Song of stories

Conceived by the Hindustani musician/composer duo Shubha Mudgal-Aneesh Pradhan and directed by the theatre producer/director Sunil Shanbag, ‘Stories In A Song’, from the house of Arpana Theatre, delves into the history and diversity of Indian music. As much a story of music that strings together history, literature, academic research and diverse musical forms, it is also a story of musicians of various genres and statures and the challenges that they face in the pursuit of their art.

The eclectic snippets have been innovatively adapted for theatre by writers Aslam Pervez, Ashok Mishra, Vikram Phukan, Anil Deshmukh and Purva Naresh. Rather than using music to supplement the text to be performed, music taking centre stage as the main vehicle to carry the story sets this presentation apart from regular theatre outings.

The gaiety, verve and camaraderie of Arpana’s singing crew had the audience rooted to its presentation of six discrete pieces seamlessly woven together and performed in two segments.

The first half staged a patriotic mujra that stems from a lesser known historical anecdote of an encounter between Gandhiji and the tawaifs of Amritsar. The Mogrey family episode that conveys the compromises forced on small-time musicians to keep up with the changing tastes was followed by a vibrant extract from the popular Nautangi, ‘Bahadur Ladki’. The second half co-relates Basant Panchami and Sufi Basant with joyous folk songs and an effusive Qawwali rendition. A hilarious portrayal of plagiarism followed, when a pristine piece of Khayal is abused with rock, rap, digitized vocals and copyright tussle. The last in the fare was the depiction of Kajri, with a charged Akhada where two opposing teams strive to establish their supremacy over the art. The exuberant and thick-accented performance of an original English Kajri left the audience reeling with laughter.

A few of the performances that stood out were of Namit Das as the comical British officer, Ketaki Khatte as the tawaif and Bahadur Ladki, Shubhrajyoti Barat as Amir Khusrao and Gagan Tier as the unscrupulous composer.

Music, the art form, seemed to find its flesh and soul in the committed crew to tell its story to the engrossed audience. Taking cue from one of the dialogues, so long as principled artists continue to contribute, Art will find a genuine audience and will live on!

(This play was staged in Kochi as part of the three-day long annual theatre event organised by the Madhavan Nair Foundation. The review was inadvertently left out of the review ‘Of dreams and desires’, carried in the FridayReview on December 6. The error is regretted.)

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2021 10:41:42 AM |

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