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प्रेम रामायण

लेखक: अनिल गोयल

महरषि वाल्मीकि की रामायण ने पिछले लगभग सात-आठ हजार वर्षों में कितने ही रूप धारे हैं. हर काल में वाल्मीकि–रचित इस महाकाव्य को हर कोई अपने तरीके से सुनाता चला आया है. इसकी मंच-प्रस्तुतियों ने भी शास्त्रीय से लेकर लोक-मानस तक हजारों रंग भरे हैं. पारसी शैली की रामलीला को देख कर भारत की कितनी ही पीढ़ियाँ भगवान राम की इस कथा को मन में धारती आई हैं. कुमाँऊँनी रामलीला से लेकर कोटा क्षेत्र के पातोंदा गाँव, ओड़ीसा की लंकापोड़ी रामलीला और हरियाणा में खेली जाने वाली सरदार यशवन्तसिंह वर्मा टोहानवी की रामलीला जैसी कितनी ही सांगीतिक रामलीलाओं की लम्बी परम्परा हमारे यहाँ है. भारत ही नहीं, विदेशों में भी इसकी अनेकों प्रस्तुति-शैलियाँ पाई जाती हैं. इंडोनेशिया में बाली की रामलीला की तो अपनी अलग ही मनोहर शैली है.

हमारे देश में भी कलाकार रामलीला को अपनी दृष्टि से मंच पर प्रस्तुत करने के नित नये तरीके और शैलियाँ ढूँढ़ते रहते हैं. प्रवीण लेखक, निर्देशक और निर्माता अतुल सत्य कौशिक ने, जो प्रशिक्षण से एक चार्टर्ड अकाउंटेंट और अधिवक्ता हैं, अपने नाटक ‘प्रेम रामायण’ में प्रेम की दृष्टि से इस महाकाव्य की विवेचना की है. रामायण की अपनी व्याख्या पर आधारित नाटक ‘प्रेम रामायण’ का प्रदर्शन अतुल ने 5 अक्टूबर 2022 को दिल्ली के कमानी प्रेक्षागृह में किया. उनकी इस नाटक की यह पच्चीसवीं या छब्बीसवीं प्रस्तुति थी, जोकि हिन्दी रंगमंच के लिये एक गर्व का विषय है.

हमारे यहाँ प्रेम-भाव का प्रयोग प्रायः कृष्ण-कथाओं की प्रेम-मार्गी प्रस्तुतियों में किया जाता है. परन्तु अतुल ने बाल्मीकि की रामायण के मर्यादा पुरुषोत्तम भगवान राम के जीवन पर आधारित रामायण को प्रेम के भाव की प्रस्तुति का माध्यम बनाया है, जहाँ रामायण के चरित्र ईश्वरीय अवतार होने के साथ-साथ अपने मानवीय रूप, स्वभाव और संवेदनाओं के संग नजर आते हैं.

Atul Satya Kaushik

इसकी प्रेरणा उन्हें कैसे मिली, इसके उत्तर में वे कहते हैं, “मैं किसी एक प्रोजैक्ट के लिये बाल्मीकि रामायण पढ़ रहा था, और क्रौंच-वध के प्रसंग को पढ़ते हुए मुझे लगा कि इस महाकाव्य की उत्पत्ति तो एक प्रेम-आख्यान से हुई है. तो रामायण की विभिन्न कथाओं में प्रेम को ढूँढ़ने की प्रेरणा मुझे इसी आदि-काव्य से मिली!”
इसके लिये उन्होंने रामायण में छुपी पाँच प्रेम-कथाओं को चुना है. प्रेम-कथाओं के इन पन्नों में से सबसे पहले वे एक लगभग अनजानी सी कहानी ‘अकाल’ ले कर आते हैं, जिसमें श्रीराम की बड़ी बहन, दशरथ और कौशल्या की पुत्री शान्ता और उनके पति ऋषि श्रृंगी या ऋष्यश्रृंग की कहानी दिखाई गई है. दूसरी कहानी ‘रथ से निकला पहिया’ कैकेयी और दशरथ की जानी-पहचानी कहानी है. तीसरी कहानी ‘स्वर और शान्ति’ में वे सीता और राम के मन की संवेदनाओं की कथा सुनाते हैं. इसके बाद ‘उल्टी करवट मत सोना’ में लक्ष्मण और उर्मिला की कहानी देखने को मिलती है. और अन्त में, ‘उस पार’ के माध्यम से सुलोचना और मेघनाद की करुण प्रेम-कथा के दर्शन होते हैं.

विरह या अपने प्रिय से अलगाव ही प्रायः प्रेम-आख्यानों का आधार रहता है. इन पाँच में से शान्ता की कहानी के अतिरिक्त अन्य सभी चार कहानियाँ अपने-अपने कारणों से जन्मे उसी विरह की वेदना को दर्शाती हैं. सभी कहानियों में स्त्री-मन की अथाह गहराइयों को दर्शाने का प्रयास स्पष्ट नजर आता है, जिसके लिये अतुल कभी-कभी इन कथाओं की अपने अनुसार विवेचना भी कर लेते हैं.

दशरथ के मित्र और अंगदेश के स्वामी राजा रोमपद ने शान्ता को पाला था. युवा होने के उपरान्त परिस्थितियोंवश एक बार शान्ता का सामना ऋषि श्रृंगी या ऋष्यश्रृंग से हुआ. ऋष्यश्रृंग ने अपने पिता विभान्तक या विभंडक के क्रोध से शान्ता की रक्षा की, और उसी क्षण शान्ता ऋष्यश्रृंग की हो गई! (इन ऋषि विभंडक के नाम पर ही आज का मध्य प्रदेश का भिंड नगर बसा हुआ है!) ऋष्यश्रृंग ने भी जीवन के हर क्षण में शान्ता को अपने साथ रखा, उसे पूरी बराबरी का सम्मान दिया! शान्ता के जीवन के उन्हीं क्षणों का चित्रण अतुल ने पूरी कुशलता के साथ किया है.

‘स्वर और शान्ति’ में अतुल ने सीता और राम के मन की ध्वनि को एक अनूठे ही तरीके से सुनाया है. अतुल की सीता अयोध्या की सीता नहीं हैं, वे मिथिला की बेटी सीता हैं, मन से एक चंचल बालिका, सुकोमल भावनाओं से ओत-प्रोत, कर्तव्यों के गाम्भीर्य के बीच अपने मन की संवेदनाओं के कोमल स्वरों को भी सुनने वाली सीता. अयोध्या के राम जितने शान्त थे, मिथिला की सीता उतनी ही चपल और चंचल थीं. आज भी मिथिला और नेपाल के गीतों में उनका यही रूप अधिक प्रचलित है, जनकपुर की बेटी का रूप! राम का स्वरुप भी यहाँ अयोध्या के युवराज का नहीं, बल्कि मिथिला के जामाता का है, जिसके साथ ठिठोली भी की जाती है! सीता के इसी स्वर, और राम के गहन-गम्भीर, शान्त स्वभाव की कथा है यह कथा! यह प्रेम रामायण है, तो उसमें अतुल ने कलात्मक स्वतन्त्रता लेकर सीता की प्रचलित एकदम गम्भीर, आदर्श छवि से हट कर, सीता को अपने पिता की लाडली बेटी, एक बच्ची के रूप में दिखाने का प्रयास किया है!

