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Politics at play

PHEROZE L. VINCENT
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THEATRE Ramjas’ Jai Jawan Party had its moments of brilliance

PLAY onStudents of Ramjas College in “Jai Jawan Party'' at the Delhi IBSEN Festival 12PHOTO: S.SUBRAMANIUM
PLAY onStudents of Ramjas College in “Jai Jawan Party'' at the Delhi IBSEN Festival 12PHOTO: S.SUBRAMANIUM

Remember those college skits, the ones on hostel nights, the nukkad natak before elections and the clownish attempts at Shakespeare? They had their flaws, but drew standing ovations, whistles and, once in a while, bottles were thrown at the stage. Once in a while, from the gaggle of scripts, one would shine out despite its blemishes. Such a play is Ramjas College theatre troupe Shunya’s Jai Jawan Party .

Part of the university leg of the Delhi Ibsen Festival, the play was a Hindi adaptation of Norwegian theatre legend Henrik Ibsen’s The League of Youth . It was staged at the Little Theatre Group auditorium on Copernicus Marg in New Delhi recently.

The play is about a youth who returns to his village to defeat the incumbent sarpanch in an election coloured with deception and vendetta. Young director and script writer Shubham Bhatia was the star of the show. The adaptation — set in a North Indian village — was magnificent.

Bhatia, a maverick and courageous chap, used an epic theatre device of making actors play multiple roles. So while the characters remained the same, in each scene they were played by different actors. The actors didn’t own the characters. The idealist youth and the entrenched sarpanch were alike.

Bhatia says he chose the play for the depth of its characters and the urge to do a political comedy. “A lot of stuff, including the nautanki, were improvisations... Making them play multiple characters and so on were just things that came up. We basically wanted to portray conflict.”

The performance, however, was amateurish. Accents were wrong, humour contrived and in parts it seemed a rustic-wannabe farce. A village setting seemed alien to most of the troupe.

Yet, a few actors, mostly the male characters, did a professional job. Especially Rahul Tewari, a long-haired unshaven actor with a firm grasp on his dehati role and the elements of expression. Tewari was adept in all his roles. Before the curtains fell he gave a terrific performance of Mahipal, drunken with the success of victory.

The icing on the cake was dholak player Mahavir and saxophone player Abhay Sharma. Their timing, presence and perfection were a treat. Dressed in brass band coats, they looked straight out of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The Delhi University Ibsen Theatre Festival 2012 is on till September 23. Shows are at the LTG auditorium every evening at 7 p.m. Tickets are priced at Rs.75 and Rs.50.

PHEROZE L. VINCENT



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