Once again theatre demonstrated its expression of more probing and immediate political content than other art forms – this time via two productions from the Hindi belt (therefore more courageous) at Little Thespian’s national Jashn-e-Rang, fast becoming a platform for idealistic dissent. Both of them deserve a callback to stimulate the larger discerning audiences in our city.
The high artistic standard of Patkatha by Dastak (Patna) took me by surprise. I did not expect a dramatization of Dhumil’s poem to have this impact, though we know of him as the angry young man of Hindi poetry. He had a connection with Kolkata, where he got his first job as a labourer; sadly, he died prematurely. His awareness of commoners’ lives and their betrayal by the authorities seep through Patkatha, which cries out for justice and civil society at the grass-roots level. Director Punj Prakash and actor Ashutosh Abhigya, in a bravura solo using just a few props (see photo), refrain from sentimentalizing the issues, instead applying profound irony to expose the establishment. No wonder the National School of Drama (where Prakash studied, and usually partial to their alumni) rejected Patkatha from their theatre Mahotsav.
Vivechna Rangmandal (Jabalpur) presented senior playwright Asghar Wajahat’s controversial Gandhi. Originally titled Godse@Gandhi.com, it paints a “what if” scenario in which Gandhi survives the assassination attempt, recommends the dissolution of the factious Congress because it has served its purpose of winning freedom, and himself sets up an ashram in a district where he establishes model self-governance in surrounding villages. Since this goes against the political system in independent India, he lands up in jail, where he purposely chooses the same ward that holds Godse to converse with him, eventually converting Godse to his beliefs.
The extended debates hinge on their diametrically opposite interpretations of the book that both regard as sacred: the Bhagavad Gita. Mehul Yadav and S. Shridhar respectively enact the calm and reasonable Gandhi and the inflamed Godse with intensity, but most of the others (especially a superfluous subplot of two ashramite lovers) have cardboard characterizations. Arun Pandey merits praise for choosing to direct such a thought-provoking script in today’s climate.
(From The Times of India, 29 November 2019)