Theatre

Look, who is changing…and who’s not!

The production effectively uses the elements of MNCs and hypocrisy of the intelligentsia.  

Postgraduate in dramatics from National School of Drama and Ph.D in ‘Theatre: Its significance in Education’ from Punjab University, Suwarn Rawat has evolved a theatrical credo that blends realism, satire and farce which was very much in evidence in his latest offering of “Hua Lafda...Pahan ke Kapda”. The production was presented by Kala Darpan and staged at Sammukh auditorium in National School of Drama (NSD) recently. Having devoted considerable creative life to children’s theatre, his production under review has an interesting narrative that keeps young audience engaged from start to end but also offers entertaining and provocative moments to others. Beneath the diverting surface there is an undercurrent of biting satire on the ruling class.

Born in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, Rawat’s theatrical art and its social relevance came to the notice of discerning theatre-lovers when his production of “Bees Sau Bees” featured at Bharat Rang Mahotsav-2002 in Kamani auditorium which highlighted the sacrifice made by the hill people for the formation of a separate State juxtaposing it with the disillusionment of the people with the succeeding governments that formed in the new State. In “Dhol Ke Bol” he depicts the plight of traditional drummers in the hills and the near extinction of their centuries-old folk art that once celebrated the social and spiritual life of the people.

A former professor in the Centre for Folk Performing Arts & Culture, HNBG Central University Srinagar, Uttarakhand, Rawat’s “Hua Lafda…” is an adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Retaining most of the narrative elements, Rawat has imparted it a contemporary ring which is a satirical take on a king obsessed to pursue his own fanciful desire and to display in public his highly ostentatious lifestyle.

The play opens in the court of an unidentified kingdom. Sitting on the throne with his queen, the uppermost worry in his mind is what to wear once he gets tired of his new clothes to dazzle his subjects with most magnificent clothes. The weavers fail miserably to satisfy his whimsical demand. The king has no time to mitigate the problems of the people and he squanders royal treasury to fulfil his foolish desire. Facing king’s wrath, the weavers start migrating to neighbouring kingdoms. He is least bothered about the defence of the kingdom surrounded by enemies.

The sulking king summons his courtiers to get new clothes for him to wear on the occasion of royal celebrations scheduled for kingdom’s formation day. The ministers and the queen are all doing their best to keep the king in good humour, assuring him that they would find out weavers capable of weaving cloth suitable for the occasion. At this juncture the story takes a new turn. Some swindlers appear before the king, boasting their skill to weave finest cloth fantastic enough to be seen only by the honest and wise whereas to the fools, these clothes sewed out of the fabric, would remain invisible. The swindlers are given as much gold as they demanded.

Feigning to be busy in weaving the cloth, they greet king’s ministers who come to watch the progress. In fact, there is nothing at all to see but the messengers fearing to be branded as dishonest and incompetent shower fulsome praise on the work of swindlers.

On the grand event the king under the illusion of having new clothes moves into the street with the royal retinue, people watching the king in silence from a distance. Only a little child in his innocence tells the truth in the very face of the king.

Rawat has incorporated the element of multinational corporations who are out to exploit the developing countries in the name of development. He has given colour to his production, be it creating folk dance sequences and fashion parades. MNCs use this device to popularise market culture and to lull the socio-political consciousness of the people against the exploitation of the natural resources of the developing countries. The production also exposes the hypocrisy of the intelligentsia who remain silent spectators to the ostentatious lifestyle of the rulers, highlighting that only an innocent child in this corrupt world needed to speak the truth. Rawat conveys these ideas in an interesting style, unfolding the play on a bare stage in a seamless style. A variety of musical tones and sound effects enlivened the production.

Piyush Kapoor’s caricature of the king is effective enough to make it a butt of ridicule. Anuradha Khanna’s queen is unable to say a spade a spade to save the king becoming a laughing stock. Shreewarna Rawat and Sujay Rawat in a variety of roles impress the audience.

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Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 5:52:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/suwarn-rawats-hua-lafdapahan-ke-kapda/article7508388.ece

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