Act One's play "Tum Jahan Kahin Bhi Ho", mounted at New Delhi recently, was a powerful presentation.
Act One is now 16 years old and over the years it has given us meaningful theatre with different themes, genres and formats but with one thing in common, all their work deals with real situations. Also, all their presentations, as far as I remember, have faith in humankind to overcome barriers that divide people. Some of their earlier plays like "Jab Shahar Hamaran Sota Hai" and "Natuwa" still live with mefor their theme and presentation of values. But with the present day economic conditions of theatre, particularly in the Hindi region, the exodus of good actors to Bollywood is inevitable, leaving behind a dearth of trained new actors.
Act One over the last few years has given Bollywood some remarkable talent like that of Piyush Mishra, Manoj Bajpai and Aashish Vidyarthi who are doing well in films but back home in Delhi, Act One is facing the pinch.Whereas, in the past Act One gave us at least three good plays annually , most of which were scripted by the group itself, this year the group was able to mount only one play, "Tum Jahan Kahin Bhi Ho" that was on the boards at New Delhi's Sri Ram Centre. In the last 16 years it is forthe first time that Act One has had to mount a play not scripted bythe group. This highlights some of the problems that theatre in Delhi is facing today.
David Greig's play
"Tum Jahan Kahin Bhi Ho" is based on David Greig's "The American Pilot". Since I saw Act One's presentation, I have had an opportunity to read "The American Pilot" and has have found that the original play had been very heavily edited . I spoke about this to the director, N.K. Sharma, who said though Srivastava's presentation was true to David Greig's original play, "It had much that was alien to the Indian audience and at places it was even repetitive so I had to edit it by about half an hour with the translator's permission." I not only agree with the director but feel the presentation as it stands could still be cut by another 10 to 15 minutes. I feel the director's editing is more in the form of restructuring, as the placing of sequences has been changed, to focus on the characters without cutting into continuity. Some of the references that were unfamiliar for Indian audiences have been appropriately edited out. "Tum Jahan Kahan Bhi Ho" is a political allegory that goes beyond the usual anti-Americanism and explores the complex relationship between the global super power and the rest of the world. The play ideologically lives up to Act One's philosophy, even if the cast is a little weak. Rahul Bagga has a difficult role as the injured American pilot but performs it most bravely. In fact, with a little more exposure he could well be among the first runners on the Delhi stage. Ashu Chhabra, the farmer who brought the injured pilot home, was good. His attitude towards the captured pilot was humanitarian and he well understands his daughter. Siddhant Behl has a very good voice and used it well in the interpreter's role. Yet another performer without any frills or pretence was Huma Qureshi as the farmer's wife. "Tum Jahan Kahin Bhi Ho", without being obvious, is an allegorical political play with immense relevance to what is happening today in many countries, including India and it must be kept alive.