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ASSORTED THEMES

Theatre

The representatives from Delhi and Mumbai at Nandikar’s National Theatre Festival largely proved an embarrassment to the sophisticated theatre in those metropolises. Only one of their five productions reached full length, and that too recycled; two did not even acknowledge the original authors.National School of Drama Repertory sent three shows under Ranjit Kapoor, all from its new small-scale Yayavar company created with the praiseworthy purpose of touring bare-bones theatre all over India. But Kapoor revived Chekhov ki Duniya for the nth time in his career: Calcuttans may remember his version for Anamika Kala Sangam in 1990. A director does not grow by resorting to shortcuts. Worse, even after the cat came out of the bag that he had not dramatized these Chekhov short stories himself but simply translated straight from Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor, he continues to suppress his source. I hope Simon’s lawyers sit up. The ensemble has it easy, with such typecasting as the same man hamming the dental patient in Surgery and pain-stricken banker in Besahara Aurat (“Defenceless Creature”). The Birthday Gift (or “The Arrangement”) leaves the most bittersweet Chekhovian taste.

The two one-acts dramatized from Hindi fiction contrast violence with farce. Vijaydan Detha’s horrifying Rajasthani parable, Adamzad, depicts humanity as unsparingly cruel, vengeful and criminal. Phaniswarnath Renu’s classic Bhojpuri Panchlait (picture) also presents corruption and casteism, but with gentle and constructive satire, making modernity and love triumph, literally bringing enlightenment — a Petromax “punch light” — to the dark, illiterate village. The repertory enjoy themselves here.

From Mumbai, the young D For Drama did not name Uday Prakash as the writer of the Hindi story, Ram Sajivan ki Prem Katha, which they dramatized. A typically regressive Communist tale that follows the mental collapse of a brilliant, committed rural boy in Jawaharlal Nehru University after he flips for the looks of an NRI girl who never even knows him, it pits politics against love, which of course spells ruin for a good Marxist. Ghanshyam Lalsa expresses Ram’s emotional plight, but directors Saurabh Nayyar and Nitin Bharadwaj cannot lift this short play by their superficial interpretation. Also from Mumbai, Tram Theatre Company’s A Bird’s Eye View showcases Choiti Ghosh’s “object theatre”, a concept taken from abroad in which puppeteers perform miniature theatre with items on a table serving as the stage. Ghosh’s wordless anti-war scenario for children features a carrier pigeon who becomes a decorated war hero after many travails on the battlefield, exposing the absurdity of human conflicts. As soloist, she manages all kinds of things on her tiny set, which resembles a creative game with toys but with a moral.