Char Rang pays homage to the ‘theatre of stories’


The play Char Rang was presented at the Kamani Auditorium by the Hindi Academy by four directors who chose 13 stories out of the 40 tales selected by the Academy representing the entire gamut of the genre of literature. The stories presented were the tales staged in the style of the “theatre of stories” originated by Devendra Raj Ankur. He himself selected four stories and staged the same genre as he has in the past in his style. The most successful were Pyjeb by Jainendra Jain, Parda by Yashpal and Chief Ki Dawat by Bhisham Sahni.
The opening story Usne Kaha Tha by Chandradhar Sharma Guleri lacked the delicacy of emotion. It was the story of the war with China in 1952. Pyjeb was about the disappearance of a silver anklet and the doubts and suspicions it creates. It was very well done. Parda was the story of communal disharmony where women are so poor that they can barely afford to cover their bodies. When the Parda is removed by the disgruntled, their plight is discovered.
In Chief Ki Dawat there is a generational gap between mother and son which results in trauma for the old woman. There is a certain rhythm in Ankur’s work which sets him apart from the others.
M.K. Raina’s treatment of the great storyteller Munshi Premchand’s famous story Kafan‘s main actor had a speech problem and although he was audible he could not be understood. A malaise shared by chief actor, Sanjay Rai of Usne Kaha Tha. The other stories presented by Raina were Faisla and Bhediya by Bhuveneshwar.
Both the stories were shown as one story in which the carnivorous bhediyas or wolves represent the imperialist forces of the world. Dramatic work was supported by video clips on the Vietnam War and other atrocities. Tripurari Sharma was more comfortable with the story she picked up.
Mulaquaat and Baharilog were by Raji Sethi and Shrisambodhini and Akeli by Manu Bhandari. The enactment of Manu Bhandari’s Shrisambodhini was the most successful solo show by Moon Moon Sen. In the confessional piece, she spoke of her affair with a married man; her body language was sensuous and she did marvels with her supple and dramatic body. It was a satirical piece with plenty of ironical humour.
Akeli was well enacted with Swaroopa Ghosh in the lead. The story is an out-and-out feminist and deals with a refugee woman waiting for her son to return. Forgetting his dru-nken moments she spins tales of his goodness and care for her. Finally we see her waiting for him. The stories by Raji Sethi was very verbose and replete with intellectual jargon.
The two stories by Bansi Kaul Deputy Collectory and Zindagi Aur Jonk were the most realised plays in Char Rang. The set was a black and white sketch of a city in all its myriad hues showing up the economic and social condition of the middle and lower class. Both the plays were written by Amar Kant.
The stories represent the two classes in all their contradictions. There is a hint of absurdism in the stories which deal with annihilation. The first story is about a father waiting for his good for nothing son to pass his deputy collectory exam. The son is waiting for his interview call as he has somehow succeeded in the written test. The play was well enacted by the cast especially the large chorus. The leader of the chorus was very effective as he was the kathavachak in the next play.
Zindagi Aur Jonk is a masterful story made into eminent theatre by Bansi Kaul. The story centres around a hobo who arrives in the city by chance and he is an unlikely hero as he is balky, ugly and fat. But he very soon rules the people in the town by his endearing ways and his zeal to work. One day he is accused of stealing a sari and people beat him black and blue. When the sari is found with the owner Rajua is forgiven and becomes a fond favourite of the ladies whose odd jobs he does without complaining. Emboldened by his closeness to the ladies he begins to flirt with them. He earns the sobriquets of Sala Rajua. He falls ill with typhoid and develops a skin infection. His constant scratching is very annoying so the ladies give him up. Hungry and ill Rajua goes to the hills to die. His death is reported by somebody but he appears alive in front of the kathavachak sutradhaar who is surprised to see him. Rajua explains that a crow sat on his head and to get rid of the inauspicious sign he announces his own death to his village.
The actor playing Rajua is superb and did the role of a lifetime and did full justice to it. The music by Dr Anjana Puri was excellent. Inspired by folk music in many sequences and gave an edge to the play. Bansi Kaul’s direction in both plays was impeccable.

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