Playing on offstage props

Updated: Nov 13 2005, 05:30am hrs
Theatre is more about communication than language. The recent two-day multi-lingual Legends of India Annual Theatre Festival 2005 at the Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi, was a good example of it. Put together in 1999 as an ambitious plan for promoting Indian art forms, Legends of India was conceptualised to initiate a change in the mindset of the present generation. In an endeavour to rejuvenate theatre, three plays were staged on November 5 and 6.

The opening play, Girish Karnads A Heap of Broken Images in English, is a monologue of an actress with her alter ego. As the story of Malini unfolds, many skeletons tumble out of her cupboard. The play had a novel opening with technology supporting the storyline. Although the technology seems to have rescued the writer, he touches too many issues including plagiarism and the politics of language in a short time.

The effort of Arundhati Raja should be applauded, who Girish Karnad introduced as a one-man army driven by her single-minded devotion for the last 10 years. The play also marked the return of Karnad as a director after many years and was staged for the first time in Delhi.

The lone protagonist, played by Raja, is an unsuccessful regional writer who has crossed over and written a successful novel in English. As the play progressed, the communication looked drab. In the process the play lost tempo. The lead actor had no eye contact with the audience. Again there was too much light on stage which disturbed the communication with audience. The play needed taut performances.

The Sunday morning show of Bengali play Atmadaho written and directed by Torit Mitra was a Sansaptak production. You need to be a theatre addict to watch a play on a Sunday morning. But good things come to you if you make an effort. And Atmadaho was worth it.

This powerful play is about the heated arguments of those who never fought the Kurukshetra like Vidhura, Dhritrashtra, Gandhari and Kunti. They move the audiences through an entire spectrum of emotions.

The concluding performance of Vijay Tendulkars Ghasiram Kotwal by National School of Drama was the best of the pack. The time-tested script was handled deftly by NSD-trained artistes with their skilled performance and musical rendition. Its a colourful play about the vengeance of a poor Brahmin from Kanauj, Ghasiram, who is falsely implicated in a theft and thrown out. Ghasiram vows to take revenge and come back to the city of Pune.

Ghasiram Kotwal revolves around this transformation of a simple unassuming man into a power-crazy tyrant. He uses his young daughter Lalita Gauri to woo the Peshwas chieftain Nana Fadnis. In return, Ghasiram is appointed the Kotwal of Pune.

Ghasiram becomes the unsuspecting victim of the machinations of Nana who gets Gauri killed and Ghasiram gets killed by a mob instigated by Nana.

The true villain in Nana emerges unscathed from the turmoil that marked the rise and fall of Ghasiram. The costumes were colourful and music lilting. Direction by veteran Rajinder Nath was as usual good.