Diary of Anne Frank – a review by Manohar Khushalani

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Original Title: A face of fascism published in Pioneer on 31/12/2000

Ruchika Theatre Group is one of the oldest surviving theatre groups of Delhi. The reason is simple. It keeps regenerating itself. The Diary of Anne Frank was one such exercise in which, Feisal Alkazi, the director of the play, used an entirely inexperienced cast, inducted from the Little Actors Club. Obviously, therefore, there would be unevenness of talent, but viewed within those limitations The show put up at India Habitat Centre last week held together due to sheer sincerity of effort and excellent performance by Gayatri Khanna, Keerthana Mohan and Sahil Gill. The actress who deserves special mention is Aarti Sethi, who gave a vivacious performance in the lead role of Anne Frank, despite the fact that she had an asthmatic attack just before the show began.

The Diary of Anne Frank has sold more than 25 million copies, since it was first published in 1947. Anne Frank has become a symbol of 10 million Jews murdered by Hitler, one million of whom were children like her.

The theatrical version of this diary by Mrs and Mr Hackett was published four years later in 1951. It is a lucid and slick adaptation of the diary of the sensitive Jewish teenager who died at Bergen-Belsen, Germany, in 1945. Anne Frank received this ready-to-write diary on her 13th birthday, just before she and her family had to go into hiding in Amsterdam, which was occupied by Hitler’s army since 1940.

Her engagingly personal account in which she was cooped up in a stifling Attic for over two years with her parents, sister Margot, another family, the Van Dans and Janice Dussel – a fastidious middle aged dentist who had little patience for Anne’s effervescent liveliness.

The chronicle derives it’s appeal from its engaging mix of the mucky details of life during war and candid revelations of confused emotions of an adolescent girl.

Otto Frank began preparing and stocking an attic behind his business office at Prinsengracht 263 into a hiding place. When the freedom of the Jews began to be severely restricted, with does and don’ts about where they could shop, swim or study. It is this annexe where all the action in the play takes place. Feisal had orchestrated simultaneous action in various living areas of this claustrophobic space that brought alive the ambiance. In one scene while Anne is talking to Margo in the bedroom. In the meanwhile Janice waits impatiently on the sofa for them to finish their conversation in the living room, others are playing cards at the table. It was such skillful touches that heightened the drama.

According to the director, Feisal Alkazi, improvisations were used to develop this as a play about fascism mainly to get the younger generation involved in the issues. However, the improvisations appeared to bring out the tension between the generations. The political statement emerged more in the brochure, at the level of relationships. Älso, the sexual empathy between Anne and Van Dan’s son Peter, the mixed feelings between the two sisters; and, above all, the relationship between “a girl of 13 who has no friends” and an inanimate object – her diary – whom she chose to call ‘Kitty’, were all well worked out. As usual Feisal had chosen his music pieces well and the clear playbacks of well-recorded voice-overs synchronised perfectly with the action on stage. MK

Diary of Anne Frank
A Face of Fascism
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Manohar Khushalani

Prof. Manohar Khushalani is Currently a Visiting Faculty at Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi. The courses he teaches are: Animation & Graphics, Non-Linear Editing for Film and Radio and Theatre Appreciation.  He has won Excellence in Teaching awards for all the courses he has taught at IIITD Based on a Belief that Culture and Environment are the two keys to global sustainability , Manohar Khushalani has launched two portals: A Portal on Environment and Water called One Vorld at url: www.onevorld.org and two Ezines on Culture called Stage Buzz at url: www.stagebuzz.in & www.stagebuzz.info He has taught extensively in varied subjects such as Dam Safety, Instrumentation, CAD, IT, Animation, Theatre, Newspaper Editing. He has conducted Courses on Environment Management, Water Shed Development, Team Building and Personality Development. He is an Expert Member of Prasar Bharti’s Committee for Grading & Short listing Films for Telecast on all channels of Doordarshan.  He is a Radio Anchor for All India Radio and has moderated several programs for the Rajdhani Channel He is a well-known Theatre Actor/Director and Critic, has been involved in theatre since 1977. He has worked as an actor in over 50 plays with almost every leading director/Actor in the Country including Badal Sircar, Feisal Alkazi, Amal Allana, M.K. Raina, Anuradha Kapoor, Maya Rao, Manohar Singh, Prasanna, Rati Bartholomew and Sushmita Mukherji. He has been active in the social sector as a street theatre activist. As a member of Workshop Theatre, Theatre Union and Prayog, Khushalani has participated in street plays taking up major social issues such as dowry, bride burning, Sati, banned medicinal drugs and communalism. Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can’t Pay Won’t Pay, both directed by him, received rave notices from critics and audiences alike. Other plays directed by him include Badal Sircar’s, Sagina Mahato and Boris Vian’s Empire Builders for Ruchika Theatre Group. Khushalani has also acted in a few films such as Sudhir Mishra's Hazaron Khwaishen Aisi , Shoojit Sircar’s Madras Café and Pradeep Krishan's Annie Gives Those Ones. He is an Animator & Graphics Designer and has directed a number of documentaries. He also held a number of Honorary positions and was President of North India Films Association, He was the Chairman of  Jury for UGC CEC Educational Films Competition and has been on their Preview Committee since last many years. He was on the preview committee of Door Darshan Channel 3, was a visiting Professor at National School of Drama, New Delhi, and Film & Television Institute of India, Pune, AJKMCRR, Jamia Milia Islamia and Professor in Media at FICT, Delhi  He has judged a large number of Drama Competitions and conducted a number of Theatre / Management Games Workshops with Institutions such as AIIMS, NTPC, CWPRS, NWA, Karve Nari Prakshishan Sansthan, FICT, IIT, MAMC, Gargi College, KNC, Tagore International School and Vivekananda School. He is a Theatre Critic for IIC Diary, has also been a Columnist with Midday and Pioneer Daily and wrote Column's Called Culture Cocktail and Footlights Respectively. He was also the Guest Editor for an issue on Folk Theatre of ICCR Journal Horizons. He has written for Times of Indian, Hindustan Times, Blitz, Hard News, Hindu Business Line, Theatre India & Art Times. He has designed dams and hydraulic structures for the Government. He is a programmer and has developed Engineering design software in Fortran. He is a co-author of Irrigation Practice & Design (Vol 1 to5 - 1500 pages) published by Oxford & IBH and sponsored by National Book Trust. He has been a Director, Environment and Sociology, at the National Water Academy, Khadakwasla and Director, Environment Management Directorate, Central Water Commission and Member Secretary, National Environmental Monitoring Committee for River Valley Projects. He was also Director of Instrumentation Directorate in the Dam Safety Organisation. He was Chief General Manager and Head of Water Resources at Scott Wilson and is an accredited consultant with numerous other organizations He is a Delhi Public School, BITS Pilani, IIT Delhi and FTI Pune Alumini. He was also the President of BITS Pilani Alumni Association, Pune.

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1 Response

  1. Avatar Bobby says:

    What a beautifully written review, Manohar. I wish more journalists would make the effort to cover theatre in this fashion.

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