Friday Review

When dreams are shattered...

FROM THE LAND OF MUSTARD FIELDS A scene from the play  

Music plays an important role in dance theatre and it is also considered an essential element of expression of ideas, moods and poetic imageries. Its role in the theatrical art is increasingly becoming more significant with the coming closer of dance theatre and dramatic art. But the creative work of theatre music practitioner is not given the importance they deserve. Rani Balbir Kaur, who after doing post-graduation in Hindustani music (vocals) from Punjab University attracted to drama theatre rather than following the rewarding path of the vocalist. Fascinated by the theatre, she obtained a post-graduate professional diploma in Indian theatre and was awarded the Ph.D degree for her thesis on the “Nature and Dramatic Function of Music in Traditional Indian theatre with special reference to Raslila”. She has authored a book titled “Music: The Soul of Drama”. She went on expanding the frontiers of her art in theatre and worked as an actor under leading directors of national repute, entering the challenging field of direction. An all round-theatre personality, she is honoured by Sangeet Natak Akademi with its Award for 2015 ‘for her overall contribution to Indian theatre’. Her production of Balwant Gargi celebrated play “Kanak Di Balli”, which was staged at Abhimanch auditorium of National School of Drama recently at the festival of Performing Arts featuring the works of recipient of Akademi Awards, 2015 touched the hearts of the audience with the tragic fate of the protagonists.

“Kanak Di Balli” is considered a milestone in the contemporary Punjabi dramaturgy that brings to life the stark realism of the rural landscape of Punjab with telling effect. A critique of social and economic structures of feudal society, it dissects the class and caste antagonism. Its two protagonists – Taro and Bacchna – do not submit to the oppressor and fight against their tormentors and in the process they are defeated by their powerful enemies, meeting the death of tragic heroes. Their struggle however, is not a struggle to create a new society based on equality to ensure human dignity and liberation from class and caste oppression. Taro is the young girl full of life, who falls in love with Bacchna, a bangle-seller. They dream to marry and live happily but their dream is shattered.

The mother of Bacchna for her own casteist reason is dead-set against the marriage of her son with Taro. She recalls with the feeling of bitterness and hatred that her husband eloped with the mother of Taro and killed in the name of family honour. Taro, an orphaned girl, is living with her maternal uncle, an incorrigible drunkard who has sold everything he and Taro owned. Now, he is determined to sell off Taro to a womaniser zamindar, Maghar.

The play explores the struggle of true lovers to realise their dreams in a society with a stony heart. Landlord Maghar has its own sordid tale of sexual exploitation of women. A polygamist using his money and muscle power, he buys Taro.

Rani’s production opens with lyrics by Waris Shah rendered by a chorus to the accompaniment of musical instruments. The music talks about the sacredness of love that transcends social and cultural barriers. However, question remains can such idealisation of love invoked through Sufi music be effective in changing a society riven by deep class and caste division. Director Rani claims that apart from her novelty in the use of music, she has made some changes in the plot here and there but retained the original thematic content of the play.

The production is enriched by imaginative art direction by Mahinder Kumar which is in tune with the realistic style of presentation to which the play is set by the playwright. Mahinder Kumar has used entire space of the acting area to create the right locales for the action. On the upstaged left is set a palatial house of the landlord. On the right upstage the poverty-stricken maternal uncle of Taro’s house is created. Downstage right we watch the interactions between Bacchna and his mother. The resolution of the conflict in murder and suicide is enacted on the centre stage in full view of the audience. Costumes designed by Tejinder Kaur add multiple shades of colour to the production, contributing to deepen the characterisation.

The members of the cast give brilliant performances. Robin Toor as Bacchna in love with Taro is a true tragic hero. Palak Jasrotia as Taro invests her role with a great deal of emotional power, conviction and energy. Ritesh Gautam as Jhandu, a Dalit working for the landlord is a bonded labourer, revolts against his employer. His transformation from abject slavery to a rebel is convincing. Veerpal Kaur as Taaban, a vicious woman and broker in the sale of young women, brings alive the evil traits of her character effectively. Sandeep Kaur as Thakri, the fourth wife oflandlord Maghar, projects the portrait of an agonised and humiliated wife of a polygamous husband who boasts in cheating on her.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 6:38:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/When-dreams-are-shattered.../article16091763.ece

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