लेकिन पूरे नाटक में सबसे अधिक मार्मिक और करुणा भरे क्षण रहे लक्ष्मण और उर्मिला की विदा के क्षण! मैथिलीशरण गुप्त ने भी अपने महाकाव्य ‘साकेत’ के नवम सर्ग में घर में रह कर वनवासिनी का जीवन जीती उर्मिला की कहानी कही है. आसन्न विरह के आभास और सीता के वनवास जाने से उत्पन्न हुए कर्त्तव्य के बीच अद्भुत सन्तुलन बनाती हुई उर्मिला… इन चारों बहनों में से सबसे बड़ी सीता तो वन चली गईं . अब बाकी तीनों में उर्मिला ही सबसे बड़ी हैं. तीन सासें तो अपने वैधव्य को भोग रही हैं. उन तीनों सासों की, अपनी दोनों छोटी बहनों की, दोनों देवरों की, और इतने बड़े राजभवन की सम्पूर्ण जिमेवारी अब उर्मिला की हो जाने वाली है. लेकिन इन सब कर्त्तव्यों के बीच उसका अपना आसन्न विरह भी तो है, जिसे न चाह कर भी उर्मिला ने स्वीकार कर लिया है. लेकिन लक्ष्मण के वन जाने के पहले वह एक बार लक्ष्मण से मिल कर अपने को अयोध्या के राजभवन के अपने चौदह वर्षों के वनवास के लिए तैयार कर लेना चाहती है. वह वन-गमन की तैयारी करते लक्ष्मण को बुला भेजती है.

लक्ष्मण एवं उर्मिला दोनों को ही पता है कि उनका यह मिलन एक क्षणिक मिलन-मात्र है। उर्मिला के उलाहनों से प्रारम्भ हुए इस अल्पकालीन मिलन में दोनों में से कोई भी अपने अन्तर के ज्वार भाटे से दूसरे को अवगत नहीं करा पाता है। उन दोनों को ही पता है कि दोनों को अगले चौदह वर्षों का भीषण वियोग सहना है। उर्मिला का उर अश्रुओं से गीला है। लेकिन जाते हुए वह लक्ष्मण को दुःख नहीं देना चाहती… अतः अपनी चपलता को बनाये रखने का असहज सा प्रयास करती है. गरिमा और दीप्ति का आविर्भाव इस बालिका, उर्मिला में अभी होना बाकी है. मायके में माता-पिता, और अयोध्या में सीता के संरक्षण में पली-बढ़ी उर्मिला अभी तक एक चपला बालिका भर ही तो रही है…

अतुल के लक्ष्मण ने ऐसे एकाकी क्षणों के लिये अपनी उर्मिला को ‘मिला’ नाम दिया है. वे आते हैं, और अपनी ‘मिला’ से पूछते हैं, “तुम्हें क्या बात करनी है?”
ये कुछ क्षण आसंग विरह के पूर्वरंग के समान हैं. दोनों ही सोच रहे हैं कि क्या बात करें, कैसे एक-दूसरे से विदा लें. वह भी लक्ष्मण के साथ वन जाना चाहती है, परन्तु उसे पता है कि यह सम्भव नहीं है… उसका विराट कर्त्तव्य उसके सामने नजर आ रहा है.
लेकिन कर्त्तव्य के साथ-साथ उसका अपना विरह भी तो है… एक नन्हा सा, कोमल भावनाओं से भरा हृदय भी तो उसके पास है! यहाँ पर अतुल ने उर्मिला को एक छोटी सी, लगभग नन्हीं सी नवविवाहिता किशोरी के रूप में दिखाया है, चौदह वर्षों का लम्बा विरह जिसके आगे प्रस्तुत होने को ही है! वह कहती है, “मुझे? मुझे क्या बात करनी है?”
लक्ष्मण कहते हैं, “मैं चौदह वर्ष के लिये वन जा रहा हूँ और तुम्हें मुझसे कोई बात नहीं करनी?”
उर्मिला आज इन कुछ पलों में जैसे अपने आने वाले चौदह वर्षों को जी लेना चाहती है, अपने सायास ओलाहनों से बातचीत को सहज करने का प्रयास करती, “तुम्हें भी कहाँ करनी है बात! तुम तो सुनते ही तैयार भी हो गये, जैसे प्रतीक्षा में थे कि कब अवसर आये और तुम मिला से दूर जाओ। मैं बहुत लड़ती हूँ ना तुमसे!”
लक्ष्मण तो ठहरे सदा के गम्भीर! लेकिन अपने कर्तव्यों के बीच उन्हें उर्मिला के उर में समाते जा रहे विरह का भान भी था. वे उस चंचला से बोले, “तुम कहाँ लड़ती हो। कदाचित लड़ने के कारण मैं ही देता हूँ तुमको। अब चौदह वर्ष का समय मिला है तो सोचूँगा कहाँ सुधार हो सकता है।”
दोनों का वार्तालाप चलता रहता है, स्तब्ध बैठे दर्शक सुनते रहते हैं, अपने अश्रुओं को रोकने का असफल प्रयास करते हुए…
लेकिन आसन्न विरह के इस क्षण में उर्मिला उतनी चंचला भी नहीं रह पाती, जिसका प्रयास वह अब तक कर रही थी! वह नन्हीं सी बच्ची, वह चंचला किशोरी अब अपने लक्ष्मण को उपदेश दे रही है, “… आज मुझे लड़ना नहीं है। सुनो, तुम ना… भैया-भाभी की सेवा में, कुछ अपना ध्यान भी रख लेना। खिला के भैया-भाभी को कुछ अपने नाम भी रख लेना। समय पे उठना, समय पे खाना, उल्टी करवट मत सोना। याद मेरी आ भी जाये, भैया के आगे मत रोना।”
‘उल्टी करवट मत सोना…’ उस दिशा में शैया पर उर्मिला होती थी! अब जब वह वहाँ नहीं होगी, तो लक्ष्मण को अपनी मिला की याद आयेगी, उन्हें सन्ताप होगा! अपने विरह से बड़ा उस मानिनी के लिये है अपने प्रिय के विरह का भान!

लेकिन विरह-सन्ताप के साथ-साथ इस सीता-भगिनी को कर्त्तव्य-बोध भी है! ‘याद मेरी आ भी जाये, भैया के आगे मत रोना।’ अपने व्यक्तिगत सन्ताप के क्षणों में भी कर्त्तव्य-बोध के होने का इससे बड़ा उदाहरण और क्या हो सकता है!
दोनों के बीच वार्तालाप सतत प्रवाहमान है. प्रेक्षागृह का वायुमण्डल प्रेक्षकों की निस्तब्ध साँसों और आँखों की नमी से बोझिल होता चला जाता है. लक्ष्मण कहते हैं, “मिला… ना राम को, ना सीता को, ना लक्ष्मण को ये श्राप मिला। यदि सच में मिला किसी को तो उर्मिला को ये वनवास मिला। मिला, तुम महलों में रह कर भी वनवास का जीवन भोगोगी। मोर के संग मोरनी को देखोगी, तो भी रो दोगी। पर आह, दुर्भाग्य। मेरी मिला का वनवास ना वतर्मान याद रखेगा, ना इतिहास। उर्मिला का वनवास कोई याद नहीं रखेगा।”

लेकिन उर्मिला को अपने लक्ष्मण पर अटूट विश्वास है, “झूठ कहते हो, कोई याद रखे या ना रखे, मिला का वनवास, लक्ष्मण याद रखेगा। रखेगा ना।” और फिर दोनों ही अपने को रोक नहीं पाते… संयम के सारे बांध टूट जाते हैं… दोनों गले मिल कर फफक कर रो पड़ते हैं। उर्मिला का लक्ष्मण पर यही अटूट विश्वास बहुत वर्षों के बाद लक्ष्मण को रूपवती राक्षसी सूर्पणखा से दूर रखने में सफल होता है! सावित्री की कथा इतिहास में कितनी बार दोहराई गई है!
नाटक के लेखक, निर्देशक और प्रस्तुतकर्ता अतुल सत्य कौशिक ने अपने नाटक को कथावाचक के फॉर्मेट में तैयार किया है. मंचाग्र में दाहिने हाथ पर कुर्सी पर बैठ कर अतुल पूरी कथा के सूत्र को अपने हाथ में थामे, एक कुशल नाविक की भांति दर्शकों को इस कथा-गंगा की यात्रा करवाते हैं. इस कथा-यात्रा की पतवार हैं नृत्य और सजीव गायन, जिसमें लोक से लेकर शास्त्रीय तक सबका समायोजन अतुल ने किया है. अंजली मुंजाल की अत्यन्त सुन्दर और प्रीतिकर नृत्य-संरचनाओं को सुष्मिता मेहता और साथियों ने कत्थक नृत्य के द्वारा प्रस्तुत किया.

