Theatre

Piquant performances

A scene from Court Martial

A scene from Court Martial   | Photo Credit: 03dfrCourtMartial

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A festival to honour veteran theatre scholar Jaidev Taneja was held in New Delhi recently.

To honour eminent theatre critic and scholar Jaidev Taneja, Rangayan, formed by Delhi University’s Atma Ram Sanatan Dharam College, organised a two-day theatre festival at New Delhi’s Shri Ram Centre recently. It was also an occasion to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the formation of the group, which has been able to make a name for itself in the vibrant theatre landscape of the university. Over the years, Rangayan has been organising theatre festivals featuring its students, trained in a workshop conducted by experienced directors, which evoked tremendous response from theatre lovers.

There was a touch of nostalgia when honours were conferred on Professor Taneja, who is a former senior faculty member of the college and one of Rangayan's founder members.

The evening opened with the staging of Swadesh Deepak’s celebrated play “Court Martial” under the joint direction of J.P. Singh and Chitra Singh. This is one of the rare plays written in Hindi in recent years which is frequently staged in the Hindi region by various groups with varying success.

The play’s strength lies in its well-knit structure, its indictment of the upper castes and their deeply rooted prejudice against Dalits.

The production under review is slick. It opens with a military court at which a soldier, Ram Chander, is being tried for the murder of one of his officers and severely injuring another officer while on duty. The injured officer Captain Kapoor is appearing as a witness.

Through the interactions of the defence and prosecution lawyer and the examinations and counter examinations of witnesses, layer after layer comes to the fore. At one level, the production reveals the inhuman attitude of the upper caste against Dalits, and at another level it shows the treatment meted out to soldiers forced to work in the houses of officers. These soldiers who are fighters are condemned to the status of bonded labourers. These shocking revelations are made through dramatic confrontations between the dramatis personae.

The production is imaginatively designed to capture the grim, tense atmosphere of a martial court.

The lighting effects reinforce the ambience to reflect the emotional and psychic state of the accused. The actors and directors gradually build a highly tense emotional atmosphere on the stage, which enables the actors to reveal their inner conflict.

Sarvesh Dixit in the role of Ram Chander, who confesses his guilt, creates a powerful portrait of a Dalit soldier provoked by his tormentors to shoot them. He remains mostly silent, and the few dialogues he delivers reveal his inner turmoil and deeply hurt feelings. Himmat Singh Negi as Vikash Roy, the defence counsel, Ravinder Pant as Captain Kapoor, the prosecution witness, Bahnu Pratap Singh as Colonel Surat Singh, the judge, and Gautam Jaiswal as the prosecution lawyer give riveting performances.

Also featured at the festival was “Maharathi” by Vibhanshu Vaivaw, on the tragedy of Karna, bringing alive various tragic and humiliating aspects of his life vividly. There was for example the scene in which Kunti interacts with Karna, revealing to him that he is her firstborn whom she was forced to abandon since she was an unwed mother, beseeching him to join his brothers the Pandavas, who are fighting against the Kauravas. The scene exudes Kunti's guilt and her desperation to protect her sons. An emotionally overwhelmed Karna politely and firmly refuses her request. There is another scene full of pathos in which Kunti weeps over the body of Karna killed by Arjuna who resorted to unethical war codes. The play, directed by Rohit Tripathi, engages our attention from beginning to end.

Amit as Karna creates the portrait of a great warrior endowed with ethical values who remains consistently loyal to his benefactor Duryodhana.

Chetan Sharma as Krishna, Divya Yadav as Kunti and Avinash Tiwari as Duryodhana give credible performances.

On this occasion, two books, “Rangsheersh Jaidev Taneja” — edited by G.K. Jha — and “Rangsakshi” by Jaidev Taneja, were released by Professor Dinesh Singh, Vice Chancellor of Delhi University.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 9:11:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/piquant-performances/article6963176.ece

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