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The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan

Afsaneh: Bai se Bioscope Tak

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.


  1. Glad to hear that Samhith slept off and you enjoyed the play! The reason we don't venture out often within the city is the traffic, we just do not feel like driving anymore after the daily office commute is over!

  2. I can imagine how the play must have been, as these pictures themselves do convey a lot of feelings!

  3. Anu.. how fabulous... I love plays.. and have been to a few when in Mumbai.. Here the play scene isnt that great.. Every time there is one... I just jump to the occasion.. Although.. like you said.. I'm not sure my girls understand the imporatance..

  4. plays are great mediums..

    seems like a complex story line...

    mumbai is great on the theater scene so tell us more...

  5. plays are great mediums

    but it seems like a complex theme they have taken up..
    mumbai has a lot on the theatre scene
    please tell us more

  6. Anu ma'm, hats off to your passion and motivation to write about every endeavour you take. Its thrilling to me that just when we discussed about plays, you actually went up, watched and now the best from you...the sharing with a proper flow of write up.

    All i have to say is, you are quite an inspiration to live the life fullest, then only someone can pour down the experience.

  7. Nice to know that these plays still exists in metros like mumbai and there are people who love to watch these. Even more inspiring is that u r tagging ur son along.

  8. Love going to theatres but as you rightly said, it is difficult to take the young kids along.
    Judging from your narrative, it seems like a wonderful play.

  9. Beautiful description of the play "Bai se bio scope tak". Alas! I too could have seen this. My City is home to several theater groups but I do not remember if this one was ever played here. Thanks.

  10. i thought i had left a comment ...
    its disappeared,
    great way to spend the evening

  11. @Mridula: Absolutely!!! Otherwise, I would just have been explaining things to him all the time.. and missed all the wonderful dialogues and nuances.... and its the same thing with us too..... the places where plays are held regularly are just too far, and its a nightmare just to get there, which is why we rarely go..Shankar goes directly from office, so he attends more of them alone :(

    @Indicaspecies: Celine, it was really beautifully done....every word and gesture indicated the difference and the similarities between the two protagonists... and the other characters did a great job of making the whole thing stand together!

    @Pat: guess we just have to wait for them to grow up... and waiting is the worst part:(

    @ssstoryteller: Sowmya, there are some great plays in bbay, but the theatres are so far from where we live... and they are usually at late evening so it just makes things more difficult... but lets see how things progress as samhith grows up...

    and about your comment, i moderate the comments always, and since i wasnt here, they were all on the waiting list....

    @Sabr Jabalpuri: Reetesh, it was just a coincidence that i attended the play so soon after our conversation.. shankar and i love them, but he can usually attend them more than me, esp since he goes directly from his office, which is nearer....and these days, when i do go somewhere, i keep thinking of what to write about it... its getting to become a habit!!

    @subu: Oh yes, there are plays, and people do go, but a paltry few, and the same crowd goes for all of them..... its a pity, considering all the talent and hard work that goes into it..... and it is a very conscious effort on my part to make my son aware of them, considering that i cant attend many more of them at present....

    @Aparna: absolutely!!! it was just wonderful!

    @P.N.Subramanian: i guess it hasnt gone around as much.... but it definitely should be played at lots more places...


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