It is stimulating to live in a society that is not standardised or mechanised and is free from monotony.” R.K.Narayan’s Malgudi Days continues to impact us and that was evident in the reaction of the audience present at the renovated Vidya Mandir.
The Birla High School production was not just another annual play, but a statement. Not just the dialogues and the moments, but even the music and the songs were original. And in the lyrics, the production communicated the need for balance. If there’s a blend of simplicity with progress, we perhaps might succeed in creating a healthy environment of positivity and prosperity.
In this version, Swamy and his friends question the relationship between grades and after-school tuition. They contemplate whether there’s a need for an Ambassador car when one can survive and sustain with a Bajaj scooter. Rajam convinces Swamy that his friendship with characters from Enid Blyton and Ruskin Bond ensures he’s never lonely even when he is alone. He further states that being lost in the heroics of Gavaskar and He-Man, he never fears depression.
A parent watching the play shared, “As parents, we were on a time machine ride… travelled back to good old times.” The purpose of this production was to help the present generation realise that there was a time when we had a place like Malgudi and to visit the days of simplicity when phones were not smart. The fictional town of Malgudi is located in Agumbe in the Indian state of Karnataka.
Shankar Nag was the director of the episodes that were aired on Doordarshan, and the music was composed by L. Vaidyanathan. During a prep talk for the boys performing in the play, Spandan Banerjee, a faculty member in the English department, emphasised the walk down memory lane.
He said that the students will be responsible for making the audience revisit the days of Chitrahar and Ramayan. It was the time when Kapil’s Devils were celebrated for winning the World Cup. The ‘Hamara Bajaj’ jingle was familiar to all, having a Bush TV was a status symbol, and Shahenshah, Rambo, Vikram-Betal along with Street Hawk and Nightrider were the characters that transported us to a universe ensuring loneliness was never an option.
Those were the days when Shahrukh Khan was introduced in Fauji and Circus as children cursed what parents enjoyed in serials like Buniyaad. These features of the 1980s were brought alive in the original play which we as a team, the teachers of Birla High School and three of my colleagues from Theatrecian, Aaron, Apeksha and Tanushree, stitched together.
Mime artist Suvendu Mukhopadhyay worked with the students on a cricket field scene. Those were the years when I completed my first out of the four decades of existence.
Sunita Sen, the Principal of BSS School, said that being a boys’ school, Malgudi Days is an excellent choice for an annual day production. Illegal constructions mushroom in almost every nook and corner. We hardly realise the impact of large-scale constructions on the soil and in our quest towards progress, we sometimes turn blind towards the sacrifice or the barter.
In exchange for natural resources, what we invite is disaster in the garb of modernisation. The purpose of staging Malgudi Days with school students was not just to greet nostalgia but also embrace simplicity. Swamy and his friends convince the IPS and BDO officers to ensure that their cricket ground is not utilised to allow to build a multiplex. It was an opportunity to examine the concept of ‘simple living and high thinking’.
It was evident that the students with Jainam Shah as Swamy were able to replicate Malgudi Days on stage. Nupur Ghosh, the vice principal of Mahadevi Birla World Academy, shared that as a member of the audience she was in awe of the fact that the students “performed with such conviction as if they are Swamy and his friends”.
The author is founder of Theatrecian