Theatre

Life as it is

MIRRORING REALITY Scene from “Patloon”

MIRRORING REALITY Scene from “Patloon”  

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Imbued with with deep human emotions, four plays at the recently concluded 4th National Puppet & Theatre Festival reflected social concerns in an engaging manner

In the wake of the 4th National Puppet & Theatre Festival organised by Abhinaya Rang Manch, the Bal Bhawan auditorium and its premises had become theatrical hub with leading groups from different States performing at this prestigious cultural event in Hisar, Haryana. Formed in 2001, Abhinaya Rang Manch with young talented founder-director Manish Joshi has emerged as a leading professional repertory not only of Hisar but also of Haryana, imparting impetus to the contemporary theatre movement of the city pioneered by Rajiv Manchanda, a graduate from National School of Drama, Rajiv Mehta, Arvind Sharma and founders of Safdar Hashmi Natya Manch. Its production of “Patloon” has been invited by NSD to be presented at Ahmedabad in the ongoing Theatre Olympics. Its multi-faceted director Manish Joshi was awarded the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puruskar of Sangeet Natak Akademi for the year 2016 for his notable talent in the field of playwriting.

Experimental piece

“Patloon” is an experimental theatrical piece which blends elements of stark realism, fantasy and poetry to create a visual metaphor for the human resistance against oppression and persistently struggling to make ones dream come true. With sharp satirical edge, the play revolves round a labourer who comes from his village to make it big in the city but is trapped by a owner of bricks kilns who forces him to work like a slave. Ironically, his name is Bhagwan — God. Working on the pavement, he comes across people coming from different social strata, some of them dreaming to achieve their objectives. He too has a dream, the dream to own a beautiful patloon (trousers) on display in a shop just in front of the pavement he polishes shoes of his customers. Despite insurmountable obstacles, he never ceases dreaming about patloon and never loses faith in life.

With subtle lighting effects, the director creates a fantasy world, transforming the patloon on display into a beautiful woman. In this fantasy vision, Bhagwan visualises the patloon as a woman coming to him with rhythmic steps. In his exalted state, he beseeches her in a most tender and loving tone that she should declare that she belongs to him alone and then he suddenly awakes to find that he is sleeping on the pavement. But his dream never fades away, inspiring him to struggle hard and make his dream come true.

As far as director's presentational style is concerned, he has used street theatre technique and chorus in the style of the Brechtian epic theatre which renders poems commenting on inhuman conditions prevailing in a society based on human exploitation. Ramnarayan as Bhagwan gives a convincing performance. Kathak dancer and Guru Rakhi Joshi as the visual reflection of patloon is intensely revetting. She makes her scene with Bhagwan vividly vibrant with an aura of elegance.

In the history of Indian freedom movement Maulana Abul Kalam Azad stands tall as a great freedom fighter and patriot who opposed to the division of India and firmly stood for communal harmony. The play titled “Poster Boy-Maulana”, which was presented by Himachal Theatre Academy, Mandi, as a solo, dissects layer after layer of Azad's life against the backdrop of turbulence created by the clash between diabolical conflicting forces of history. Azad is projected as a freedom fighter and visionary. His personal life, especially his life in jail as a freedom fighter and his involvement in the movement are intrinsically woven. For the masses he was “Mir-e-Kaarwan”, leader of the caravan while Muhammad Ali Jinnah called him poster boy of the Congress in disdain.

Towards the end we discover his lifelong dream to see India united is tragically shattered and he is bitter and utterly dismayed that the highest leadership of the Congress accepts the Partition which initially they opposed, tooth and nail.

The solo piece is directed by senior director and actor Suresh Sharma who performs as Azad and truly lives his complex and heroic character. Through his delivery, pauses, gait, variations in the pitch and movements charged with inner feeling, he creates a stunning image that stirs the deeper recesses of the audience soul.

The ingenious lighting effects by Govind Singh Yadav, the emotionally charged background music by veteran stage music director Kajal Ghosh and the projection of video to provide social and historical backdrop for action create an ambience that enables the performer to reflect the inner life of the character. The climax is marked by Maulana's impassioned speech he delivered at Jama Masjid, Delhi on the eve of the Partition, exhorting Muslims to stay in India. Suresh stands upstage on a raised platform with his back towards the audience and on the screen we watch a huge crowd in Jama Masjid creating the illusion of Maulana himself addressing the crowd.

The play is written by the late Shahid Anwar whose script is based on historical facts. Historically and artistically Poster Boy-Maulana is a remarkable solo theatrical piece seen in recent times.

Innovative approach

“Theatrewala”, which was staged by Abhinaya Rang Manch at the festival, reveals Manish Joshi's innovative approach to playwriting and direction. The play depicts the life of an artist in theatre marked by hardship, unremitting toil, disapproval and discouragement by parents and receiving little material rewards but there is something in the theatre that inspires theatre people to pursue their craft tenaciously and passionately. True to his style Manish uses puppets, magic, farce and satire to keep his audiences in good humour and at the same time to shock them to make them conscious about social antagonism, stressing the need for the theatre to make society enlightened and the need for treating artists with love by society.

A scene from “Theatrewala”

A scene from “Theatrewala”  

Led by Manish, the ensemble consisted of Kabir Dahiya, Samunder Dhankher and Alok Dutt, who play a variety of roles, established a lively rapport with the audience.

Mukhauta Natya Mandali, Rohtak presented Vijay Tendlkar's “Giddh” in Hindi at the festival under the direction of Satender Singh who has considerably pruned the original script to remove the shocking dialogue, full of filth and lewdness, focussing on the barbarity of characters who are vultures masquerading as humans. It is indeed a bold attempt on the part of the director to stage a controversial play. The original play in Marathi was stage in 1972 by Theatre Unit, Mumbai under the direction of Dr. Shriram Lagoo which raised a storm in the theatre world of Marathi. It was banned by the Censor Board on the ground of its depiction of human characters who act like devil, preying mercilessly on their victims, using filthy language and are enemies of all finer human sentiments. Its Hindi version was seen probably only once on Delhi stage nearby three decades ago when it was directed by Prof. B.M. Shah for National School of Drama after deleting some parts of highly offensive dialogue.

Scene from “Giddh”

Scene from “Giddh”  

The production under review is aptly designed and well rehearsed. The director and performers create the right emotional atmosphere which brings to the fore the vulture like traits of rapacious characters in a dehumanized world whose moto is to pursue dreaded motive of greed. Though all the members of the cast act admirably, Gaurav Sharma as Rajninath, a poet and illegitimate son, and Parminder Kaur as Rama, the suppressed wife of the elder son, a brute, deserve special mention for their sensitive performances.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 4:23:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/life-as-it-is/article22826724.ece

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