एक घंटे और चालीस मिनट के इस नाटक को अतुल ने केवल तीन कलाकारों सुष्मिता मेहता, अर्जुन सिंह और मेघा माथुर के द्वारा प्रस्तुत किया है, जो दृश्यों के अनुसार विभिन्न चरित्रों को बारी-बारी से निभाते हैं. नाटक के आकर्षण का प्रमुख आधार-स्तम्भ है लतिका जैन का गायन. दूसरा स्तम्भ है नाटक में नृत्यों का प्रयोग. आज हिन्दी रंगमंच में गायन और नृत्य का प्रयोग लगभग समाप्त हो चुका है. कविता, गीत, गानों, गजल इत्यादि के माध्यम से निर्देशक ने विभिन्न भावों और संवेदनाओं को दिखाया है. मैथिल सुहाग-गीत ‘साँवर साँवर सुरतिया तोहार दुलहा, गोरे गोरे लखन … दुलहा’, अवधी के विदाई गीत ‘काहे को ब्याही बिदेस’, रामनिवास जाजू की हिन्दी कविता, और हिन्दी, उर्दू, फारसी, बृजभाषा इत्यादि के एक प्रसिद्ध गीत जेहाल-ए-मिस्कीं इत्यादि को प्रयोग करके अतुल ने आज के समय में एक साहसिक प्रयोग किया है… जिसकी बानगी हमने बापी बोस के नाटक ‘आषाढ़ का एक दिन’ में भी देखी थी. कुछ लोग इस नाटक को डांस-ड्रामा या नृत्य-नाटिका का नाम देंगे. मैं इस प्रकार के पश्चिमी वर्गीकरण के विरुद्ध हूँ… हमारे नाट्यशास्त्र में कलाओं को एक समग्र तरीके से देखने का प्रावधान है, ना कि उन्हें एक-दूसरे से अलग करके देखने का, जो मुझे ज्यादा उचित लगता है. अतुल के सैट की परिकल्पना में भी कहीं अल्पना जैसी पारम्परिक शैलियों की झलक मिलती है.

नाटक में प्रकाश-व्यवस्था तरुण डांग ने और ध्वनि-व्यवस्था दीप्ति ग्रोवर ने सम्भाली थी. संगीत निर्देशन अनिक शर्मा का रहा. गायन जीवन्त था, लेकिन संगीत कराओके था, क्योंकि, ‘संगीतकारों को साथ लेकर चलना सम्भव नहीं हो पाता!’, अतुल कहते हैं. हिन्दी रंगमंच की यही विडम्बना है, कि एक प्रस्तोता को कितने ही समझौते करने पड़ते हैं!




SO YOU GET WHAT YOU WISH a play by Gouri Nilakantan

SO YOU GET WHAT YOU WISH
A Children’s Play by Gouri Nilakantan
(For performing this play, read the corollary at the bottom)

Characters
Zooli/Mr Anthony Lobo
Freeman/rahul
Wise guy/ Rohit
Fullon-rockon/ Puskar

(Anthony lobo enters the stage. He has a strange hairdo and is wearing a long red overcoat)
Lobo/Zooli: good evening and greetings my dear little friends and all their grownups. I know introductions are entirely unnessacry sometimes and the play should speak for itself but I need to explain why I am here. NO you don’t want to hear…ok then let me tell you all a secret…I make…I make…I make wishes come true…yes yes….just like the fairy god mother of Cinderella or a fairy queen but only I am a man in this case….no not man…actually let me let you know my real name my name is ZOOOOOOOOOOOOLI…Zooli…from the nether nether world…the world that only I know…hey I can hear someone…its time for my disappearance but don’t worry friends only to appear once again…

(A house setting. Three children on the stage, one child is playing on his train set and the other two enter)
Freeman: There he is (pointing to fullonrockon) hey pushkar

(Pushkar does not respond)
Fr: hey puskar… (Waits a second and then goes to him and gives him a loud push, pushkar falls on the floor)
Fullon: what did you do that for my dear dear rahul?
Freee: because my dear dear dear Pushkar…what is your name? Pushkar…yani push…karo…pushkar

(Wise guy also comes near and is eating a lollipop and starts laughing)
Wiseguy: hey that’s funny…push…kar…push kar
Puskar: stop it guys…you all know I hate my name…why don’t you call me what I am supposed to be called …that’s FULLONROCKON…I rock guys I rock
Wise guy: yes yes you do rock, you are as heavy as a rock anyway hahaha
Puskar: yes that’s why we call you wise guy…you wise guy…
Wise guy: I am a wise guy…the wisest guy in this gang
Freeman: but listen I am the boss of this gang…I am the eldest
Pushkar: says who
Freeman: says me…that’s who
Wise-guy: Rahul (freeman looks at him sternly)…sorry Freeman…
Freeman: guys don’t forget the rules…in this club we have to only call each other by our code names got it…wise guy?
Wise guy: yes yes got it freeman
Freeman: what about you? Got it Fullonrockon? Yes …or no
Fullon: yes yes got it. So whats our plan for today?
Freeman: well this week I think we have to draw out our plan for our club activities.
Wiseman: what about collecting insects this week?
Freeman: no we have done that last month, remember Chaluram our ant…how he died?
Fullon: poor little chap; he was suffocated, what an idea to keep him in an insect jar which had been an achaar jar poor fellow died of smelling all aam ka acchar.
Wiseman: now what do we do?
Freeman: what about getting all the dogs together and giving them a pet party?
Wiseman: my mother would never agree she absolutely refuses to part with her biscuits.
Fulon (looking very disappointed): now what do we do?
Wiseman: hey have you heard about that new neighbour of ours…he lives opposite my house.
Freeman: you mean that fat guy who keeps shouting at the drivers, yahan betne ki jagah nahi hain…bhaago
Wiseman: arre nahi that fat guy is in hospital…I heard that he had kicked a dog and the dog bit him
Fullon: arre nahi yaar, he ate too many old pizzas and the whole night he went (holds his nose) purr purr purr
Wiseman: how do you know?
Fullon: my didi told me …puskar beta…pizza mat kha…pata hain bechaar arora uncle hospital main hain kyuki kitna pizza khaya ki per hi kharaab ho gaya…bechare arora uncle…ha ha ha
Wiseman: arre nahi not arora uncle this is one strange guy, Mr Anthony Lobo…really strange…keeps all his doors and windows locked and curtained even during the day and only sets out at night after seven when it is all dark
Fullon: really
Wiseman: and children say that he wears a dark red clock in the night…
Fullon: baap re…dar lag raha hain
Wiseman: yes…and I also heard that he drinks the blood of cockroaches and hearts of frogs for dinner…. (Makes an eerie sound)
Freeman: ok then decided…its Anthony lobo then. This week we have to enter his house and enter his bedroom
Fullon: baap re…enter his bedroom now that’s tough
Freeman: allright allright just make sure that we can enter his house and search for his red cloak
Wiseman: you mean the magical one
Freeman: that is our mission…everybody with me…Wiseguy?
Wiseguy: yes sire!!!
Freeman: fullon rockon?
Fullon: well I am not sure…this week I have a history test
Wiseguy: liar! History test in class one? History starts in class V allright…you better come rockon…see you are the youngest and the cutest mr lobo will never suspect you…never
Freeman: that’s right since you are the youngest you can make an easy entry and then we all can barge in…And while I keep talking to Mr lobo, you freeman try and get his coat
Fullon: and then…???
Freeman: we will decide that later…first we must enter Mr Lobo’s house
Wiseguy: ok operation LOBO …thumbs up
All three: THUMBS UP

