have produced some of his masterpieces with remarkable success. The action unfolds at three main locales — in the house of Jaalpa, the female protagonist, in her husband Rama Nath’s house and in Kolkata. The municipal office and court scene are enacted on the central stage. The sets designed by N.K. Pant innovatively demarcate these different locales. This device helped to shift action from one locale to another in a smooth manner. The lighting design by Raghav Mishra contributes to create the right mood and focus on the vital dramatic situations.

Director Surendra has his distinct approach to adapt Prem Chand’s fiction. He remains faithful to the original following the chronicling order, retaining the dialogue by Prem Chand. In the dialogue he writes, he tries to capture the vividness of Prem Chand and his rare ability to express real life. He also tries to enrich his production with a vast variety of characters that inhabit the fictional world of Prem Chand.

The play opens at the house of Jaalpa’s father. The opening sequence itself establishes the obsessive love of Jaalpa and her mother for jewellery. As Jaalpa’s father agrees to give her hand in marriage to Rama Nath, she dreams of getting the choicest ornaments on the occasion of the marriage. But her dream is shattered. Rama Nath is unemployed and is not much educated. His father is known for his integrity and leads a hand-to-mouth existence. He borrows a huge amount to show off and solemnises his son’s marriage in an ostentatious manner. Soon enough the family faces financial crisis and its honour is at stake. With no moral qualms in a fake thieving immoral act the family steals the jewellery of Jaalpa and gives them to the moneylender. The truth remains hidden from her.

Moved by the plight of Jaalpa, Rama Nath finds a job and tries to please his wife by giving her ornaments bought from the money lend from moneylenders. A stage comes when he is exposed. He is insulted, humiliated and beaten. He flees to Kolkata where he is framed by the Police.

Rajesh Pathak’s offstage music is based on classical Hindustani tunes which enhances the emotional appeal of the production and imparts intricacy to the production. Surendra’s production runs for more than two hours. The script needs pruning, especially the train and the concluding court scenes to make the production slick and to reduce its playing time.

Bhavana Gupta in the leading role of Jaalpa vividly brings alive various stages of the development of her character, finally emerging as a mature and morally conscious person. Her Jaalpa is morally strong enough to inspires her husband, who is framed by the police and forced to give false statement against innocent people, to remain true to his conscience. Mohan Yadav as Rama Nath acts admirably. In his soliloquies he reveals the agony of a scarred soul in a convincing manner. Sharan Makkar as the father of Rama Nath, Lalit Joshi as a kindly but principled elderly person who helps Rama Nath and becomes furious when Rama Nath indulges in fraud, gives impressive performances. Veteran actor of Delhi stage Aabhushan Ji in the role of Devideen, a sympathetic person who helps Rama Nath in the time of crisis, makes his scenes lively.