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Capturing Jalan's journey


An elevating retrospective of Shyamanand Jalan's works by Padatik.

TIMELESS APPEAL Shyamanand Jalan .

It was an enriching aesthetic experience to watch enactments of selected scenes from plays which were directed by the late Shyamanand Jalan. Presented by Padatik, Kolkata at Kamani Auditorium this past week at Bharat Rang Mahotsav, the presentation was a befitting tribute to a passionately committed artist whose art was marked by a variety of presentational styles and insights to give a new dimension to plays through his interpretations.

A co-founder of Anamika group and Anamika Kala Sangam Kolkata and founder-director of Padatik, Jalan was a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award for direction (1973) and later served as its Vice Chairman. The scenes recreated from Jalan's productions by Vinay Sharma, recapturing the spirit of the original works, are remarkable for their slickness and emotional depth.

This experimental process of recreating scenes from the old productions could be described a theatre retrospective, though the term retrospective belongs to cinematic art in real sense of the word. In theatre every enactment of a play or its sequences is a fresh creative exercise.

Vinay's productions displayed freshness, inspiring his cast to give its best to make the evening memorable. Using the device of multi-media, excerpts from Jalan's interviews and some of his production are projected to give an overview of his art and vision.

The evening opened with the scene from “Madhavi” (2006). Written by H.S. Shivaprakash, the scene revealed the illusory world of a courtesan, who is waiting impatiently for the arrival of her lover. Her maid, though aware of the fact the lover would never come back, kept assuring her that he would come. The courtesan's world of illusion shattered as the offstage cries of an infant reverberated the atmosphere.

This was followed by a scene of Gauri Poojan from “Ramkatha Ram-Kahani” (1995). A lot of research has gone into making this production. Various Ramleela styles, including the Ramleela being performed by Hukka Club, Almora were studied to recreate “Ramkatha” to bring alive the tradition of storytelling. The elements of kathak dance were woven into the narrative structure. Beautifully designed costumes, elegant and vigorous choreographic patterns presented a thrilling spectacle. The attempt was not to create sanctimonious atmosphere but to evoke contemporary sensibility.

One of the most outstanding theatrical piece of the evening was from Mohan Rakesh's “Adhey Adhurey” (1983). In fact, Jalan had a long and creative association with Mohan Rakesh. He introduced Hindi theatre in Kolkata with the presentation of Rakesh's “Ashad Ka Ek Din” in 1960. He had the distinction to be the first director to introduce Rakesh's magnum opus, “Ashad Ka Ek Din”, to Indian theatre practitioners.

Again, he staged his “Lahron Ke Rajhans” in 1964. It was a unique case in which the playwright and the director collaborated to produce the final text. At the 11th Bharat Rang Mahotsav he presented the same play in an intimate kind of a theatre without any trappings to create the illusion of reality. “Adhey Adhure” was premiered by Padatik under Jalan's direction in 1983. All these plays by Rakesh are now treated modern classics in contemporary Indian theatre. “Adhey Adhure” also featured at Nehru Shatabdi Natya Samaroh in 1984, featuring in the main roles Jalan himself and Chetna Jalan.

In the sequence presented at Rang Mahotsav-2011, it was Chetna as Savitri who dominated the show. Director Vinay created an intensely emotional atmosphere enabling a middle class working woman, who had to look after family with an utterly failed husband and a deviant and unemployed son and two daughters. The sequence explored man-woman relationship in an urban milieu and the economic crises that leads to the disintegration of the family. Here Savitri emerges as the protagonist.

In contrast, “Panchi Aise Aate Hain” (1981) evoked a humorous mood. Written by Vijay Tendulkar, the sequence moved round a traditional family worried about the marriage of their daughter who was being rejected by the prospective bridegrooms as she was not attractive but an intruder discovered in her a most charming girl.

Another presentation of the evening was a scene from Vijay Tendulkar's “Sakharam Binder” (1978/79). Here “Sakharam Binder”, the social deviant who flaunts his virility, vivacious Champa, her husband, an incorrigible alcoholic devoid of any sense of self-respect and a neighbour infatuated by the voluptuousness of Champa confront with one another. In the mesmerising climax Sakharam painfully and humiliatingly finds his world of deception about his sexual prowess crumbling.

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