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More than just a scoop

Meaningful drama: A scene from the play

Meaningful drama: A scene from the play   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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“The Front Page”, the Hindi adaptation of the hit Broadway comedy, depicts how a crime reporter’s plan goes awry when his ethics come in the way of his personal ambition

Dramatech, an amateur theatre group, has completed its nearly three-and-a-half decade long journey, staging over 40 plays, most of which were appreciated by connoisseurs of the theatrical art. Its latest offering “The Front Page”, a comedy staged at LTG auditorium recently, was lively, humorous and exciting.

The original play, written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, is a hit Broadway comedy. It was first produced in 1928 and has several cinematic versions. The Dramatech’s version is adapted in Hindi jointly by Rahul Aggarwal and Vivek Srivastava who have tried to give it an Indian colour by setting the action in Indian milieu.

Directed by Sanjeev Aggarwal , the entire action takes place in a drab and gloomy court room for reporters. A number of crime reporters have assembled here looking for a scoop with regard to a sensational arrest of a communist revolutionary who is alleged to have killed a policeman. The revolutionary is in the police custody and is to be executed. While explaining how he killed the policeman, it is said that he took DCP’s service pistol and managed to free himself from captivity. Opposition parties lambast the shoddy handling of a sensitive case and the prisoner’s escape creates political crisis with Home Minister himself guiding the police force, reprimanding the DCP for his criminal negligence. A large number of police force is desperately searching for the escaped prisoner.

Multi-layered

In fact, the narrative has several strands which are skilfully integrated with the main theme. One strand deals with star crime reporter Shekhar Sharma who works for Delhi Express and is about to marry his girl friend and to get a well-paid and respectable job in Mumbai. After working for a decade as a lowly paid reporter working for long hours, he will be leading a better life and getting handsome salary. Then there is the main storyline about communist revolutionary who has been pardoned by the president and official orders to this effect has been sent through a messenger. The Home Minister and the DCP, who harbours political ambition, manipulate to delay the delivery of the pardon order to the right officer. They just want to eliminate the communist revolutionary by any means to serve their ulterior motive. There is another layer to the narrative which depicts Ranjeet Singh Ahuja, the editor of Delhi Express. A foul mouthed, aggressive and unethical person, Ahuja is always on a ruthless pursuit of sensational journalistic objectives to be ahead of his other newspaper rivals. He wants to retain Shekhar because he is dashing, clever and intensely passionate about his work.

Change of heart

Beaming with happiness to have the opportunity to get rid of his job working under a tyrant, Shekhar comes to say goodbye to his journalist friends in the reporters’ room while he asks his girl friend and her mother to wait for him, assuring them he will be back soon. Suddenly, there is a commotion in the press room that the revolutionary has escaped from police custody and has entered the newspaper office. The journalists rush out of the room, chasing the police force that has entered the office to catch the revolutionary. The revolutionary enters the press room through the window and comes face-to-face with Shekhar who is alone in the room. Shekhar decides to hide the revolutionary with a view to interview him as an exclusive and sensational news item. For a moment he forgets all about his future plans of a good life. He informs his boss who arrives on the spot to create a tangled web.

The director has adroitly used elements of farce, suspense, irony and comedy which absorb attention of the audience unceasingly. In the midst of the pell-mell in the press room, Shekhar’s fiancé and her mother look out desperately for him in vain. The box set ingeniously designed by Suchitra Chauhan captures the drab and cluttered press room with the old furniture and type writers. While waiting to report the fate of the revolutionary, reporters indulge in loud and commonplace talk. But as soon as they hear about the escape of the revolutionary, the reporters are gripped with excitement to know about the whereabouts of the revolutionary. The frame of a huge window on the left of the downstage allows the character to climb up into the room and to jump down on the ground to escape the police. The exit and entry doors are projected on the upstage to ensure uninterrupted movements.

The most exciting moments in the show are created with the entry of brute and unscrupulous editor Ranjeet Singh Ahjuja who is the boss of Shekhar. Wearing the mask of a sympathetic boss, he hatches a plot to bring back Shekhar who is planning to go to Mumbai to start a new life.

Raising the bar

The production is aptly rehearsed with actors giving impressive performances. Sanjiv Chopra as Ranjeet Singh Ahuja deserves special mention for making his scenes powerful with his booming voice and displaying readiness to meet the challenge of any crisis. Pankaj Virmani as Shekhar Sharma, the star reporter of Delhi Express, brings to the fore the deep professional commitment and passion of a crime reporter. Rakesh Gupta as the Home Minister acts in a restraint manner and retains his calm even in the face of critical situation. He makes his scene with Vivek Srivastava, who as the DCP acts sloppily, noteworthy. Sahejmeen Kaur, as Priya Chopra, the fiancé of Shekhar and Renu S. Chopra as the mother of Priya Chopra are caught in the whirlpool world of crazy crime reporters and are forced to go through nightmarish experience.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 8:14:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/more-than-just-a-scoop/article25790113.ece

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