Theatre

The Azamgarh Mahotsav: In harmony with nature

Visually appealing: Members of the Bastar band Special Arrangement

Visually appealing: Members of the Bastar band Special Arrangement  

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The 12-day Azamgarh Mahotsav featured different theatrical forms, music concerts, dance recitals and symposia in different parts of this sprawling district of eastern Uttar Pradesh. It evoked a sense of joie de vivre and camaraderie among theatre practitioners that will be remembered for long.

Organised in collaboration with the civil society and district administration, the spectacular performances unfolded on an elaborate makeshift stage on a huge lawn popularly known as Jajee Ka Maidan which was equipped with advanced lighting devices.

One of the visually and aurally enchanting experiences was offered by “Bastar Band” which was remarkable for presenting rhythmically graceful dance movements and soul-stirring musical tunes. The colourful costumes, the display of enviable skill by drummers, the enactment of daily chores of tribal people in harmony with nature created beautiful imagery.

Bow’s melody

We know bow and arrow are essential for tribals for hunting but here the women also created melodious tunes from the bow, celebrating harmonious community life. One of the tribal ritualistic performances, based on a traditional form, Dhankul Jaagar, was woven around the earth which produces grains for humanity. The vibrant imagery formed by tribal artists revealed the soul of tribal life whose self-reliant and simple lives are now under threat by attempts to curtail their forest rights.

The show was directed and conceptualised by Padma Shri Anup Ranjan Pandey, who was trained in Habib Tanvir’s repertory and was initiated into music by his parents. He has been working with Bastar tribals, scattered across in the vast forest landscape. They are losing their cultural identity and their rare art forms which are now on the verge of extinction.

Pandey is working with them for the last one-and-a-half decades, collecting musical instruments and musical tunes and bringing diverse groups under the umbrella of Bastar Band. He has revived a number of mythological stories and tribal ritualistic art forms and presents them on the modern stage.

The works of Bhikhari Thakur, who is known as Shakespeare of Bhojpuri, continue to be staged by contemporary theatre practitioners of Bihar. One of his plays “Bidesiya” is frequently staged. Satish Anand, a veteran theatre director now based in Delhi, has evolved his own technique of staging “Bidesiya”, incorporating elements of Brechtian theatre. At the Azamgarh Mahotsav, this play was presented under the direction of Sanjay Upadhyay in an innovative style.

In the original form, it is staged by actors who remain in standing posture thought out the show. The strong chorus also sings songs while remaining standing. The Naach which reveals the earthy vigour is a vital element of “Bidesiya” and is mostly performed by men in female dress.

Upadhyay, a leading stage music practitioner, director, and Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee, has transformed the play into a musical. The actor-singer remain sitting on the stage while singing. There are no dance sequences. The presentation has sophistication and elements of classical music have been incorporated into the musical score.

Agonised bride

The production reveals the agony of a young bride whose husband has left home just after their marriage is solemnised and remained in Bidesh – foreign land – only to return after years of separation to tell the eternally waiting wife that he has a family in Bidesh. Upadhyay's production is innovative which will appeal to a sophisticated urban audience.

At Rahul auditorium, named after Mahapandit Rahul Sanskrityayan, a great scholar and prolific writer who was born in Azamgarh, the Repertory Company of Bhartendu Natya Akademi, Lucknow presented “Maar Parajay”. Written by Raj Kumar, the play is directed by Manoj Sharma with panache, creating an ambiance that enables performers to reveal their dilemma with dramatic force.

This is one of the few plays about Gandhi, seen in recent months, that explores with intensity only one aspect of Gandhi's life rather than presenting the vast canvas of his eventful life. “Maar Parajay” is structurally taut which explores Gandhi's experiment with celibacy while he was in South Africa, championing the cause of the South African Indians. The entire action takes place in the house of Gandhi with a focus on his intense interactions with Kasturba and his sons.

Bapu’s restrictions

One day Gandhi reveals to Kasturba his resolve to maintain celibacy, declaring that the sexual relations between husband and wife should be restricted only to give birth to children and after that, they should maintain absolute celibacy. Gandhi's experiments are not only restricted to observe celibacy, but he also stopped taking salts and sugar. He imposed these restrictions on his family members also. This was a kind of torture for his family.

There are painfully touching sequences like children demanding sugar which is denied to them by Kasturba, torn between her tender motherly feeling for the children and her sense of moral duty towards Gandhi. There is another sequence full of anguish where Gandhi orders her to clean pot of human feces, which she refuses. Enraged, Gandhi orders her to leave the house and pushes her towards the exit door. Weeping children rush towards their mother and cling to her. Later, Gandhi repents his inhuman act. There is another poignant scene when girls living in the Ashram complain to Gandhi that his son tried to molest them, Gandhi commands his son to leave home at once and takes scissors to cut the long, black and beautiful hair of the girls considering them as the source of sexual lust. Kasturba intervenes.

Som Ganguli as Gandhi gives a creditable performance. His Gandhi struggles hard to free himself from sexual lust. Pawani Gupta as Kasturba reveals the inner strength of her character.

“Hansuli”

“Hansuli”  

Adapted from Dr. Akhilesh Kumar Chandra’s short story by Raj Kumar Shah, “Hansuli” (silver ornament)depicted the conflict between two brothers over the division of ancestral landed property and the lone silver ornament of the mother. Directed by Shah and presented by Sammohan Kala Sansthan, Azamgarh, in this bitter conflict, the brothers, as well as members of Panchayat, forget the future of the aging parents. From beginning to climax, however, there are little variations in tone and pace.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 12:35:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/the-azamgarh-mahotsav-in-harmony-with-nature/article30461536.ece

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