Theatre

Delhi Theatre Festival: A bouquet of human experiences

PACKS A PUNCH Rakesh Bedi and Ananth Mahadevan in “Last Over”

PACKS A PUNCH Rakesh Bedi and Ananth Mahadevan in “Last Over”   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

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The second edition of Delhi Theatre Festival promises a rich collection of plays that are humorous and relatable

Being the hub of artistic activities, Delhi, has always welcomed additions to its cultural calendar. Being one such is Delhi Theatre Festival which started last year. Having received promising response, DTF is back this year with a fine mix of plays to be staged at Delhi and Gurugram. Starting today, the three-day event features five productions with leading actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, Paresh Rawal, Pankaj Kapur, Rakesh Bedi and Anant Mahadevan, among others, in them. The plays will be staged at New Delhi’s Siri Fort Auditorium and Orana Conventions, Gurugram.

Mahadevan whose play Last Over directed by Suketu Shah will be staged besides Ismat Apa Ke Naam, Dopehri, Kishan Vs Kanhaiya and Unfaithfully Yours, is all praise for Delhi audience. “With space for theatre shrinking, there is a need for such festivals all over the country to take the art form to the people. And what better city than Delhi which is a hotbed of theatre boasting of legends like Ebrahim Alkazi, B.V. Karanth and Mohan Maharishi.”

Mahadevan, feels, “The bouquet offered is both high on aesthetic and production values.” Substantiating his point, he cites Naseeruddin Shah’s Ismat Apa Ke Naam and Dopheri by Pankaj Kapur. “Such crafted works are worth seeing both by theatre practitioners and lovers.” For Pankaj, it is a ride down memory lane. “Delhi is where I began practising theatre and it is always special to perform here.”

Talking about Last Over, a breezy urban and situation comedy, Mahadevan says it revolves around a Indian husband-Pakistani wife living in London, who are visited by their respective fathers, with the Indo-Pak cricket World Cup final match as the backdrop. “Metaphorically through the game and life, the play brings to fore what we truly are, unveiling the masks that we don.”

Playing a professor and the girl’s father, Mahadevan makes the character relatable through his typical Pakistani Urdu pronunciation and body language and mannerism. Rakesh Bedi, as the girl’s father, a dhaba owner from Amritsar, makes a fine pair with Maahadevan. “The tussle between Ananth and me is full of jokes, pun and wit and keeps the proceeding flowing.” Denying making fun of sensitive issues like Indo-Pak relations and cross-community marriage, the actor clarifies, “that is a reference point which become trivial as the play unfolds gracefully.”

The play, Kishan Vs Kanhaiya, which has been staged several times, is also part of the schedule. Stressing that it is about religion, its lead actor, Paresh Rawal, explains, “Kishan Vs Kanhaiya, is about belief in God which is something personal and it definitely does not make fun of people’s feelings and sentiments. The excellent feedback we have received over time is an ample proof of that.”

Universal theme

Umesh Shukla, the play’s director, observes that it was the positive audience reaction to the play that egged him to make the film OMG – Oh My God! starring Paresh and Akshay Kumar. “Even today, viewers tell me that many aspects of belief shown in the story are a part of their life. The play has changed their perception and made them give up superstitions and blind belief in rituals and rites. I think the crux of the play that we are God fearing rather than God loving, is what makes the theme universal and timeless.”

According to Umesh, the play’s satire quotient has always gone down well with the audience. “It is not just the humour element but the use of logic and rationale in the script that hits you hard. We did a lot of research for the story. Like when it is pointed out that the milk poured on Shivling can satisfy hunger of thousands of poor children and people, it appeals to us.”

Concurring with the use of comedy to drive home the point, Rakesh says, “No one likes to be sermonised about issues, so instead of being preachy, a play ought to use jest to highlight and underline concerns. Laughter is not just the best medicine but also the best emotion with a lethal punch,” he quips.

The other plays include Shah’s Ismat Apa Ke Naam with him, Ratna Pathak Shah and Heeba Shah. Based on three stories by Ismat Chugtai, this is Motley’s first production in any Indian language and appeals for its minimal set and a simple manner of story telling. Pankaj Kapur’s Dopheri, a one-act play, is a hard-hitting story about loneliness that comes with old age. Unfaithfully Yours focuses on the relationship between a couple. Directed by Raell Padamsee, this is actor Mona Singh’s debut play and she says, “I couldn’t have asked for a better platform than DTF.”

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 1:04:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/a-bouquet-of-human-experiences/article22993496.ece

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