Missing the old spark
DIWAN SINGH BAJELI
Folk forms of the country were highlighted at a theatre festival held recently in New Delhi.
Fascinating “Bidesiya” by Nirman Kala Manch, Patna, used the rich folk idiom of Bihar.
Three folk plays presented in different forms at Shri Ram Centre this past week under the joint auspices of the Sahitya Kala Parishad, Delhi, and the North Central Zone Cultural Centre, Allahabad, highlighted the vitality and vigour of our folk forms and their inherent potential to convey contemporary social concerns. their strength lies in ignoring the concept of three unities — time, place and action — besides their earthy humour and vigorous dances, to the accompaniment of a variety of traditional instruments. The festival opened with the staging of “Bidesiya” by Nirman Kala Manch, Patna, under the direction of Sanjay Upadhay. It fascinated the audience with the rich folk idiom of Bihar and expressive stage compositions. Another folk play that featured at the festival was “Gadhwanch Lagn” in Tamash style by Lakshmi Theatre, Mumbai, under the direction of Kamlakar Patil. Scintillating dances, satire, wit, earthy humour and high standard of acting were its hallmarks.
The festival came to an end with the presentation of “Harishchannar Ki Ladai” by Darpan, Lucknow, in Nautanki style. It was this play which came in for rousing appreciation from the audience. Considered as a fine creative effort to assimilate the elements from traditional/folk theatre into modern theatrical presentation to reflect contemporary sensibility, the production revealed a broad artistic range. In 1984, it was part of the seven-day Natya Samaroh organised by the Sangeet Natak Akademi at Kamani auditorium. The play is written and directed by Urmil Kumar Thapliyal, a Lucknow-based theatre director, considered a pioneer of contemporary Hindi musical theatre and the Garhwali theatre movement. One had the opportunity to watch “Harishchannar Ki Ladai” at Kamani in 1984. It was a great theatrical experience. The production featured artistes endowed with voices remarkable for their power and highly expressive timbre. This past week watching it with a feeling of nostalgia after 24 years, one observed that the magic which once made this production unforgettable was missing. Barring a few lead performers, most of the actor-singers needed the support of the vocalists in the orchestra.
A part of the Nautanki repertoire, the play “Harishchandra” is very popular. To this basic mythological theme, Thapliyal has added the story of Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena’s play “Ladai” interspersed with revolutionary songs by Dushyant Kumar and Dhoomil. To synthesise the themes of the two plays Thapliyal has evolved a device to project the relationship between art and life through the dilemma faced by the protagonist of the play — Master Hariya — who has been playing the role of Harishchandra for years.
The mythological Harishchandra sacrificed everything he had — his kingdom, his wife, his son and his honour — to uphold truth. Playing the role of a noble character who abnegated the materialistic world, Master Hariya really lives his role. Which brings about a radical transformation in his real life.
Now Master Hariya becomes a man of truth in conflict with a corrupt society. In his struggle he loses his son and wife. While the mythological Harishchandra got back everything he had lost with the blessings of Vishnu, no one comes to Hariya’s rescue. Undaunted, he goes on fighting for justice. A stage comes when he finds that more and more oppressed people are joining his movement, determined to replace the unjust social order.
The dramatic action takes place in two worlds — the mythological world and the real world. To project the mythological world, heightened theatricality appeared appropriate, but to depict the contemporary world a realistic style would have been more apt. But the director followed a uniform approach in presenting both.
In the main role of Harishchandra, Manoj Joshi gave a brilliant account of himself as actor-singer. Reena Tandon as the wife of Master Hariya and the perpetually suffering Taramati displayed her range as a singer; her melodious voice revealed the depth of human misery, anguish and trauma with telling effect.
Amit Dixit and Piyush Pandey as chorus members rendered various Nautanki ragas.
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