(Freeze music is heard end of scene one)
(Music is heard enter Anthony lobo and goes to the dresser and pulls out a red cloak and removes his waist coat and mutters to himself)
Lobo: very good very good…I look fine….Zooli from zooli land…hahahah (hears a knock on the door) now who is hear let me check…first let me hide this cloak…no one should see it (looks through the window) three children…hmmm…interesting….three fine specimens for my next experiment…maybe I should call them in (door bell rings again)…wait a second….just coming (wears his coat and opens the door) yes…
Wiseguy: uncle uncle…we are children…
Lobo (sternly): yes of course I can see you are children…now what do you want
Rockon: uncle…I mean sir…sir…
Lobo: what sir…sir
Freeman: uncle we are selling raffle tickets….for our school party!
Lobo: school party
Freeman: yes sir…no sir…I mean school carnival
Lobo: so…???
Wiseman: so let us into your house
Lobo: into my what?
Freeman; sir ignore him…he is saying can you please please please buy our tickets
Lobo: ok
Freeman: sir sir…rockonfullon…i mean fullonrockon…I mean puskar is thirsty
Rockon: hey I am not thirsty
Freeman: of course you are (winking at him)….are you not
Rockon: yes sir…I am dying of thirst…water water….
Wiseguy: sir I think he will collapse if you don’t give him water
Freeman: sir he is fainting (holds him while he sways) can we take him inside your house sir
Lobo: ok ok…but make sure he is our as soon as he becomes better
Wiseguy: sir ham aaye aur gaye…I mean no problem sir
Rockon: paani paani paani chakkar aa gaya…paani
Lobo: ok ok before you faint at my doorstep come in…(Takes them inside)…you guys sit here…( turns to leave but comes back at once) and don’t touch anything especially that cupboard…just no touching

(He leaves and rockon grins)
Rockon: hey guys how was I…super cool right
Wiseguy: tu cool nahi fool hain…why were you overacting like that paani paani…I am fainting
Rockon: listen just because I was looking so cure he let you all inside
Wiseguy: OK cutie pie
Freeman: hey you two stop fighting…quick let’s try and find his cloak…you go there you search in that cupboard and let me see under the table
Wise guy: (finding the cloak) hey guys…I found it….here it is
Rockon: gosh it’s big
Freeman: hey don’t touch it…just let it be…it could be magical…

( Zooli enters and says in loud commanding tome)
Zooli: stop freeze all of you (the children look scared and see Zooli)…stop at once…come here (the children all come close to him)…did anyone of you touch the cloak
Rockon: sir…I…I
Zooli: you did! (he is pleased)…good good good
Freeman: good sir!
Zooli: yes good because you have broken the spell!!!
Freeman: spell what spell
Zooli: I think I better explain…I am actually a fairy god father…
Rockon: fairy god father…hahahah funny
Zooli: why can’t guys be fairies?
Wiseguy: ok ok so you are a wizard
Zooli: well technically you can say that but I am a good wizard…
Wiseguy: so you are not Anthony Lobo
Zooli: Actually I was doomed to become a man by a wicked witch. I accidently stumbled upon a secret that she was working on…a magic potion so she cast a spell on me and turned me into a man.
Wiseguy: being a man is not such a bad thing
Zooli: try being a wizard…I mean fairy god father and then you will understand the benefits of being a wizard. Anyway let’s cut the conversation short as I was saying
Freeman: we have broken your spell
Zooli: yes now that you have found my cloak and broken my spell I am only zoooli ZOOOOLI no Mr Lobo shobo…how I hated that…so I need to give you something in return for this….SO YOU GET WHAT YOU WISH
Freeman: get what we wish
Zooli: yes your wish is my command tell me what you want and I will get you that, tell me where you want to be and you can go there, tell me what you want to become and you can become that
Rockon: wow three wishes
Zooli: sorry only one
Rockon: but fairy god mothers give three wishes to people and we found your cloak, broke your spell …that’s not fair
Zooli: no just one wish…so what do you guys want
Wiseguy: I would rather I became someone…I always wanted to be something like my life
Zooli: your wish is my command
Wiseguy: I wanted to become a star all my life
Zooli: a pop star, a rock star, a bollywood star…amir khan, salman khan, sharukh khan
Wiseguy: no a star…a star in the sky….a star that looks upon the planets something like interstellar
Lobo: are you sure that you want to become that?
Wiseguy: oh absolutely, infact that swat I want most of all
Lobo: ok then
Rockon: ok take out your magic wand then
Lobo: no need for the wand let me just read your charm
FEEEE FIIII FOOO FUMMM
LET THIS KID HAVE ALL THE FUN
MAKE HIM INTO THAT BRIGHT NEW STAR
TWINKLING, SHINING NEAR AND FAR
ZIPPPPP ZAPPPPP ZOOMMMM
Wiseguy: hey I haven’t changed
Lobo: it will start working once your back home, don’t worry. (Turning towards freeman) Ok now rahul….sorry free man what’s your scene?
Freeman: I don’t want t become some silly star….I just love candy….why don’t you make me a taster in a candy factory. My mother will never scold me for eating so many lollipops then…yummy I can see such good times coming ahead…candy for day and candy for night…please that’s what I want. Yes a candy taster…nothing more nothing less
Lobo: are you sure
Freeman: you promised
Lobo: yes yes so you get what you wish
FIDDLE DEE FIDDLE DOO FIDDLE DEE DEE
MAKE HIM THE CANDY TASTER FOR ALL TO SEE
LET HIM EAT CANDIES ALL DAY LONG
CANDIES FOR LUNCH< TEA AND DINNER WITH WINE AND SONG
Freeman: wow, thanks Zooli…you are amazing, marvellous and stupendous….A zillion, million thanks

(Zooli turns towards the last child, fullonrockon)
Zooli: so you are now the last and your wish is also my command, what do you want to become
ROckon: well actually I can’t tell you that since it’s a big secret
Wiseguy: hey how can he make you into anything if you don’t tell it?
Rockon: no people will alugh at me but I am really seious bout it I want to become that and nothing else
Lobo: go on speak your mind; no one will dare laugh at you while I am here
Rock on: well ok then…I want to become a rock
Wiseguy: a rock…hahahahah….
Rockon: see I told you that they would laugh did I not…now I am not talking to anybody…I don’t to become anything
Wiseguy: hey sorry yaar…really sorry batana
Rockon: I want to become a rock because I have a reason…actually I really hate my name…people keep on making fun of it. So if l become a rock no one will be able to push me anymore. Infact if they tried I could just roll over and crush their legs….hahahah
Lobo: that seems only like a fair deal…I think it’s high time you became a rock….that’s right…
FILLIN FILL OUT FIIIII FIIII
MAKE HIM THIS HUGE BIG ROCK HEHEHE
SEE HIM CHRUSH ALL TO BITS
WILL MAKE YOU GO OUT OF YOUR WITS
So guys…happy now
All three: absolutely, you are the best…this is great
Lobo: remember one thing fellows; we will all meet in a week time. This spell needs weekly rejuvenation its needs its weekly dose. So do meet me next week, bye and best of luck

(Music is heard, and enters lobo)
Lobo: A so dear friend one week is over and it’s time for my liitle buddies to start arriving. Hope everything will go according to my plan…fine little specimens I found and they all walked straight into my plan…good good wait I can see them

