The “Pratimb Natya Utsav” concluded with the play “Sandhya Chhaya”, portraying vividly the loneliness and suffering of senior citizens

The three-day “Pratimb Natya Utsav” ended with the presentation of Kusum Kumar's Hindi translation of Jaywant Dalvi's Marathi play “Sandhya Chhaya” at the LTG auditorium this past week. The play, which dissects the delicate nuances of the bitter, lonely and utterly neglected world of elderly people living in urban milieu, continues to fascinate theatre directors in the Capital. So far we have seen a number of productions. Probably the first production that captured the attention of discerning audience in Delhi was by the Repertory Company of National School of Drama presented under the direction of Uttara Baokar in 1978 with Surekha Sikri and Manohar Singh in the lead roles. By far this was the most memorable production of this deeply disturbing and stirring play

Directed by Rajesh Babbar, the production under review, presented by Pratimb Kala Darpan was remarkable for its brilliant acting and imaginative direction. It is aptly designed to bring alive the right ambience for the action. Though telephone is an important part of stage props in the original play, Babbar has further explored its role to form a link of alienated old couple suffering from age related diseases to a world beyond their reach. Trapped in a colourless and gloomy world from which they have no escape. The device enhances the elements of anxiety, helplessness and alienation. Balcony has an important role in the play as a locale from where the couple watch the joyous activities taking place down on the street. In the production this scene is aptly designed and the use of subtle lighting effects create the illusion of a real balcony which provides fleeting happy moments in the fast fading lives of the aged couple.

Set in the living room of an old couple, the play reveals that one of their sons is settled in the US much against the wishes of the parents and who has not even cared to inform his parents about his marriage with an American girl. His link with his parents is casual through phone calls betraying his obsession with money power. Another son, a pilot in the Indian Air Force is killed in action. After waiting for years the old couple meet their son who has come from America on a brief holiday with his wife and stays in a five-star hotel. He fleetingly meets his parents without any emotions.

The production offers moments of searing pathos, riveting the attention of the audience. A fine actress of the Delhi stage, Laxmi Rawat captures vividly the inner troubled world of Nani, the old mother, living with her aging husband. She acts with restraint, investing her character with sensitivity and emotional power. Sharan Makkar as Nana, the aged and diseased father, gives a brilliant account of himself. Deepak Sharma as Vinay, the stranger who forms a bond with the old couple due to circumstances, , Hari Semwal as the protective grandfather and Priyanshi Babbar as little Sharmila make their characters vibrantly alive, tinged with touching sadness.

Another play “Panchhi” was presented by Rangbhoomi. It was adapted in Hindi by Surender Gulati from the French play “Boeing Boeing” by Marc Camoletti. The play was mounted by Natsamrat under the direction of Shyam Kumar a few years ago. It was hilariously funny. However, Rangbhoomi's production directed by Arun Sode could not explore comic situations adequately. Actors tend to be more concerned to deliver their lines hurriedly without using gags for comic effects. The intricate situations and physical knockabout need a lot of rehearsals to evoke laughter.

Adapted and directed by Vagesh Kumar Singh, “Zindagi Madhur Hai Kumansenu Mein” presented by Bhas Theatre Group was the opening play of the festival. A solo play performed by Hema Singh, brings to the fore the consummate artistry of the actor who has brilliantly portrayed many characters on the stage, especially from the Parsi theatre under the direction of the late B. M. Shah, the former director of NSD. “Zindagi Madhur Hai Kumansenu Mein” was premiered in Delhi a few years ago.

The production been reviewed was more slick, intricate and subtle, providing enough room for the solo performer for a improvisation to enable her to live her seven characters in different situations interacting with the protagonist Bola, an middle-aged African woman with a grown up son working as a clerk in a government establishment and grandmother of a little girl. She lives life in her own terms. Despite her multi-layered turbulent emotional world, she is endowed with a vision that perceives life as sweet and beautiful.

The director placed two huge African puppets on the either side of the upstage to add African colour to the ambience. The intricately handled offstage sounds and lighting effects enrich the variety of moods the play evokes. A lyrical rhythm runs throughout the production.

The highlight of the event was the conferment of Lifetime Achievement Award on veteran Urdu playwright Reoti Saran Sharma and Yuva Rangkarmi Award on Anoop Trivedi who has displayed his histrionic talent as the actor of the Repertory Company of NSD.