Given a choice between a movie and a play, I would choose a play any day...... But ask me how many plays I have seen, and the answer is - negligible! There are many reasons, mostly to do with distance and timing, and in the past, the cost of the whole outing....But today, the primary reason is Samhith. I would love to take him along to plays, but for one thing, he does not have the patience to sit still for an hour (he can't even do that for a movie!) but more importantly, given the time plays are usually put up,and the distance from our place, it totally throws him out of gear, and that leads to problems for me.
However, all of a sudden, Shankar insisted that we go to see a play at the Ravindra Natya Mandir, and after a bit of argument, both, Samhith and I gave in..... Off we went to see Akvarious Productions' 'Afsaneh : Bai se Bioscope tak', staged as part of the Vinod Doshi Theatre Festival.
The play is actually a dance drama about the nautanki and baithak cultures, portrayed as reminiscences by the women who shaped them - Gulab Bai and Beni Bai. Interspersed with music and dance in the Kathak style, the play talks about the highlights of the days when these artists were much in demand, and also of how the Bioscope, or the Cinema eventually replaced them. However, the play ends on a positive note, with the artists watching a film for the very first time, and feeling that the arts might have changed their forms, but that the arts themselves would live on forever, and that is what would eventually matter.
Seeing a play after as long as I have, I am not competent enough to judge it, or even write a proper review, but I really enjoyed it...... especially since Samhith slept off within a few minutes of the lights being turned off! Having read a lot about things such as nautankis and baithaks, there were no surprises for me in the play. Still, I was moved by the scene of a young girl, a dancer in a group of wandering dramatists, doing her bit for the independence movement by inciting people against the British, going to the extent of slapping an officer as part of an act! That the act actually incited people to attack an officer just shows how much of an influence these dancing girls had!
At the same time, it was a sad sight to see the plight of the same young girl, receiving so much applause and appreciation, yet looking just for a normal, day to day life with her husband and children. I also loved the portrayal of the 'other' women in these cases - the wives! The director has beautifully depicted both, the jealous wife, who can't bear to see her husband go to another woman, but who isn't above warning her rival that her husband has strayed yet again, and also the one who comes to her rival asking her to please her husband!
The language was another thing I loved, especially the shifting between Hindi and Urdu..... The dialogues were great, and their rendering even more so....
While all the actors have done a wonderful job, due credit must go to the musicians, for it is the music and the songs which make the narrative as interesting as it is.
It was a truly enjoyable experience, one which makes me want to take Samhith along to more plays, in the hope that, in time, he will agree with me and prefer plays to the inane movies one gets to see these days.....
Having said all that about the play, there is just one thing to add.... I just wish that the play had started on time..... There seemed to be some problem, and the play started almost half an hour late, with no explanations whatsoever. Punctuality is something Indians are not known for, but something I would expect at least from playwrights and dramatists of this calibre.....
All photos courtesy Akvarious Productions Website
For more details about Akvarious Productions and their other projects, go to their website.