Watching two plays consecutively, on each of the last two weekends, has been sort of a study in contrasts for me.
The first play I talk about was titled “The Golden Fish”, a play for children, and part of a kids’ theatre festival, which we randomly walked into, thinking it as no more than a time pass evening for our 7 year old son.
On the contrary, we were pleasantly surprised to watch an immensely enjoyable and brilliant play, which managed to reach out to even us adults, what to talk about the kids. It is based on a poem of the same name by the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, and talks about an old fisherman, his greedy wife, and a generous & miraculous gold-fish. How the greedy wife is justly rewarded is the mainstay of the play.
“The Golden Fish”, we learnt, is produced by a society named Khilona, and was presented as a part of International World Day of Theater for Children, in collaboration with ASSITEJ – International Association of Theater for Children and Young People.
Khilona, we also learnt, is a 20 year old theater society specializing in dramas and workshops only for kids. It is run by Mr. VK Sharma, who is an NSD graduate and an acclaimed director himself, who has directed this present production too.
In this play, VK used an interactive narrative – sort of conversational building blocks, right from the introduction of the cast in the beginning – an approach which surely appealed to kids. Aided by pithy dialogues which do not talk down to the kids, good acting, simple but interesting props and of course a tight direction, the play progressed as a fun-filled informal interaction would naturally happen in group of kids.
It was a treat to watch and is highly recommended. I would be on look out for other plays from Khilona in future.
In contrast is the second play, which I watched just yesterday - the extremely famous “Sakharam Binder”, which was presented by Abhyan (or is it Abhiyan?) and directed by the equally famous theater doyen Rajinder Nath.
Having earlier watched a stupendous performance of “Ghasiram Kotwal”, which is also written by Tendulkar, at the NSD some time back, and having read a bit about Sakharam Binder, I was really very excited about it.
Sakharam Binder is one of the most noted & controversial plays written by Vijay Tendulkar. The protagonist, Sakharam, a book binder by profession, is alone in this world except for a close friend Dawood. He does not believe in marriage and considers it as hypocrisy. Instead, he picks up discarded women, giving them shelter and food in return of companionship and sex (forced, mainly). But, he is sure his candor is virtue enough, which rises above all these shortcomings. The play deals about the complex relationship with two women – Laxmi and Champa – the development of, and interesting culmination to, these relationships.
With the benefit of such a background, however, I must mention that I was sorely disappointed in the presentation.
Sanjeev Jauhari as the foul-mouthed protagonist no doubt gave a powerhouse performance, using wonderful inflections even to the swear-words, and body language.
However, to bring out the intricacies of the complex relationship, which was the mainstay of the script according to me, what was needed was an equally proficient performance from the other two woman characters. It was here that the play faltered, owing to below par performances from both the woman characters.
And, I could faintly sense an overbearing attitude of the director, who I think believed that only the fame of the play would carry it through. There was no interaction at all with the audience – neither through a synopsis at the beginning nor at the time of curtain call, where we expected an introduction to the actors and the director. At the end, when all of us got up and filed out, it felt, as my wife mentioned, a little like a movie hall. Which, you would agree, is something a true theaterwallah would not like to hear.