Theatre

Part satire, part farce

Worthy effort :Anil Sharma, the director of “Taj Mahal ka Tender”(left), is the founder director of Mitr Cultural Society and is involved in amateur theatre for over a decade now.  

Ajay Shukla’s “Taj Mahal ka Tender” is a biting satire on corruption at various levels in Indian socio-political life. Awarded by Sahitya Kala Parishad the Mohan Rakesh Samman in 1996, its production by Repertory Company of National School of Drama under the direction of Chitranjan Tripathi brought this play to notice. Its social relevance, comic elements and room for improvisation inspired some directors to stage it. Some treated it as a farce and a few invested it with a severe comment on corruption at the highest bureaucratic level.

Its latest version by Mitr presented at Shri Ram Centre this past week is an attempt to treat it in parts as a farce and in parts as satire. However, the use of slapstick and the caricature historical characters tend to be incongruous with the comic design of the original.

Anil Sharma, who has directed “Taj Mahal ka Tender,” is the founder director of Mitr Cultural Society and is involved in amateur theatre as an actor and director for over a decade now. Founded in 2002, the group stages about 15 productions a year, depending on box–office collections and Anil’s personal funds . It has taken upon itself to make people conscious of their social responsibility and has been working with the Fire Department, Northern Railways, Delhi Police and Prayas to present plays with a social message.

While dealing with “Taj Mahal ka Tender”, Anil has taken liberty to add a few sequences. His sequence of Dara Shikoh’s interaction with Shah Jahan and his courtiers is shoddy and it shows poor taste. Similarly, the lady bank executive who pesters Shah Jahan in his court to take a credit card tends to be tawdry and diverts attention from the theme of the play.

However, Anil has maintained the sharp satirical edge while projecting the character of Guptaji, the chief engineer entrusted to complete the Taj Mahal in the shortest possible time by Shah Jahan. He has given standing orders to his ministers to sanction liberally for the construction of Taj Mahal as demanded by Guptaji. Much of the budget allocation is spent on the construction of the office of the Taj Mahal Construction Corporation and the salary of the staff. A major chunk of the fund is siphoned off to meet the expenses of the construction of Guptaji’s palatial house and hotel. Hand in glove land mafia, Guptaji and his agents cheat the exchequer.

After squandering almost all the money, what is ready is a tender to invite builders, shattering the dream of the emperor. The message is conveyed with an ironic overtone: the unholy alliance between the corrupt bureaucracy and mafias and an inept and foolish political leadership. A dream to better the life of the people will remain on paper. There is a question mark – will this alliance ever be broken?

Rahul Vashisht as Shah Jahan, Anil Sharma as Guptaji, Umesh Goel as the mafia, Nisha as Jaatni and Manish Thankur as Pandit and Sansani (news) give impressive performances. Umesh deserves special mention for his stage presence, body language and delivery.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 7:50:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Part-satire-part-farce/article16875886.ece

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