STAGE Special children from Assam staged a delightful adaptation of B. V. Karanth’s play “Buddhuram”. PHEROZE L. VINCENT
It is only fair to expect the exceptional when one walks in to a Bhagirathi play. The acclaimed National School of Drama (NSD) alumnus did not disappoint. “Buddhuram”, by Guwahati’s Seagull Theatre and Shishu Sarothi, was a celebration of the simple and the childlike. It will not only be remembered for the stellar performance of its child actors — many of whom are affected by cerebral palsy — but also for the beautiful and minimal set by Prabin Saikia and Sailen Das.
An adaptation of B. V. Karanth’s Kannada play by the same name, the Assamese Buddhuram (Asifur Rehman) is the village idiot whose grandmother (Simi Kalita) sends him off to work. Her only advice to him is talk less and earn more. On his travels he endears himself to a number of hilarious characters. After many a comedy of errors, Buddhuram finally returns home to do what he does best — swat flies.
The play was staged as part of NSD’s “Jashne Bachpan” festival for children. The audience, the bulk of whom are part of the School’s Sunday Club for children — were thoroughly entertained in the front rows. It wasn’t just the simple and clear comedy that engaged the kids, but also the fairytale-like set — with a bulbous flowering tree and colourful pyramidal lamps with graduating light.
The plot was disjointed though, something children spot immediately. Buddhuram is gifted with a pot of gold coins by a band of monkeys, which he brings home. His grandmother sends him off to cut firewood, so she can hide the pot. That’s the last the audience sees of the pot.
Also, the play seems subconsciously communal in parts. While all characters speak Assamese, those of the maulvi, the bandit leader and the trader speak Hindi, denoting their ‘other-ness’ in the cultural psyche of Assam. The bandits, led by a ‘Sardar’ (Victor Doungel) with a grand baritone voice, are a jolly bunch who exhibit no religious inclinations. However, on looting a party of jewellers they rejoice saying, “Ya Allah!” and “Ya Ali!” That said, the director had a disclaimer in the brochure: “The play is not being staged to pass any message to society.”
These aberrations apart, the songs and dances coupled with the ethereal lighting by Chetan Jagatap made splendid theatre. Silsila Das, who plays a worshipful homebound woman, deserves special for her amazingly beautiful recital of a bhajan. Hats off to the actors who, despite using wheelchairs and aides, produced an uncontrived and naturally entertaining play.