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Echoes of Chipko

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A STANDPOINT A scene from
A STANDPOINT A scene from "Prahari Hain Hum Jungal Ki".

ROMESH CHANDER

"Prahari Hain Hum Jungal Ki" marks Mohan Upreti's birth anniversary.

The late Mohan Upreti's (1925-1997) contribution in the field of music in Hindi theatre is unparalleled, and what is more, to help Uttarakhand's music gain its proper place in the musical map of India he had set up Parvatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi. Every February the Kala Kendra presents a new play on Upreti's birth anniversary. This year, the occasion was marked with the premiere of Dayanand Anant's "Prahari Hain Hum Jungal Ki".The play, by and large has the Chipko Movement as its theme in which the late Gaura Devi played an important role. This time it is not Gaura Davi who takes the lead but Vidya, a city bred educated girl who marries an army officer but is happy to settle down in the village and look after her husband's ageing parents.Outside their house is an old tree that the villagers come to worship every morning. The scene is well conceived by the director, Lokendra Tripathi. After a few days, however, the villagers saw that the tree was barren. They were surprised and worried that some calamity may strike the village. Vidya tried to argue that the villagers too had cut the green tree branches from the jungle but no curse fell upon them. "So how will the chopping of a few branches of this tree affect them?"Three days after the incident, Vidya in her dream saw what she thought was the great grandmother's head oozing with blood . No, it was the tree outside with its withering leaves that was bleeding and was saying "You have cut my hands and if someone cuts your hands or that of your child in your womb, how would you feel?" In the morning with folded hands she apologised to the tree and promised that all her life she will look after not only the tree outside their house but all the trees in the jungles. This was the birth of a new Vidya . And thus started, not only the "Podhey Bachao", a campaign by women all over Uttarakhand but also the fight against the mafia who were destroying the forests in collusion with the police and the forest department. It is primarily because of this movement that a number of auctions were cancelled and many of those illegally cutting trees were arrested. With the result the contractors, corrupt officials and the mafia hatched a conspiracy against her. But all is well that ends well and finally, it was the people that won.Like Parvatiya Kala Kendra's most presentations, "Prahari Hain Hum Jungal Ki" too leans heavily on music. Bhagwant Upreti's compositions follow the trend set by his brother Mohan Upreti and draws the best from a young group of singers that he has helped to train. Amongst the actors, Gopal Pandey as Bachi Singh, and Raj Rani, a new comer to the group, playing Vidya, holds much promise. But she needs more rehearsals to establish her changing moods. Lokendra Tripathi's production design not only fully exploits Upreti's music as also the dance sequences to carry the story forward.


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