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For king and country

THEATRE Dara Shikoh and Girija ke Sapne directed by M. S. Sathyu fell below standards despite impressive sets and diverse relevant socio-political themes



Two worlds Dara Shikoh did not do justice to the progressive prince while the engaging Girija ke Sapne had some saving graces to the overall jarring note

M.S. Sathyu’s “Dara Shikoh” staged by Impresario Asia, New Delhi and Mumbai’s Indian People’s Theatre Association’s “Girija ke Sapne” by Cinema Ityadi with its impressive sets, colourful but poorly-edited brochures and diverse socio-political themes were in the final count disappointing.

Dara Shikoh

The bamboo door arches, wrought-iron candle stands, multi-entry platform and the chest didn’t salvage “Dara Shikoh”. Designed and directed by M.S. Sathyu and based on Danish Iqbal’s Hindustani script, the play failed to meet the audience’s expectations in telling the story of the forgotten liberal, Dara Shikoh, the eldest son and heir apparent of Mughal emperor Shah Jehan. The performance though impressive at first, could not keep up with the intensity and relevance of fighting fundamentalism in the enactment, dialogue and pace.

Poorly-choreographed Kathak dancers in enchanting green and black swirled on and off the stage. The multi-entry, multi-dimensional set, elegant costumes, lights and average music failed to deliver. The play had many ifs and buts in its execution. The weak and ineffective dialogue delivery was another problem.



Two worlds Dara Shikoh did not do justice to the progressive prince while the engaging Girija ke Sapne had some saving graces to the overall jarring note

“Dara Shikoh” failed to shed light on “a neglected character in Medieval Indian History” who was overshadowed by his ambitious younger brothers Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Bakhsh. The progressive prince who Vincent A. Smith describes in the 1958 edition of “The Oxford History of India” (OUP) as “…continuing to conform to the Sunni ritual and to be a professed Muslim of the Hanafi school…, associated gladly with Hindu philosophers…” The powerful historical moment and character got lost and swallowed its own failure of performance.

Girija ke Sapne

B. Suresha’s “Girija ke Sapne”, translated from the Kannada to Hindi by Shailaja, played out the life of ‘10th class fail” Girija. Set in a village called Madhavpur, the play had striking screen-sets of film posters with cow-dung smeared on them, a larger-than life ‘Tree of Life’ and fantastic music composed by Kuldip Singh. The play, unfortunately, was too simplistic, dreamlike and unreal to delve into the complex issue of farmers’ suicides.

Played by the overconfident Mithila Lad, Girija, the female protagonist was an interesting angle on the agrarian crises.

Despite the feel-good factor and light-heartedness of Bollywood with Shah Rukh Khan, the overdose and obsession of the two was unconvincingly reproduced in Madhavpur, a village set in North Karnataka with the Maheshwari saris and filmi Hindi. The stereotypical manifestation of the village belle as being infatuated with a superstar and only thinks about him when life in a village is engulfed with financial difficulties was unbelievable. It could have worked better had the play been set in a town.

Depicting villagers as happy rustics, singing and dancing, till doom sets in was not particularly believable either. While ridiculing dropouts was in bad taste, the play also did some good in satirising the unreal world of Bollywood and its impact on the masses. Interspersed with Shah Rukh Khan songs, the play skimmed through weighty points of caste, religion, dowry and the institution of marriage. The exaggerated overacting was funny to a point after which it was plain ridiculous and silly. Raju’s innovative acting and his obsession with exercising was credible. Girija’s astonishing consent and submission to marriage, subsequent marital bliss and motherhood, despite being portrayed as having a mind of her own struck a jarring note. The union of the corporate world and the media was cleverly done by Neeraj Pandey in archetypal corporate getup with the frame of a television on wheels. The Nano-pram was well-done, but the aspirations and American accent of Girija went a bit far. The merging of the make-believe world of Bollywood and money borrowed on credit was believable to the extent of the abrupt, inexplicable suicide of Raju and Girija’s amazing ability to find hope and move on. It could have been better adapted, as it played like a naive children’s play for an equally imaginary naïve audience who doesn’t know better.

AYESHA MATTHAN

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