Remembering all-round theatre personality R.S. Nishesh

Stark realism: A scene from “Amoeba”

Stark realism: A scene from “Amoeba”  

R.S. Nishesh’s theatrical brilliance was on display, as “Amoeba” made its way to the centrestage once again

Admirers, family members and former theatre associates of R.S. Nishesh, a significant all-round theatre personality of his times, were present at Muktadhara auditorium recently to remember him on the occasion of his first death anniversary. He passed away on August 11, 2018, at the age of 87.

Remembering all-round theatre personality R.S. Nishesh

It was an evening to dwell on fond memories of theatre workers’ struggle to stage plays when in Delhi there were two auditoriums — Sapru House and AIFACS — which were beyond the reach of most of the amateur groups. Nishesh and his co-actors and backstage artists used to stage their plays at Delhi Public Library, near Old Delhi Railway Station, and later shifted to Mandi House when Shri Ram Centre and LTG became the hub of theatrical activities. Among Nishesh’s contemporaries were Sheila Bhatia, Ramesh Mehta of Three Arts Club, Satish Dey and Rewati Saran Sharma, who were the pioneers of post-Independence theatre movement in Delhi which has been gradually forgotten.

Iconic play

Nishesh’s theatre was distinguished for its severe indictment of a classist society with no hope for the oppressed. His artistic credo was very much in evidence in “Amoeba” which was staged on the occasion. Among his better-known plays are “Adam Khor”, “Cuckoo Darling”, “Kotha”, “Cheel Ghar” and “Amoeba”.

About 25 years ago, he migrated to the US but every year he would visit India, devoting his evenings to Mandi House to meet his former associates and narrate anecdotes about his life in the theatre. Having watched some of his productions directed by him, including “Amoeba”, revisiting it after 30 years was an enriching experience.

Directed by Rahul Tayal and Rajat Gaurav, “Amoeba” is set in a slum cluster near a sewer. Two neighbours beget sons. Forgetting their miserable existence, they express their ecstatic feelings, fantasising about the bright future of their sons. They visualise their sons will achieve great achievements. They will watch their great fortunes from heaven. Now the narrative shifts back to stark realism. Unable to pay their fees regularly and to provide them books, they are dropped out of schools. The environment they live in has made them lumpen, and gradually they join the ranks of petty criminals.

The most vital aspect of the production is the use of dialogue which realistically captures the idiom of life in squalor. Set in a social ambience plagued by the wild dog eat dog instinct, structurally, the play is cohesive and moves to its catastrophic end logically.

The opening is loud and tends to be highly affected. But gradually the production acquires momentum and directors' treatment tends to be restrained. Two main characters – Munna and Gopi – have a love-hate relationship. They are often partners in petty crimes as well as rivals. They both resort to various tantrums to escape from the policeman, share cheap alcohol and play cards while on the booze and engage in the deadly fight to the death.

In this debased world, young girls are forced to become sex workers. Despite the gloom and inhumanity of slums, the noble instinct of love shines between one of the petty criminal and the sex worker. They decide to create a new world for themselves away from slums. But their hopes are dashed. The play ends with no hope for the crushed humanity so long as the slums exist.

Rahul Tayal and Monu Sharma as young men partners-turned-deadly foes and Pooja Rawat as sex worker act realistically with total concentration on the portrayal of their characters. Their movements reveal their intense inner motivations. Jitin blends his character of a policeman with the elements of farce and reality making it an object of ridicule.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 12:40:28 PM |

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