ARUN KUCKREJA

Diwan Singh Bajeli offers a fresh insight into the little revealed world of the one and only Mohan Upreti.

`And the skies are blue and bright
In that land of shimmering light,
Where thou gleam soft and white,
O Almora!
The snowy heights look over thee,
O Almora!
Like the steps of heaven before thee,
O Almora!'
The Himalayas or more precisely the hills of Almora have enchanted the world, even the likes of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and philosopher Swami Vivekananda. Theatre person Mohan Upreti and theatre critic Diwan Singh Bajeli can rightly be spoken as twins from the Himalayas as both hail from Almora . However, it's not only thebirthplace, which ties them together. It's the love and dedication for theatre, which bonded them together in lifetime and has now culminated in publication of a lovely book , years after Upreti's death. Titled `Mohan Upreti - The man and his art', it is authored by Bajeli.According to D.R. Ankur, Director, National School of Drama, "This book is a tribute to Mohan Upreti, a humanist and artist, like Maxim Gorky. Upreti too discovered in folk tales, a free, fearless force... . Eminent theatre practitioners consider Upreti as a pioneer of the Indian theatre music" According to the author, a committed artist Upreti devoted his entire life to the enrichment of folk culture of Uttarakhand and contemporary Indian theatre music as a mission.

Tracing the life

Tracing the life of Upreti, the book journeys down his childhood and adolescence... the gift of harmonium costing Rs.23 in 1940 by his grandfather, the debut performance at Ramsay School, the influence of Uday Shankar and progressive IPTA, life at Allahabad University, Marxism, imprisonment and subsequent disillusionment, formation of Parvatiya Kala Kendra, work with NSD, in India and abroad, making of grand operas, restoration of past glory of Ramleela, Journey beyond Ballad, the last offering and so on. The book reveals that Upreti seems to agree with Georgi Tostonogov, a great Soviet stage director and theoretician that "these principles-composing of stage music - must be found for it is sad when such an important aspect of theatrical production depends entirely on the director's whim and intuition"Naima Upreti, an NSD graduate and wife of Mohan Upreti, reacts to the book thus:"Although a lot more can be told of Mohan Upreti's life, Bajeli's creative life capturing effort is certainly laudable"Bajeli self assesses his work as `humble'.Kudos to the National School of Drama for publishing this work as also the author for writing it for unlike the glamorous lavish publishers, there are no agents, no advances, no five-star cocktail parties for the humble labour of theatre writings in India. One last word - As the book reveals, it is pitiable that Upreti left the world without the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.