DIWAN SINGH BAJELI
Despite drawbacks, Kala Darpan's recent presentation of "Pandera" was engaging.
A graduate of the National School of Drama, Suwarn Rawat has been directing plays for ch ildren as well as adults with considerable artistry. His "Neeli Chhatri", an adaptation of Ruskin Bond's "The Blue Umbrella", presented at the National School's Children's Theatre Festival, is a milestone in his career as a director. His latest venture, "Pandera", which was presented by Kala Darpan Rang Mandal recently at the LTG auditorium, gives the picture of the hill people, their struggle for a better future and the opportunism of the political class in a manner that is engaging.Adapted by Dinesh B ijalwan from Rajeshwar Uniyal's novel "Pandera", most of the dramatic action takes place near the pandera, stream, where villagers, especially women, come to fetch water. Here they sit for a while, talk and share information; here they are seen at their amiable best. This is also a place where wayfarers stay for some time and drink fresh water. In a way, the pandera is not only a life-giving source but also a place from which village gossip, intrigues and political ideas take shape. This aspect o f hill life is brought alive by the production in a lively way. The sets designed by Mahendra Kumar, faculty member of the Department of Indian Theatre, Punjab University, lend authenticity to the ambience. But the loud performance by two incurably alcoh olic characters hampers the production.Director Rawat and script writer Bijalwan try to give this essentially romantic story a serious social dimension by suggesting the danger of building huge dams to produce electricity which destroy the social and eco nomic life of hill people forced to leave their villages forever. A case in point is the Tehri dam, which has caused untold sufferings to the uprooted people whose centuries-old history and culture have drowned in the vast water forever, without leaving any trace. But this conflict is not brought to the fore with sharpness and intensity to disturb us by the plight of displaced people and by their deep psychological and emotional wounds. The dramatic conflict meanders to different directions - there is conflict between the lovers and social norms that stand in the way of the fulfilment of their love. This conflict is superficially dealt with. There is conflict between the corporate sector, which wants to control water sources, and the people, who ar e determined to have these sources in their own hands. The way the conflict is resolved tends to be simplistic.In contrast, Rawat's earlier production of "Bees Sau Bees", which was featured at the National School of Drama's Bharat Rang Mahotsav-2002, was an imaginative blend of fantasy, realism and satire, giving eloquent expression to the hill people's demand for a separate hill state, severely indicting the perpetrators of violence and indignities on a peaceful people at Rampur Tiraha.
However, the music score by Uma Shankar Chandola, a well-known musicologist, enables "Pandera" to offer some delightful moments to the audience. Featuring a large c ast of 25 performers, the production projects some beautiful visuals. Director Rawat handles mass scenes aptly. Mamta Rawat as Basanti, once a student leader forced to marry against her wishes to uphold village ethics, Abhishek Wahi as the husband of Bas anti, Vinay Sharma as the military soldier suffering from the pangs of unrequited love, Surabhi Snehi as the close friend of Basanti and Sujay Rawat as the self-styled little tele-reporter give admirable performances. Kala Darpan hopes to stage "Pandera" in Mumbai in May.