(Enter the three kids looking very very sad and downcast)
Lobo: hey kids how are you…
Three: (in a very small voice) hi Mr. Zooli
Lobo: so how has it been going for you all fine?
Freeman: hmmm ok I guess
Wiseguy: yes just fine
Rockon: (looks very upset)…hmmm fine…oh what do I say…and starts crying…not fine not fine…I can’t stand this torture anymore
Lobo: why guys…look sit down relax and tell him what happened
Freeman: sir…sir
Wiseguy: sir we are not happy just not happy…infact we are not only sad but miserable
Rockon: please sir…I have my old self back…I don’t like this get up…I hate this
Lobo: ok guys just relax first and then tell, you start freeman
Freeman: I was so happy being that candy taster at first…nestle, cadbury, lollipops, sweets, hajmola candy…life was perfect…but I had to eat only that for one whole week..(pulls out his tongue)…see this my poor taste buds…I hate the idea of anything sweet…I want to eat simple dal roti chawal and aloo ki sabji…mummy ke haath ka khana…never an chocolate again in my entire life…the idea of even a small piece of candy makes me want to… yuck
Rockon: sir sir…I hate being a rock, at first I was so happy that I could just sit and laze around, relax and chill in the sun…imagine no school, no homework just lie down and feel happy and I was so happy no one could dare push me. But all that sitting down has made me so sad, I want to walk normally, play and run
Lobo: and what about you wise guy
Wiseguy: I well…I wud hate to tell a lie but being star is actually no fun. I thought I was sooper cool guy in this whole galaxy…but I was in this huge space so far away from my home. I could only be seen in the night and i was far away from my friends, my mom dad everybody…and it was cold …my gosh so cold in the galaxy and I could not even wrap myself in something warm because I was too big. I want my old self back…please please
Rockon yes sir please sir
All three: pleaseeeee pleaseeeee
Lobo: ok ok…but this spell is permanent
Wiseguy: no you can’t say that, you are a good fairy father not a wicked one, we will do anything
All thre: yes sir anything…
Lobo : anything
All Three: yes sir we swear
Lobo: well will you be good children, not fight with each other, help each other and be the best neighbours?
Three: yes sir
Lobo: will you be kind to mr.Arora and not barge in people’s houses just to harass them and
Three: yes sirs never never never disturb the old and the sick?
Lobo: will you help your parents in the house and do your homework without winging and whining
Rockon: do homework…sir
Wiseguy: ignore him sir…sir I will dp jhaadu, poncha baratan, cook the food and do my homework…i promise
Lobo: do you promise to be generous and kind and share everything with other children…even your best toys
Rockon: my best toy
Wiseguy: ignore him sir
Freeman: yes sir, yes sir
Lobo: allright then…your spell will wear out as soon as you leave my house. Let me tell you a secret I came from the nether world looking for the best specimen for this experiment and now I can return back to nether world.
Freeman: experiment
Lobo: yes experiment, I wanted to teach children never to wish for something that they don’t know about. Because YOU GET WHAT YOU WISH so one should only wish for the best and nothing but the best. Now that my job is done, I can return back happily to netherland. Ok guys one last thing now what do you all want to become when you grow up

All three: A FAIRY GOD FATHER LIKE YOU OFCOURSE MR ZOOLI
(Zooli laughs and the others join him and music is heard)


The Playwright, permits theatre practitioners to perform this play Royalty free, with one request, please message us in the comment box if you are interested in doing this play. Also if and when you schedule your play, inform us and our readers in the comment box about it. Who knows someone might amble into your show after reading your message.




AGARBATTI – THE SEXUAL INCINERATION ON STAGE – SO ARRESTING!

Sexually Explicit Content – Well, the phrase itself provokes many intelligent communities to either hide their face behind the four walls of the house or to protest against it in loud volumes. I must say, the opening scene of the play AGARBATTI -(Directed By: Swati Dubey Produced By: Samagam Rangmandal  Written by Ashish Pathak, the play has bagged four awards at Mahindra Excellence in Theater Awards META)is been so intelligently devised by the director that it resists both these reactions in the most convincing manner. The scene is brutal in its explicit provocation of sexual act openly but, in spite of the same, it forces admiration for the craftsmanship that works behind making such a sensuous implication bold and yet appreciable in its own right.

Women who are the major participants of this scene inviting and enacting sexual insinuations manage to extract the susceptibility that stimulates sexual urge and receptivity towards sexual matters in the feminine gender. The most significant part of the reality about women especially those in the conservative Indian rural areas (now I am not generalizing here though) who despite being apparently uninitiated in the matters of sex, as the world knows it, display their repressed sexual urge through such innuendos. Primarily, this sort of depiction on the proscenium in front of an apparently cultured urban audience accompanies the predicament of these women being stereotyped as flagrant on account of the evident unconcern about propriety. The consideration that the lack of urban literacy in these ladies may provoke them to comply with blatant projections of the kind they choose to engage into in such private gatherings exclusively for women may or may not be the conscious level of acceptance in the midst of the educated audience. The same being represented in a rural set up amidst village audience also may not offer a neat solution for the participants. This is because, the onslaught of orthodoxy may not give it a fair chance to explain the social reality that forces the play participants to opt for such depictions that escape revering societal taboos against phenomenon like sex.

Witnessing the scene, it seems the director makes a bold choice; the one that lets him the freedom to outdo inhibitions that often mar the essence of the play despite an interesting script. That sexual acts do often have the potential to be synonymous with brutality is the implication one explicitly gathers when one watches the sexual act being symbolically represented through the means of an enactment and gives a feel of the supposed theme (Now I need to watch the play to comment more on this) this play perhaps would be dealing with coercion the women often encounter with respect to overbearing masculine tendencies. It is this very intent that makes the apparent sexual content in the scene worth watching (particularly for those that know its content) as it emblematically proclaims the reason to justify its inception on the stage. It works as a foreboding of a gruesome massacre that is perhaps supposed to occur next. However, for someone (as I) who has no knowledge of the subject matter on which the play is based nor has access to the entire script of the play, this entire scene comes as a jolt for the manner and the extent to which a sexual intercourse is celebrated elevates curiosity to construe the reason that it has been done this way. Therefore, the scene appears relevant to those that know the reason and interests those that do not know the reason for the explicit proclamation of sex in the opening scene of this drama. This (I feel) makes it a justifiable attempt in spite of its radical nature and helps it survive the jeopardy of questions or objections that accompany a presentation of such an explicit kind. When you explicitly dramatize “let’s have sex” for the people, you are required to maintain a symbolic decorum which does not exclude the need to be barefaced. This paradox is a difficult challenge and to a great extent it has been managed very well by making women participants cover their visage (full/half) with veils that douse their brazen nature in spite of its openness- and it’s supposed to be so in conventional milieu(supposedly). Moreover, the mannerisms of theirs in terms of aping a sexual intercourse are well regulated in spite of the recklessness because every time you see the actor in disguise of a man attempting to assault, there is an obvious emphasis on the mode of representing it as a part of a dramatization than a realistic event. There is a dramatized attempt, extremely effective by the women to thwart him from the shameless act.

When you witness the entire dramatization, since it appears ‘dramatic’, it convinces that it is not ruthless in spite of obviously trying to show the ruthlessness that accompanies such acts which embody forceful subjugation of women. A well balanced attempt which certainly shows how tactfully a vigilant and responsible theatre practitioner can manage the repercussions that are invariably a part of such a portrayal which intends to upset many brand ambassadors of decency and propriety. Well, admitting the fact that sobriety is an essential responsibility to be observed in artistic endeavours, I also feel that the needful depiction of violence and sex may not be essentially curbed but rather could be exposed taking full advantage of the scope that theatre offers; to dramatize the dramatic content. I felt, this scene is a vital to  construe the relevance of histrionics that must be in close proximity with reality but not lose connect with the genre of “performance”. It is this distanced involvement of this scene with ‘realism’ that erases all issues pertaining to decorum instead of avoiding it entirely as a tabooed matter or criticizing its candour, watching it makes one rethink about the societal indifference towards certain realities that has ushered the need for art to penetrate into such explicit rebuttal of the so-called morality. As a result one cannot help but admire its intensity apart from anything else…therefore; the dramatized sexual havoc on stage appears so arresting!

For comments (if any) please post in the box below.
For more information on the play please visit:
Sources:
Agarbatti: The Play – http://metawards.com/plays/agarbatti




‘TRUNK TALES’ lives up to Neelam Mansingh’s unique presentation style

Neelam Mansingh Choudhry is a well-known name in Hindi theatre world.  A student of Ebrahim Alkazi at the National School of Drama, she has been running her group, The Company in Chandigarh since 1983.  Her work always shows the high standards of production in her presentations, displaying the values inculcated by Alkazi in his students.  Her plays like Kitchen Katha, Yerma, Naked Voices, Nagmandal etc. have received loud applause from the public, as well as received rave reviews from the critics.  Her work has also earned her well-deserved international recognition.

