Theatre

Stories of social upheaval

In sync with present times: A scene from “Shivratri”

In sync with present times: A scene from “Shivratri”   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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Sahitya Kala Parishad’s Yuva Natya Samaroh saw some high class dramatic performances on stage

Chandrasekhar Kambar, an eminent Kannada playwright and poet, is held in high regard by theatregoers in the Capital who have watched the Hindi translation of some of his significant plays, especially “Jokumaraswamy” (“Aur Tota Bola”) and “Siri Sampige” (“Akash-Tamasha”). Directed by Bhanu Bharti for the National School of Drama Repertory Company, “Akash-Tamasha” has acquired the status of a milestone in contemporary Indian theatre.

“Aur Tota Bola” was first directed by Rajinder Nath for the SRC Repertory. Lokendra Tripathi produced his Karimai in Hindi translation. The discerning theatre audience has been able to see his new play in Hindi translation by Veena Sharma titled “Shivratri”, which was staged at Sahitya Kala Parishad’s Yuva Natya Samaroh at the Kamani auditorium.

Historic movement

Directed by Susheel Sharma, the dramatic action unfolds against the backdrop of the Sharan social reform movement in the 12th century Karnataka, seeking equality of all men and women with the emphasis that human labour should be respected and those who are parasites should be forced to do productive labour. A movement essentially against Sanskrit-speaking elite, the historic movement is led by Baswanna, a man of impeccable integrity, high intellectual attainments with a deep-rooted commitment to ensure dignity, liberty and equality to the socially and economically suppressed masses. The major part of the action takes place in the house of a high society prostitute. Baswanna’s humanistic movement is in conflict with two forces – the state headed by King Bijjal and high caste oligarchy. Though the king appreciates Baswanna’s movement who has brought him to head the treasury of the state but the king has to defend his class interest. The reaction of the upper caste is violent who are destroying the mud-houses of Dalits, setting them on fire. Baswanna also seeks to liberate prostitutes from the degrading social position and protecting the young girls from the slavery of the members of royalty.

The production captures the social upheaval and the bloody resistance of the privileged class to the rise of the oppressed in an intense manner, stirring the audience intellectually and emotionally. Director Sharma's production brings to the fore the contemporary relevance of a social movement launched in the 12th century in the context of Dalits assertion and their struggle for equality in a society divided by class with elite in the commanding position.

Director Sharma is a leading practitioner of the theatre music but in this production his instrumental music at times becomes loud enough to disrupt the rhythm of the production. In realistic productions, music should integrate with other forms of expressive means to form an artistic whole. Rajat Dahiya as Baswanna gives a brilliant performance, displaying inner moral strength and conviction. Pradeep Kataria as the king who visits incognito to the house of high society prostitute, demanding his monopoly for the company of a young girl, reducing her to become his sex slave and Dakshi Lamba, a mentally crazy woman witness to the savagery of the ruling class, act admirably.

Celebrated work

Mahashweta Devi's celebrated fictional work “Rudali” and its stage version are a thought-provoking and disturbing experience both for the readers and the theatre audience. We have seen some stage versions of “Rudali”, including one by seasoned theatre director Usha Gangoli. Its latest version, under the direction of Arvind, was presented at the Natya Samaroh which depicts effectively the grim reality of the lives of professional mourners hired by the rich to weep for their dead. Crushed by hardships caused by a heartless society of the privileged, they are unable to weep for the death of their near and dear ones but as professional, they beat chest, pretend to cry loud enough to be paid more.

Arvind has also adapted the story. At places, especially where he introduces the mother of Sanichari, the protagonist, who has eloped with her lover, a Nautanki actor, abandons her infant daughter, tend to be abrupt. The script needs to have more cohesiveness. The music, dialogue and costumes establish the fact that the action is set in Rajasthan. The climactic scene leaves emotional impact on the audience. Priyanka Sharma as Sanichari, Veena Sharma, as the bubbly professional mourner and Bhupesh Joshi as Laxman Singh, the kind-hearted landlord romantically attracted towards Sanichari, give consistently impressive performances.

Fable on Bimbsar

Director Sunil Rawat’s production of “Shatru” is neat and aptly acted. Written by Ashok Lal, a well-known Hindi playwright, the play is the dramatisation of a Buddhist fable about Bimbsar, the king of Magadh, who is a tyrant and his son, Kunik, is hot-heated and frantically in a hurry to be enthroned. He harbours an intense hatred for his father. Accursed as they are, the main characters struggle on two levels – their inner conflict and the antagonism between themselves. The son is the disciple of Devdatt, a evil genius, who wants to destroy the king and to demean the teachings of Buddha.

Repenting his heinous crimes, including patricide, Kunik surrenders to Buddha and becomes his disciple leading to his transformation into a most kind and morally conscious ruler who has no enemy.

Some vital sequences are enacted upstage which weakened the visual and aural impact. The dialogues are chiselled, economic and rich in philosophic undertones reflecting complexities about human relationships, suggesting with subtlety that anger, rapaciousness and greed stand in the way of inner happiness of man. Leading performers like Sanjay Makhija as King Bimbsar, Dushyant Singh as the son of King Bimbsar and Kapil Pal as Devdatt display their flair for acting.

White blood

“Saphed Khoon”

“Saphed Khoon”  

Yuwa Natya Mahotsav came to an end with the presentation of “Saphed Khoon” under the direction of Javed Sameer. A rehash of William Shakespeare’s “King Lear”, it is written by Aga Hashr Kashmiri and translated by Anis Azmi. A melodrama, Khakaan (King Lear) is cruelly treated by his two daughters whom he has given his entire kingdom. The third daughter, who is deprived of her right to the kingdom, rescues her old and senile father, looking after him with love and care. The villains –Bairam (Edmund) and cruel daughters –fight, kill one another. The play has a happy ending. Sudheer Rikhari's music score is entertaining. In tune with the Parsi theatre style, the production includes songs and dance sequences which are not related to the main plot. Javed has pruned the original longish script to reduce the playing time. On the whole, it is a feel good production.

Ramesh Khanna, who is a popular Ramlila actor, is aptly cast in the role of Khakaan, revealing melodramatic acting style. Himmat Singh Negi as Gulkhairo and Ritu Pandey as Guldam bring to their dance sequences vitality, exuberance and spontaneity providing the audience light-hearted entertainment.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 7:56:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/stories-of-social-upheaval/article25901231.ece

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