kyunki champa ka vriksh utne hi dino men phul deta hai …

kyunki champa ka vriksh utne hi dino men phul deta hai, jitna tab deta tha

Group: Padatik

Director: Anubha Fatehpuria

Script: Tagore, Manto, Sharad Joshi


Rejecting the self-fanfare that has become the norm for us Indians, Padatik have not publicized the impressive achievement of reaching their golden anniversary this year. Fittingly instead, they have launched an innovative project under new programme director Anubha Fatehpuria, the Heritage x Theatre in collaboration with Trisys Foundation, to present site-specific productions at old premises to generate some income for maintenance, preservation or restoration of these properties.

The initiative took off at Tandon Bari, a nearly 100-year-old residence in an alley off Baranasi Ghosh Street in Jorasanko, with the inhabitants’ permission, of course. Fatehpuria, who directed, chose Hindi and Urdu stories that she felt suited the family ambience and responded to the house’s intimate architecture, and stitched them together into a continuous script. She made the cast perform on the traditional royāk in front, an inner room on the ground floor, and the windowed balcony on the first floor, while the audience sat or stood outside in three rows facing the building. Neighbours also became spectators, watching with great interest from within their own adjacent and opposite houses, while pedestrians on their daily routines walked nonchalantly up and down the alley in front of the first row.

The experience was certainly novel, even thumbing the nose at technology because Google Maps does not show the lane or venue accurately (another of so many examples where it gives wrong directions, including my own home!), virtually (pun intended) challenging viewers to find the place. There was a lesson learnt in scheduling such events as well, because sultry September proved yet again that open-air performances should happen here only in the winter. Padatik also took a big risk with the monsoons; luckily the rain god granted their prayers to refrain. All factors considered, the concept must continue in other undiscovered locations waiting to come alive, such as the once-majestic Belgachhiya Villa of the Sinhas of Paikpara, which saw the premieres of Michael Madhusudan’s plays.

Oh, the theatre, I almost forgot! It began as Jaya Seal Ghosh on the royāk articulated Mrinal’s letter (edited) from Tagore’s Strir Patra, followed by the unquestionable highlights of Fatehpuria and Ashok Singh as wife and husband bickering upstairs and downstairs to the vulgar eavesdropping of actor-onlookers (photo) in Manto’s Bhangan and Badtamizi, interspersed with four satirical stories by Sharad Joshi—Mere Kshetra ke Pati, Hydrogen aur Oxygen, Arth Brahm, Dibbe men Baithe Log—that shifted the lens from an old-world mood to what constitutes so-called progress and development, in keeping with Tandon Bari itself as witness to the relentless “promoting” of real estate. But the intensity and irony of Tagore and Manto respectively dropped off significantly in Joshi’s texts, by comparison looking and sounding somewhat out of place.

And I must record once more my oft-repeated admonition about actors reading from handheld scripts: the resulting eyes-down moments invariably snap the sacred sahridaya connection between cast and audience.