Recently she brought her Hindi/English/Punjabi play ‘Trunk Tales’ to the IHC Theatre Festival in Delhi.  It was a solo performance, although bearing the same old well-known mark of hers on the production.  Her plays are generally based on her everyday observations and experiences of day-to-day life.  She is master of creating magical moments out of the daily mundane chores of household.  Remember the childhood games… ‘Akkad bakkad bambe bo assi nabbe poore sau…’, or ‘Machhli jal ki rani hai…’?  That innocence of the childhood was present on the stage in this play… the innocence, which remains with us through our life-time, but which also becomes the ‘other’ thing of our life as we grow old!

A non-scripted performance piece, the play ‘Trunk Tales’ revolved around telling stories in a Dadi-Nani style, bringing out stories out of their ‘potlis’… only that, here, the ‘potlis’ have been replaced in this play by four trunks kept on the stage.  Stories tumble out of these trunks one by one, bringing us face to face with that ‘otherness’ in life.  The point she wanted to stress upon was that we generally live within certain boundaries, as per the set rules of behaviour.  Anything not conforming to these sets of rules creates a sense that the person going beyond these boundaries of rules is not one of us… he is the ‘other’ person in the society.  She takes support of poems, childhood stories and little play-songs, small episodes, some memories for presenting her ‘non-linear’ stories, to tell about the people who don’t really fit in,” she said to someone in an interview.

These stories strived to present the ‘otherness’ in life… stories on politics of water, body-abuse including rape and child abuse representing no control on one’s own body, hunger, and finally trans-gender behaviour…  It is difficult to present the ‘otherness’ in gender in a palatable way, but Vansh Bhardwaj deserves applause for performing this difficult task so well… he knows how to use his body on the stage.  “I had to develop different body languages and understand the psychology of the characters.” Vansh said in an interview some time ago!  I have seen Swatilekha Sengupta performing a full two and a half hours long solo ‘Shanu Roychoudhury’ on this very stage many many years ago.  I hope to watch Vansh repeat that wonder some time, under the direction of Neelam Mansingh Choudhry sometime in future.

A Scene from Trunk Tales

In ‘Trunk Tales’, she had kept a few trays filled with water on the floor of the stage.  With water, she wanted to present an essential element of life, which has a flexible nature, a fluidity, and gets easily moulded to take any shape.  Water worked as the element of life represented in the stories told by the actor on the stage, who presented stories full of vigour and vibrancy of every daily life!  Keeping the sets to a minimal is her known style as well as the need of the hour in today’s constrained situations as far as presenting a play in an auditorium is concerned.  Keeping the sets to a minimal also helps her create the ambience through the props and the activities of her actors on the stage.

She has done a play ‘Kitchen Katha’ on the theme of fire (although she concedes that the theme of fire was not on her mind when she did ‘Kitchen Katha’, neither was water on her mind while doing this play).  Now she has done a play with water as its theme.  We hope she comes out with the remaining three elements of life, earth, air and pran!

The thing that we missed the most in this play was live music by the folk singers of Punjab, her famous hallmark.  She has done a lot in the past to revive Punjab’s folk music, which had suffered a severe blow in the troubled times of Khalistani terrorism in Punjab in the eighties of the twentieth century.  She tells that it is Corona to be blamed for missing on music… our theatre-persons have not been able to come out of the after-effects of Corona still.  She avers, “we are still coming out of the effects of Corona, and it will take some time before we can come back to our own basics”.

Best thing about her plays is that she does not try to make them a make-believe world… she actually brings the reality to the auditorium.  Some of you might have enjoyed hot jalebis prepared by the ‘halwai’ in the auditorium itself while watching her play ‘Kitchen Katha’!  Alas, the jalebis did not reach me, as I was sitting in the sixth-seventh row on that day!  She had taken inspiration from her childhood impressions of the tradition of ‘langar’ in Punjab for ‘Kitchen Katha’, where community cooking used to take place.  In ‘Trunk Tales’ also, Vansh has a thali full of real food, and enjoying it actually on the stage, instead of empty thalis, cups and glasses, through which the directors ask the actors to pretend eating or drinking … this adherence to ‘reality’ makes Neelam’s plays a REAL treat for the eyes!

She plans to do Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana in Hindi coming February.  It is being planned to be done on a big scale.  She avers that the actors from across the country will be a part of this production.  She is using Karanth’s translation for this production, although with some new insights into the play, keeping in mind the sensibilities of the modern times.

Neelam Man Singh
Neelam Man Singh

On the issue of the trends in play-writing these days, she does feel that more new plays are needed with newer sensibilities in mind.  She feels that there should be deeper connection between the writer and director while developing new plays.  Making one’s own script by the director, in collaboration with the actor/s, is a new trend according to her, although it is not new… it has always been resorted to by the directors and writers.  She quoted the making of Mohan Rakesh’s plays by Alkazi, and also pasting of the new plays on the walls of Paris by Moliere, to solicit the response from the public directly during the writing of the play!





Folk Theatre of India: Koothu

Koothu which is also called Therukoothu is a Tamilian art form that incorporates dancing and music in the backdrop of narration and presentation of epics in the Tamil Language. The Dravidian society has been a harbour of cultural nourishment since time immemorial. It is believed that the Koothu had originated in the early days of the Dravidian Tamilakam.

The term Koothu refers to two performing arts viz. Terukuttu and Kattaikkuttu. In contemporary times, the two terms have an interchangeable usage. However, in medieval times, the two terms referred to two entirely different dramatics art forms. Kattaikkuttu consists of performances that take place overnight at a stationary fixed place. Terukuttu often refers to mobile and non-stationary performances that usually take place in a procession.

The prominence in its growth was achieved by Koothu during the medieval eras wherein during the Sangam era. This peak is clearly reflected in the Sangam literature which lay a preface to the nurturing of the natagam(drama), isai(music) and iyal(dance). The Sangam literature also etched out the fact that the Koothu acted as a medium for the education of religion, tradition and history in the rural strata of society.

Kothu, in its inherent settings, does not include any spoken dialogues, it only consists of songs and music. The dance of Koothu has an informal structure and tone to it, with the backdrop of performances being the depiction of scenes from the Hindu mythologies like Ramayana and the Mahabharata along with some Tamil classics. Heavy, colourful and intricate costumes blended with elaborated and extravagant makeup are used by the performers in the drama. Sparkling shoulder plates, towering head gears and wide skirts. Since no amplification instruments are used, the performers are trained to sing in their voices at a high pitch so that they can amass the entire audience.

Koothu had been traditionally a male-centric theatre form, however with the change of times female participation has significantly increased. Over the years, there had been no institution for formal education of Koothu, however recently the koothu pattari (workshops for koothu) and an array of dedicated schools have been set up to save the dying art.

Independent Project by Abhinav Sharma

Guide ⇒ Prof. Manohar Khushalani

References :

  1. Therukoothu, The Street Theatre of Tamilnadu
  2. Theru Koothu: A Tamil street theatre tradition in danger of fading into oblivion has found a new lease on life



THE LOCKDOWN LOVER that LOCKS YOU DOWN!

Lockdown Lover

A CRITICAL REVIEW
By Dr. Payal Trivedi

Well, any theatre performance is meant to entertain is an understatement today because we have all come to terms with the fact that theatre is much more than simply a mode of refreshment. Investing our time and energy in beholding any performance ought to enable us enough food for thought not just by being didactic but by helping us realize our weaknesses, our flaws and misdemeanours that may have led us to falsely believe in the material notion of scepticism that seems to have crept in all our walks of life today. We tend to always engage in self doubt, of essentially questioning the obvious and of incessantly negating all possibilities of giving stability to our lives. All that today’s worldly compartments of propriety and impropriety have given us is a bizarre set of meaningless precepts. These we follow mechanically with the fear of being ostracized by the so called normal society or flout entirely as a means of blatant rebuttal against the stringent myopic framework that often surrounds rules made for whom we label the ‘Normal Man’. The category of the ‘normals’ includes those that bear the onus of proclaiming ‘acting’ according to the stipulated socio-cultural norms as a mark of sanity. This excludes any kind of aberration which may disturb the so called normal setting of a ‘settled home and family’ we humans often propagate as an insignia of ‘orderly mental health’. Unfortunately for us, anything anyone does different from having a perfectly settled home is conventionally considered unhealthy and the primary cause of mental illness.

