ROMESH CHANDER

Sohaila Kapur's "You Shall Give Me Grandsons", mounted as part of the Hungry Hearts Theatre Festival at New Delhi's India Habitat Centre, is worth a peek.

While welcoming this surge of theatre festivals, one feels it is time the organisers got together and thought of ways and means to stagger the dates, etc.

For the last six months or so, Delhi has been in the grip of what may be called a `Festival Fever' - an epidemic that broke out last month with various music, dance and theatre festivals organised by Sahitya Kala Parishad. . This `fever' also seems to have affected some other theatre groups - Natsamrat has just concluded its Comedy Theatre Festival of five of its old popular plays, and this past week, we saw yet another festival of comedies mounted by The Hungry Heart. Welcoming the festival, Shekhar Kapur, the film director, says, "Just the words, `Hungry Heart' created an emotional response in me, especially when it is associated with the extremely talented, committed and honest team that has put this festival together against all odds. I know that this is the beginning of a movement where the voice of women is heard through theatre. It is the voice of honesty, of longing to express the truth. Of pain and joy."While welcoming this surge of theatre festivals, one feels it is time that the organisers got together and thought of ways and means to stagger the dates, etc. For instance, the plays in a particular festival, instead of being presented in a straight row, could well be spread over two-three months. This would not only help the plays reach a wider audience but would also be lighter on the family budget.

Comedy plays

The Hungry Heart's Theatre Festival that opened this past week at the India Habitat Centre, presented three comedies, all directed by Sohaila Kapur and what is more, each of the presentations drew fairly good response."You Shall Give Me Grandsons" is Sohaila Kapur's adaptation of Thomas Jonigk's German play, a matrimonial match-making farce. As the play opens, we find a mother talking to her son, her main fixation in life is to find a wife for her son, but she does not know that he is a homosexual. The poor chap struggles hard as how to tell his mother that he is not interested in girls. The plot thickens as the second son, Bhim finds himself attracted to a much older aunt of the young girl who has been brought to the house as a possible bride for the son in this matrimonial match-making farce.The aunt (Padma Damodaran), a perfect flirt, plays up beautifully to Bhim and needless to say, the mother tries her best to keep the experienced flirt away, more so because a few ghosts start raking in her own cupboard - ghosts of her late husband and this very generously endowed `aunt'. Constantly seeking approval of her sons, the mother is determined to keep them tied to her apron strings. Her sons too are equally determined to break free and yet need the strings to her purse. Oscillating between approval and disapproval, the characters in this play express a right to sexual preferences through a language that puns and spins and is faced with double innuendos that keep the audiences in fits of laughter.The presentation, primarily because of the director's overall production design and the performance of some of the actors like Shyma Halder in the mother's role, Anirudh Nair as the son who doesn't know how to tell his mother why he doesn't like girls, and of course, Padma Damodaran as the seductive aunt makes the play worth a visit whenever it is on the boards again. The rest of the cast is rather weak but Tarika Kumar in Pinky's role has potential but needs more rehearsals and exposure. But Vijay Singh as the Swamiji in the opening scene fares rather poorly.