Stories of social contradictions

A three-day theatre festival in Delhi presented an optimistic scenario of the work of young playwrights in Hindi

Stage directors often lament the dearth of significant plays in Hindi. Some of the directors resort to evolving their own script in collaboration of their cast which they call devised script. The three-day Sanhita Manch Natya Mahotsav, organised by Being Association at India Habitat Centre, recently presented an optimistic scenario of the work of young playwrights in Hindi.

These plays are selected out of a playwright competition by a six-member distinguished jury which had seasoned theatre practitioners such as Ranjeet Kapoor, Satish Alekar, and Atul Tiwari. These plays reveal the grasp of dramatic technique and keen insight into contemporary social contradictions. The organisers deserve praise for their sincere search for new plays and providing the awarded plays stage to be directed by young and talented directors.

In fact, Sahitya Kala Parishad, Delhi has been consistently following this process of discovering new plays in Hindi. Now considered a contemporary classic, “Court Martial” by Swadesh Deepak was selected by SKP through their playwriting competition. Senior director Arvind Gaur and Ujjain-based director Sharad Sharma have presented more than 100 shows of this celebrated play.

Delhi’s leading theatre group Flying Feathers Art Association presented “Kabab” written by Rahul Rai. The play reveals human rapaciousness and cruelty against the backdrop of communal riots. The young playwright has intricately woven incidents of betrayal, cruelty, and revenge. As the action unfolds, the play explores the inner lives of characters and their motives. There is a strong element of suspense that leads to a stage that shocks the audience.

The play is directed by Rajesh Singh, a Sangeet Natak Akademi’s Bismillah Khan Award 2017 recipient.

A highly qualified professional, he, along with his cast, created tense emotional atmosphere on the stage which enable the performers to reveal their complex psyche. The main dramatis personae are Raunak, the owner of kiln, his wife Janani, Sakina, the widow of Abdul. In a fit of rage, Raunak shoves Abdul and his son into a furnace. Now wearing the mask of a benevolent employer, he visits Sakina, bringing household material in a bag in a mournful expression on his face, insisting her to accept the heavy bag. His wife Janani comes daily to the house of Sakina, consoling her, expressing her husband’s emotional cruelty, persuading Sakina to have a life partner. Raunak and his wife have no child and are desperate to have a heir. His ulterior motive is to make Sakina a surrogate mother and resorts to clever tactics to seduce her. The vulnerable Sakina surrenders and gives birth to a male baby.

The act of seduction is enacted in a subtle manner and the way Raunak bares his inner wolf has a strong element of terror. The climactic sequence, where the daughter of Sakina is revealed the truth about the death of her father and brother, is stunningly horrifying. The grotesque image of a man in trance is a metaphor for human cruelty. The lighting effect by Souti Chakravorty heightens the visual impact.

Amit Saxena as Raunak, Nidhi Mishra as Sakina, Nalini R. Joshi as Janani, Shiv Prashad Gour as Adavasi give compelling performances. Shradha Vasdev as the daughter of Raunak and Sabina creates a portrait that symbolises blind fury of humanity obsessed with revenge and hate.

Human dilemmas

Mumbai-based, Being Association presented “Radhey”, written by Amit Sharma. Radhey is directed by Rasika Agashe, a graduate from the National School of Drama.

Inspired by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s “Rashmirathi”, the playwright has interpreted the last day of the 18-day war between the Pandavas and Kauravas with confrontation between characters . The playwright has brought into focus the agony of Radhey, the foster mother of Karna on one hand and on the other Karna’s biological mother Kunti’s dilemma. It also defines that war is basically fought between the owning classes to monopolise the state apparatus. The marginalised people are merely made pawns in the hand of warring forces.

There are sequences which depict the feelings of fraternity between Karna and his low cast attendant because Kshatriya clan disdainfully considers Karna as the one who belongs to the low caste. The play also illustrates that the Mahabharat war was not fought to establish rule of Dharma but to establish the supremacy of Krishna and the Pandavas.

The director has skilfully harmonised various ideological strands into an artistic whole. The performances are marked by professional brilliance.

Written by Swapnil Jain, “Romeo Juliet in Smart Cities of Contemporary India” is directed by Saurabh Anant and presented by Vihan Drama Works. Structurally, the play as well as its production style is innovative. The essence of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is that there is no place for love in a cruel world. Jain’s “Romeo Juliet” explores this thematic content in the contemporary Indian context plagued by violence, hatred and intolerance. Love is defiled in such an atmosphere. Enacted in the format of tragic-comedy, the humour and tragedy are alternated through fluidity of group compositions.

Towards the close, the play raises the question whether the lovers will meet the same fate as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet met or they would fight against the enemy of love. The performances are marked by spontaneity.

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