Well, the message is simple and clear but is conveyed through an essentially ‘vague’ motivation towards choosing ‘absurd’ mode of theatrical performance that leads the motto of laying bare this extremely vital issue hay ways. First and foremost, the disorderly array of character shifting that we come across mars the charm of this rendition at its very onset. That stage cannot capture the nuances of facial expressions is a matter of common understanding and therefore, it is obvious that when the actor shifts from one character to another, the performance does not seem to deal efficiently with this change simply because it is not required prominently to showcase the difference. When there is an overbearing energy that tries to dominate or suppress the other and the explicit resistance of the other is being displayed with repressed tendencies, it obviously should impart a lesson of a ‘toxic relationship and its repercussions’ when in this performance it comes out as an ‘enforced torture’ upon the audience to make them forcefully assent to the ‘failure of values’. This failure is so anointed with the cumbersome obsession of anomaly that can be seen in the character using the ‘whip’ that acts as a paradigm of inexplicable violence that puzzles due to the lack of clarity. A more structured absurdism(If I am permitted to use this expression) would have made it intelligible rather than prolix one, the performance chooses to adopt the ‘heightened potency of absurdism’ that is needless and I feel is so overwhelming that it almost nullifies the importance of conveying at least, ‘some’ meaning.

I do feel that proportionate dose of the vaccine called ‘absurdism’ can boost our immunity but an overdose may completely lead to multiple organ failures and not being sarcastic at all as a viewer I definitely felt that is performance is beyond my level of comprehension. It is possible that this is ‘heightened intellectual apex that perhaps an ordinary theatre person as I may not be able to reach; definitely possible and I accept this with all humility!

A talented and popular theatre artist as Tathagata Chowdhury fails to cast a long lasting impression with his extraneous attempts to correlate absurd theatre with Indian bourgeois set up. This is simply because; the hypocrisy of today’s English speaking Indian families with ultra modern outlook ultimately boils down to having a settled home with children. This is not dual mindset I suppose but is an outcome of the age old Indian mentality of being culturally rooted to one’s customary adherence to tradition that seldom permits anomalous living. When Chowdhury tries to target the contemporary Indian society with its loopholes that disallow normalcy to them, he does not take into account the fact that the apparent aberration of tradition in India is equally a facade like its retention of its values is. That’s the reason that he cannot think beyond a ‘shattered morality’ tendency of the Indian modern class and is unsuccessful in his attempt to impress with his absolutely vague acting. In my opinion, it is a failed attempt of displaying absurdity ‘par excellence’ that gets ruined due to the pressure of creating an intellectual feast that often becomes tasteless when the ingredients are overused. We get a feel of being LOCKEDDOWN by absurdity of this lockdown lover who seems to have lost completely his senses in the motif of explaining the senselessness that prevails in our lives today; a fact that certainly cannot be denied but such bizarre engagement with the theme? I leave it to the viewers anyways.

Finally, I do acknowledge that drama is a means of self analysis that forbids insinuating anyone under any circumstance. This review is simply meant to give an unbiased outlook towards a performance and does not intend to dictate any opinion. Rest assured, it’s simply my personal perception folks!




Manohar Khushalani’s Team Building Exercises

This Exercise I use often in my theatre classes, but in smaller groups. Working with a large group provides a very exciting possibility, for me. The idea is to sensitize participants to their own vocal potential. To experiment with variations and nuances in sound. Participants learn to listen not only to each other but also to sounds in the environment within and without the space they are in. Results vary,  it can create a catharsis in some cases, but a very powerful bonding in all cases.  We start the interactive exercise by asking people to lie on the carpeted floor together in alternate circles with heads together or feet together. Those who cannot lie can sit on chairs in circles facing each other or with their backs to each other .

While representative images have been chosen to illustrate this complex interactive game., you can watch the video of the entire exercise shot by my dear friend Stuti Samanvay during one of my workshops with my students. The relevant links on TheStageBuzz Youtube channel are cited at the bottom. You can also watch the student feedback videos on the same channel
Please Subscribe to TheStagebuzzChannel to see many such training videos on Theatre and Cinema by clicking on the link below
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Circle with feet together
Circle with feet together

Everyone is asked softly by the conductor to relax.  In fact he gives them auto suggestion to relax each part of their body muscle by muscle and joint by joint, helping them to lose awareness of their bodies. When they are fully relaxed and kind of mesmerized,  they are asked to listen to sounds within the hall. Some special sounds are created by volunteers. Example:  tearing a piece of paper.  Flapping of cloth.  Shaking  a Keychain.  There will be many ambient sounds they will be expected to recall later

Participants sitting on chairs

In the next step they are asked to listen to sounds outside the room. Those can be ambient sounds or sounds created in the corridors outside. Participants will be able to listen exclusively to external sounds without listening to sounds inside the room.

A very subtle beat is created, very softly,  with recorded sound of some percussion instrument(s)

Now in any one circle one participant starts a vocal abstract sound. The participant next to him adds with his own sound. One by one everyone in the circle adds his own vocal bit. Until they all create their own vocal band. The same exercise is repeated in all circles.

Participants-creating collective sounds

There is a gradual build up in the hall as every circle resonates with each other’s sounds. They are asked to see to it that what they create should not be noise. They should listen to each other within the circle and without the circle. The percussion sound played on the speaker system provides a reference beat for all groups

Circle with heads together

In some circles, people who are feeling more active can all sit up in their respective positions maintaining their orchestral vocal compositions.

Sitting Posture
Sitting Posture

People who were sitting in chairs can get up move either in circle shoulder to shoulder or walk in circles.

Circle shoulder to shoulder
Circle shoulder to shoulder
Participants walking in circles
Participants walking in circles

Everything can end in an euphoric crescendo or in a soft sublime end. The climax will depend on the collective choice of mood. At the end if the participants feel upto it, they can share their experiences.  Which from my past experience can be very positive.

By now you must be very excited to see the actual workshop conducted by Prof. Manohar Khushalani. Please watch the film of the actual workshop and listen to participants feedback here:




Folk Theatre of India: Jatra

The word Jatra implies a journey. Jatra theatre form is based in the regions of Orissa, Eastern Bihar and Bengal. As of the early 2000s, the Jatra’s had a troupe of around 55 groups based in Calcutta and generated a revenue of around $21million USD every year.

Sri Chaitanya, a prominent saint during the Bhakti moment is credited to be the inventor and the promoters of this music enriched form of theatre. It is widely believed that the first spectacle of the play was also done by Sri Chaitanya wherein he played the role of the Rukmini in the play, Rukmini Haran (the play was based on a story in the life of Lord Krishna).

The first stage of Jatra includes a musical concert with the aim to attract an audience. Following, the concert the four-hour-long plays commence. The scene transitions and the endings are marked with dramatic monologues, dances and rich melodic music. Open-air venues are employed for a Jatra performance with the stages being highly minimal in nature and having little to no props giving the actors the freedom and the space.

The composition of the cast is heavily inclined towards the male, with the female characters inter spread. After the 19th century, with the changing society, the female contribution in the cast of Jatra plays has increased significantly which is an affirmation of the ever-changing and ever-evolving nature of the theatre form. The performers join the Jatra troupes or groups at a very young age and they follow a hierarchy of roles. Like Sutradhar in the Ankiya Naat, the Jatra also has two characters Vivek and Niyati which are omnipresent and interact with the audience via dance movements and commentary. The modern alter-ego of Jatra includes loud music, lightning and catchy dialogues. Jatra performances are usually done at weddings and festivities. The peak of the Jatra season arrives in the Durga Pooja times.

Jatra has survived the turmoil of the time were successfully and has waved through the currents only to grow and profess. The reason for this growth is the very nature of Jatra, which provides it with an ability to adapt and acclimatize with the changing fabric of society and to incorporate the new dynamics and life.

