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Some moments to smile after all

Aakar Kala Sangam's latest production "Chammak Challo", presented at New Delhi's LTG auditorium this past week, just about managed to evoke some laughter, says DIWAN SINGH BAJELI.



A scene from "Chammak Challo."

AAKAR KALA Sangam's latest production of Mail Simon's Star-Spangled Girl as "Chammak Challo", presented at the LTG auditorium this past week was able to partially able to bring the inherent comic element of the original to the fore. Instead of evoking boisterous laughter, the production managed to offer some moments to smile. Kala Sangam's earlier production "Aur Agle Saal" received critical appreciation. Acting was its high point while "Chammak Challo" was marred by weak acting.

Simon, the American playwright, is a most successful writer of comedies and musicals. He has to his credit a number of hits. But critical acclaim came to him quite late. His "Lost in Yonkers" (1991) won the trophy for best play as well as the Pulitzer Prize. Its film version was released in 1993. As far as Delhi's audience is concerned, it has witnessed Simon's "The Good Doctor" (1973), which is an adaptation from short stories by Anton Chekhov. The "Star-Spangled Girl" is not a successful work by Simon. In any case, the Hindi adaptation by Danish Khan exudes Indian colour as well as milieu.

Directed by Ramesh Manchanda with light design by Suresh Bhardwaj, both of whom are the alumni of the National School of Drama and experienced theatre practitioners, "Chammak Challo" presents three characters on the stage. Ankush is the publisher of a magazine which seeks to bring about social change and Prem is the only writer whose articles appear under different names. We also know about the fourth character through telephonic conversation of Ankush with a girl who happens to be in love with him. In fact, she is the daughter of the landlord of Ankush. He feigns as her lover with the ulterior motive to delay the payment of the rent of his office space. Ankush is frantically pestering the writer to complete his work before it is too late.

In shambles

The lives of the publisher and the writer are in shambles. There is little in the conversations and interactions to amuse the audience. However, the production comes to life with the entry of Soni, a queer character, from a small town who wants to make it big in the city. For the writer it is love at first sight. The central conflict is between the writer and the girl from the small town.

Prem is portrayed as a country bumpkin. There is not an iota of trait in him to be accepted as a prolific writer with deep social commitment. Despite insults, physical maltreatments by the police at the instance of the small town girl, he continues to resort to his antics, hoping to win over the heart of the girl. Had he been painted as a cynical intellectual and his love as the folly of a writer, the character would have evoked laugher. The delivery of lines by male performers tends to be flat. They do not use pauses and gags to comic effect. However, the evening is dominated by Maya Sharma who plays the role of Soni, the bold, clever and smart girl trained in karate which she uses as a means of livelihood and self-defence.

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