After felicitating Arun Mukherjee, Satish Alekar and Ratan Thiyam this time, Nandikar’s Ninth National Theatre Festival commenced at the Academy of Fine Arts on December 5 with Pagla Ghoda in Marathi, an NCPA/Saarth production from Bombay. Amol Palekar claims to have “adapted” it, but it turned out to be more like a faithful translation. The general shabbiness of the presentation, however, proved that such fidelity is not necessarily a virtue.
Badal Sircar’s middle-period play does not now count among his best efforts, its semi-legendary stature owing mainly to Bohurupee’s gripping interpretation directed by Sombhu Mitra twenty years ago. Otherwise, its basic premise is prosaic: four men pass the time—as a symbolically unnamed woman’s corpse is cremated and her ghost goads them on—by reminiscing about their own betrayals of lovers in the past. The identification of the last man’s story as the woman’s own makes for too pat an ending.
With a cast not half as talented as Bohurupee’s, Palekar’s mediocre version fails through noncommittal direction as well as his nondescript set. The biggest disappointment is Chitra Palekar, completely unconvincing in the changes required by her quadruple role. Amol’s natural acting abilities just about rescue his own part (of Lalu), while Ashok Lokhande and Rishi Deshpande go through the paces as Shashi and Hemanta. Only Hemu Adhikari has a reasonable amount of success in portraying the older man, Kartik, the woman’s unexpected admirer.
(From The Telegraph, 8 January 1993)