For the young play directors participating in the just-concluded Yuva Natya Samaroh in New Delhi, plays by Mohan Rakesh were a clear favourite

The most heart-warming aspect of the just-concluded Yuva Natya Samaroh organised by Sahitya Kala Parishad at Sri Ram Centre, New Delhi, was the tremendous response of the audience to the plays directed by the Delhi-based young directors. Another feature of the eight-day festival was that Mohan Rakesh’s plays continue to be favourites of young directors as well as of the audience. This was very much in evidence in the fact that out of eight plays two were by Mohan Rakesh. His “Adhe Adhure” was the concluding play of the festival which was presented to a jam-packed hall. The excitement generated was indeed the celebration of the creativity of the young talented theatre practitioners.

Acknowledged as the masterpiece of Indian theatre, “Adhe Adhure” is remarkable for its taut structure, powerful dramatic dialogue and intense confrontations between characters. The play has fascinated eminent theatre directors like Shyamanand Jalan, Om Shivpuri and Rajinder Nath. Chandrashekhar Sharma’s production of “Adhe Adhure” sustains the tension throughout which keeps on mounting as the production unfolds the storyline.

The dominant mood in the production is one of bitterness, repressed anger and desperation to get out of suffocating environment of a family at war against itself. On the surface the play appears to be about man-woman relations but at a deeper level, it is about an agonised and futile quest of a woman to discover a perfect man with whom she could lead a meaningful and happy life.

The play moves round a working woman named Savitri. Her husband Mahendra Nath is unemployed who has proved to be an utter failure in his life. Savitri’s son Ashok is also unemployed. Her elder daughter Binny has eloped with a man who was Savitri’s friend. Little Kinny is the school going girl. Despite her sacrifice for the family, Savitri is despised by her family members. To get out of her hellish world she wants to go away with her one-time friend and admirer whom she considers highly successful.

The playwright wants that all the four men in the life of Savitri should be played by one performer. He should be in different costumes, body language and should follow different style of dialogue delivery to suggest that in essence all male are similar and wear masks to hide their real-self. This is possible because one male character confronts Savitri at one time. Most of the eminent directors have followed these instructions of the playwright. Shyamanand Jalan played all the four roles. In a most recent production of the play directed by Lillete Dubey, all the male characters are played by Mohan Agashe. Some of the directors have cast four different performers in their productions. Chandrashekhar followed the pattern of casting four performers. He as also deleted the character of Sutradhar to reinforce his idea of casting four performers instead of one performer.

The production is aptly cast throughout with Sarita Sharma playing the leading role of Savitri. She captures the multi-layered emotional world of her character with restraint bringing out the inner turmoil of her character. Her Savitri, an antithesis of mythological Savitri, comes to the shocking conclusion that no man is perfect though some manage to wear the mask of greatness to hide their hypocrisy, selfishness. After her final confrontation with Juneja, she becomes more miserable and wretched, condemned to rot in hell.

J.P. Singh as Mahendra Nath, who intensely hates his wife Savitri and yet is not able to live without her, Madan Dogra as the pompous boss of Savitri, Ravi Taneja as Juneja the bosom friend of Mahendra Nath, and Mrinalini Sharma as the alienated, impudent and rebellious school going girl, radiated the production with their brilliant performances.

“Ashad Ka Ek Din”

“Ashad Ka Ek Din”, the first play by Mohan Rakesh and a milestone of Indian Theatre, featured at the festival under the direction of Bhupesh Joshi. The eloquent delivery of dialogue, poetic imagery, the structurally well-crafted script and the tragic undercurrent make this production intensely absorbing.

Set in the Ujjaini of Kaladas, “Ashad Ka Ek Din” deals with the relations between Kalidas, the great poet, and Mallika, a young, beautiful and sensitive girl, who is the main source of inspiration of Kalidas. The play has contemporary connotations. It raises subtle questions about state patronage and freedom of artistic expression. It also illustrates that if a poet is abruptly uprooted from his environment and from the source of his inspiration his creativity suffers.

Joshi has rehearsed his production meticulously and captured the right ambiance to reveal the emotional world of the characters. Searing poignancy prevails in the denouement when the totally shattered and disillusioned Kaladas returns to Ujjaini from Kashmir and meets Malikka at her near-dilapidated house.

Jyoti Pant as Mallika makes a profoundly tragic image of her character, revealing the finest and noble qualities of a young girl in deep love with a poet. Her Mallika is an embodiment of self-effacing love. Bhupesh Joshi as Kalidas gives a memorable performance. Ashish Sharma as Vilom, the alter ego of Kalidas, and Madhulika Jatolia as Ambika, the worried mother of Mallika who is ill at ease with her daughter, give riveting performances.