For the third innings of Marathi theatre festival Pratibimb, Deepa Gahlot, programming head of theatre and film at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, confessed the near impossibility of premiering a play. “The directors say they cannot get the actors to commit well in advance,” Gahlot said, who decided instead “to showcase the best of [non-commercial] Marathi drama in the previous year”.
A theme has inevitably emerged from each year’s selection: young playwrights in 2010, the best revivals last year, and plays about social issues this year. “The pride of place here goes to Satyashodhak,” Gahlot said, explaining that director Atul Pethe’s play which has a cast of Pune’s municipal workers staging social reformer Jyotiba Phule’s autobiography “is the kind of play the regular NCPA member probably wouldn’t have access to”.
This year’s edition felicitates Satish Alekar, whose play Pralay was the inaugural show at the Experimental Theatre, NCPA in 1986. The six plays include Sushama Deshpande’s Chitragoshhti which explored Sudhir Patwardhan’s paintings and debuted last fortnight.
Director Manaswini Lata Ravindra, a jubilant second-timer at Pratibimb, said she had been moved by the “very frank and open responses” at the post-show discussion of her play in 2010. “You get an audience that knows theatre, and not only Marathi people but a mixed audience,” she said. Ravindra said it was difficult to get an audience for Marathi plays at the NCPA without the festival buzz, a condition which Gahlot is hoping to change by leveraging sponsorship for showcasing groups from outside Mumbai. Time Out picks some of the plays to watch out for.
Writer-director Pramod Kale first wrote about the trio locked in an endless game in Apoornat Apoornam nearly a decade ago in “Lunchtime Story”, the script which forms the first half of the play. “They are weird people,” said Kale. “I wanted something more to happen between the characters and suddenly it came after a gap of eight or 10 years,” he said. “It is out of my system now.” The characters assume different identities in “Bimb Pratibimb” in the second half. “It’s a bit abstract,” said Kale, who after a few unsuccessful auditions, stepped in to play the young, complex character who wants to go beyond the game.
Watch for: “We are doing all this for the spectators. At our last performance in Pune, one person came to see me and said, ‘I have got something to think about for the next few days. Thank you for disturbing me.’”
LAKH LAKH CHANDERI
Bitter about her obscure movie roles as a supporting actress, a mother tries to discourage her son from joining the film industry. The son severs their relationship, only to find fame later as a reality show contestant. Writer-director Manaswini Lata Ravindra was inspired while reading books on Hindi cinema. She wanted to “write about the kind of person who [plays] the friend of the heroine, who rides a cycle with her and sings songs with her but never has [the camera’s] focus though she has the potential”. Lakh Lakh Chanderi moves from the 1960s to the ’80s and the present, spotlighting the increasing ease of acquiring celebrity status. A couple of video clips will be projected on the backdrop, such as a 1960s-style film song composed by Kaushal Inamdar, and a reality show contestant’s background montage.
Watch for: “The experience of how the media and people have changed from the ’60s to today’s era, to see the world behind that glamour.”
Director Atul Pethe’s staging of GP Deshpande’s 1992 script highlights episodes from Jyotiba Phule’s life through the reformer’s own form of satyashodhaki jalsa. Jalsas staged in the 1940s aimed “to impart awareness through entertainment, while singing songs, making small talk, making people laugh but also spreading the message of going beyond the caste system, acting out of humanity,” said Pethe. “The songs are meant to light the fire of revolution in the audience.” Pethe based the performance on written accounts. “There are 14 songs in the play and they’re all different kinds: folk songs, kirtan, lavani and powada,” he said.
Seventy per cent of the cast comprises sanitation workers of Pune Mahanagar Palika Kamgaar Union, who had requested Pethe to help them stage Phule’s life while he was shooting a documentary on them. Others are professional actors. The show which opened this January has had “immense word of mouth publicity”, said Pethe. “We’ve performed in many villages, and the best part is that the shows have been organised by the audience.”
Watch for: “The issues are still relevant today: women’s education, caste system. The most important reason to see it is the interpretation of Jyotiba Phule’s views in today’s times. It is politically important that people from all castes and religions come together to fight for our society.”
SHIVAJI UNDERGROUND IN BHIMNAGAR MOHALLA
In Rajkumar Tangde’s script, Yama searches for an absconding Shivaji on earth by trying to locate the head that will fit his turban. Director Nandu Madhav initially stepped in to work on the technical aspects of stagecraft with Tangde, who has acted and directed plays for 15 years with his fellow farmer-actors in Jalna. “I’ve been working with him for the last eight to 10 years, and I’ve made a film about him, but we’ve never worked this way together,” said Madhav. The duo spent a year and a half on the script to convey the material they’d collated from nearly 20 books on Shivaji “in a sharp and concise manner,” said Madhav. “We were trying to make sure that we tackle every aspect of the subject, not skirt issues.” The play draws on message-oriented folk forms like jalsa, but Madhav has tried to not make it preachy. “We used to rehearse in the fields, we would live together, and the actors too got a sense of the role because we gave them the same books to read,” said Madhav. “It helped them understand why we’re making the statements we are, where the words actually come from.”
Watch for: “So far the history of Shivaji’s life has barely been explored. His battles with Afzal Khan and Shahistekhan are the only ones that get highlighted. There’s so much more.”
After the Mahabharata war, Draupadi approaches Gandhari with a proposal in Shokaparva, a one-act play that writer-director Pramod Kale said has been “cooking in my subconscious” for 12 years. “Mahabharata has been part of my life right from childhood,” said Kale. “I couldn’t imagine what could happen between Draupadi and Gandhari when they meet face to face after the war when both of them have lost everything. Though Draupadi is on the winning side, nobody wins in any war.” The script interweaves Kale’s thoughts on subjects like niyoga, or the system of impregnating childless women, and the role of women in a maledominated world, with insights from books like Irawati Karve’s Yuganta and Durga Bhagwat’s Vyas Parva. “The women were victims but not weak as we think them to be,” said Kale.
Watch for: “We know the Mahabharata; Shokaparva has a new point of view to be discussed.
By Saumya Ancheri on August 03 2012 4.19am