Independent Project by Abhinav Sharma
Guide ⇒ Prof. Manohar Khushalani

References :

  1. Jatra Bengali Folk Theatre
  2. Jatra, The Bengali Folk Theatre of East India and Bangladesh



Looking at Alternate Spaces for Performance in Delhi – NCR

Putting up any production can be most daunting for most theatre practitioners in India. It is customary for most Indian directors who many times, run small amateur theatre groups to not only foot all bills but also look after the needs of the artists involved. The most challenging of this cost is that of the auditoriums. Most proscenium auditoriums in Delhi and Gurgaon can cost anywhere between 15,000 ( around $220) to 1,00,000 ( around $950) depending on its size and capacity. Furthermore, there is a long waiting list to get the required dates, most weekends getting booked almost a year ahead! Hence, the supply versus the demand is either beyond one’s means or it requires tremendous patience for the group to perform.

The need for finding alternate spaces for performances hence is rapidly growing which is being met to some extent by a few in India. There are several around Mumbai but here the article will focus on two spaces created. The first one in that of the group, Rang Parivartan, in the growing rich cosmopolitan Gurgaon created by Mahesh Vasistha and the second one , the Teesri Manjil, of Ruchika Theatre group, created by Feisal Alkazi in South Delhi. It is important to focus on these two spaces, as the city of Delhi besides being the capital of India, is the Mecca of theatre training, while Mumbai largely focuses on film production and the thriving industry of Bollywood.

Delhi, has been timelessly known for its intense theatre training that is both affordable and also provides the correct knowledge to the aspiring actors. The prestigious National School of Drama is situated here, along with Sri Ram Centre, the school of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University that offers not only the masters course in performance studies but also a Ph.D in theatre and also the newly formed Ambedkar University that offers bachelors and masters in Performance studies are also located here. Besides this we also have an a diploma course offered in theatre by Indira Gandhi Open University, that is lesser than $25 for six months, as an distance program.

As training in theatre is of high value in Delhi, there is a need for students to experience the stage as much as possible. It becomes impossible for students to do theatre without the experience of a stage,lights or sets. Both Mahesh Vashistha and Feisal Alkazi have found the answers and that too within their own homes! Both these thespians have created beautiful auditoriums within the upper floors of their homes. Both these spaces are intimate and are not open for the public, which in other words means is not for commercial gains but rather for training and also for holding small intimate shows for a discerning audience.

Feisal is of the opinion that one must allow theatre to enter homes and allow the audience to become a part of his large family. He says, ‘ Most actors have been with me for as much as 25 years and above and they have been an integral part of my life, hence I see new audiences as the same. I am just extending the Teesri Manjil,or my third floor to my family who should not be taken as some disconnected people.’ Radhika Alkazi echoes much the same as she receives each one of her guests with warmth and enthusiasm and both she and her son Arman take immense joy in serving each guests fresh home made kebab rolls, biryani and wine.

Mahesh Vashistha whose students have painstakingly made the auditorium with him extends his performance space free of charge to theatre practitioners not only across Delhi and Gurgaon but anyone who wishes to perform there. Both these auditoriums might seem like one as small steps but careful attention has been given both by Feisal and Mahesh regarding the technicals of an auditorium. Feisal has painstakingly thought of the lighting ( having over 20 set lights including pars and LEDS and a dimmer) and the correct sound proofing of the stage. Mahesh has not only kept the lights and stage setting in mind but has also kept the make up rooms in mind of the actors, and also has carefully insulated the place.

It is heartening to see such magic being created and to be lucky even to have open access to these performance spaces. Such free flowing needs based training venues are going to bring more thespians to do the same with their homes. This will make as Feisal wishes and does, a family of theatre and not mere disconnected spectators who come and do not feel the intimacy of theatre due to the daunting presence of the mighty auditoriums.

The informal performance spaces have come up because theater is becoming un-affordable because of lack of revenue and astronomical cost of auditorium spaces in Delhi. Leaving you images of some of these spaces which offer hope for survival of Amateur theatre in Delhi. More about it in the next piece by Gouri Nilakantan




Playwriting for Children

Children Performing

Its 2017, a time to retrospect in the new year and yet bask in the old. I was rummaging through my old files on the internet and came across a few plays I had written for children. It was both enlightening and amazing to see the play across the screen, I re read them renewed interest…yes they spoke…I could see the language across the stage, the actors and the magical sets with the green yellow hues across the stage and the twinkling lights. Each one of the childrens’ plays that had been written by me made sense to me and the actors. It made me wonder if they were worth publishing and whether it would be liked by others. I was just not sure, since such few plays are actually published and find their way into the market.

So essentially what makes a good play script for children? What makes it “tick”? What will create an market for the scripts to be published. This reminds me an incident that made me realize what “ not to do “ in a children’s play.

In my early years of my career as a theatre person I was teaching drama for children between the kids of 8-14 in a prestigious school in Gurgaon. The principal, a very uptight and proper person requested me to write a script on Mother’s day. I was excited since I really had not written much before it would be challenging to write something that was interesting enough to watch. I decided to write a script set in contemporary Urban India, a place like Gurgaon and then use an ancient time period as the main episode in a flashback. So I decided to show the changes in time by changes in the way we speak English. After much deliberation I decided to use slang and words like “ cool” “ dude” “ yaar” etc in my script. I thought I had created a masterpiece. Actually I was quite delighted.

I was surprised that the principal called me to her room, I was confident that she had liked the script so much she wanted to congratulate me in person. As soon as I walked in, she seemed a trifle upset and set the script before me. I was shocked to see my entire script covered in huge red circles. Cuts and cross marks all across the page. It looked like my the results of class tenth maths exam paper. Each of my contemporary words had been circled and crossed out. I was indignant..all I could say was “ why…”. She sternly told me how improper my English was and how I could no use such words. She insistent that I choose not to use any colloquial language in my script since “ it would spoil the vocabulary of the children.” I tried to reason out with her that since the play was set in urban Gurgaon the actors had to use such words. But my protests was put down by her adamant refusal to see reason.

That incident made me realize that something was wrong in the way people understood children’s scripts. They read it through the spectacles of an adult and forget that they are first and foremost plays meant for young actors. Hence plays written for children need not follow rules of grammar and conventional usage of speech. Neither they need to make sense, for example, in the musical Wizard of Oz, the girl is thrown a tornado and her whole house is lifted in it. Charlie and the Chocolate factory we see Agustus Gloop being thrown into the rubbish bin by squirrels. All they need to be is appealing to the child and the adult viewer. They need to interesting! In all my plays that I have written for kids, I have only kept the child in mind and shall continue doing so

I would like to end this by only giving the 10 golden pointers to be kept in mind while writing children’s plays.

1) Do not be afraid of using contemporary language and one can even throw in few phrases in Hindi, if the need be. Make it Hinglish if you want.

2) Children love comedy. They might not have the same taste as adults and might find things like “ farting” “ throwing up” comic. Add them to the script, they just add to the flavour. Please do not become prudish.

3) Another thing that fascinates children is the idea of mystery and surprise, you can use them too.

4) One should avoid, small sentences. We sometimes like to say a lot when we try and explain things. For eg. If a child has to say, “ ma I will back soon.” He can say, “ ma I will be back soon…please don’t die worrying don’t go out me and ringing up all the neighbours and searching for me all over the block. I will be back by 7 and that’s a promise!”

5) Do not worry about repeating yourself. For eg. Son says, “fine”. It can be; son says, “ fine ma…ma fine…are you listening FINE!”

6) Do keep it in mind that adults will also watch your show, so you can throw punches at them which might make them laugh. For eg. Son: Ma, why do all mothers have to say that you must eat dal, roti chawal…why can’t they say we will make healthy home made pizzas for dinner tonite! OK I DONT MIND EATING A DOUBLE CHEESE PIZZA WITH BROCOLLI TOPPING!!!

7) Don’t be eager to finish the script in 3 pages, any good script should be at least 10 pages long, 12 font roman single spaced.

8) Dont forget minor characters…please don’t make children into trees and make them wave their hands in the air doing nothing, make it interesting like a “ old white haired talking tree” or a “ saucy sarcastic cactus”.

9) Do add a song or a jungle or some silly rhymes they make the script more readable and watchable.

10) Last but not the least, enjoy the task…and forget daunting principals…goodluck!!!