Exchange visits at the national level by young groups enable us to view promising new acts that we normally do not get to see. Natak Company (Pune) and our Mad About Drama met at the Thespo Festival, Mumbai, and worked out a mutually beneficial arrangement whereby each hosts the other, also opening our eyes to the originality of Natak, at its average age of only 25.

Item, their first Hindi venture (they usually perform in Marathi), mercilessly satirizes the movie industry’s objectification of women. An ordinary light boy on a unit relates the tragedy of a hopeful ingenue (symbolically named Sapna) who gets a break in a sleazy B-flick, eventually becoming a star of that grade, but at a heavy price. The story is straightforward, even predictable during the descent, which can therefore gain from pruning.

However, Natak’s theatricalization of it stood out, succeeding wildly beyond our expectations in the precarious mechanics of film-within-play. Ravi Choudhary turned the stage into studio floor, strewn with cables, furniture, trolley tracks and live spotlights, which the crew swivelled about according to the shoot. They conveyed the energy as well as ennui of their trade. After a hesitant start, Akshaya Deodhar grew into Sapna’s jaded character. Sainath Ganuwad rattled off the boy’s commentary in a humorous deadpan. Kshitish Date, the director, voiced the film director’s orders from backstage in the perfect mix of no-time-to-waste and utter boredom of depravity. Funnily, the dramatist, Siddhesh Purkar, who has a sardonic style, acted the cameraman specializing in voyeuristic closeups.

Satirical in a purely merry vein, though with a social purpose, local group The Playmakers produced Jump Venkat Jump, where the hero decides to commit suicide but his neighbours, after many goofs, manage to stop him. One must encourage Vineet Bhatia for writing an original and trilingual script, albeit marred by unnecessary concluding melodrama. He and Rajarshi Roy direct in way-over-the-top farcical mode, but some of the caricatures reveal genuine hidden talent, notably Roy and Ritu Khera as typical Bengali babu and wife, and Zahid Hossain as pan-chewing businessman.

(From The Telegraph, 11 February 2017)