Award winning plays mesmerise audiences

This year the Sangeet Natak Akademi elected a theatre person as a fellow. Ratan Thiyam, the internationally famous director, has worked on plays like Chakravyuha, Bhasa’s Urubhangam, Kalidas’ Ritusamhara, Ibsen’s When We Dead Awaken and Uttarpriyadarshi based on the poet Ageyay’s long work. This play about Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhidsm after the brutal Kalinga war, with R.K. Bhogen as Priyadarshi Ashok, was presented on the occasion of the SNA’s annual festival of dance, music and drama honouring the awardees.
Awarded for her contribution to Indian theatre as a director, Tripurari Sharma’s Shaayar... Shutter Down, a play written-and directed by her, speaks out the alienation of the people living in cities where the individual is out of sync with reality which is a result of the loneliness of being unconnected to the others.
The actor, Teekam Josh, played a solo hand to bring out the content of the script. His protestations against the system that limits the self achieving from achieving total humanhood were well etched and his existence as a man whose poetry is dead in the face of the shutter down of emotions in a man was bravely done.

Waman Kendre was also honoured for his contribution as a director brought a play from Mumbai titillatingly titled No Sex Please. The play, however, has nothing to do with the Westend or Broadway hit No Sex Please We Are British. it is a reworking of the Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes wherein the women revolt against their soldier husbands and their continued absence from home fighting wars for a blood thirsty king who want to rule the world. And the method they adopt is denial of their bodies to their war weary husbands.
The ensemble work was very well executed and designed with so it uses the women as the backbone of the production. They sang and danced to simple tunes while giving the beat themselves with hand-held bells. The speech pattern was very deliberate with emphasis on the nouns in the sentence. The use of the video clips of World War I and World War II and the inhuman Vietnam War were also organic to the play. It was not done for the sake of introducing the video.
Overall, it was an enjoyable play with enough humour to keep the message alive till the very end.

A play from Jodhpur, Jaamleela, was presented by the SNA to honour it’s writer-director Arjun Deo for his contribution to playwriting in Rajasthani. The play however was in Hindustani. Much like Waman Kendre who works in Marathi theatre but staged his play No Sex Please in Hindi.
This was perhaps as a gesture to North Indians. The play opens on an old ploy that involves berating the audience on their idiosyncrasies or bad habits! Of coming late for the show, or eating chips during the performance, or allowing their mobile phone to ring when an emotional scene is being played etc.
The tale the drama tells is of the death of an elephant who Is killed by unscrupulous hunters. On arrival in Jamlok, the elephant’s Atma challenges Jamraj that a single politician can destroy the functioning of Jamlok. Jamraj accepts the challenge and gives the Atma a pass so he can enter Jamlok again with his politician.
The Atma finds Data, an old hand at playing dirty game in politics, on arrival. Data takes time to discover the weak points of Jamraj. He packs him off for a long desired holiday. Then he examines the functioning of Jamlok. He decides to send the scum of the earth — the murderers, the cheaters, rich and lascivious businessmen, the corrupt and the unholy — to heaven, instead of the good, for whom the place are reserved. There is pandemonium in heaven and Lord Vishnu is forced to intercede.
In a rare instance, he comes to Jamlok. He first dismisses Data. Atma asks why can’t one change one person and alter the situation on earth too.
Because earth is a democracy where the elected govern, so the people should be very careful whom they choose as their representatives. A person who is not touched by any scandal of wrongdoing should be selected by the people. It all depends upon the people whom they choose to have a good, fair and honest government. The play was directed in a stylistic manner, though an old style, by Arjun Deo Charan.
There was some music and plenty of movement.
The role of the elephant’s Atma was played by Mahuaa, a buxom lady who was incredibly light on her feet, moving like a dancer. It was Mahuaa and to an extent the narrator, Ela Charan, who held the play together.

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