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Reality with loose ends

ROMESH CHANDER

The play "Hi Murli Bye Sudama" was mounted at the National School of Drama's Weekend Theatre Festival in New Delhi the other day under the direction of Gujraj Nagar. Here is a first hand experience.



BOLLYWOOD STYLE A scene from the play "Hi Murli Bye Sudama" mounted in new Delhi this past week.

Gujraj Nagar, a product of Sri Ram Centre for Performing Arts' training units, is an upcoming actor-director of Delhi theatre. Nagar, in 1992, had set up a new theatre group, Ras that in the last 13 years or so has produced 12 plays. All directed by Nagar, some of which like "Taj Mahal Ka Tender" and "Dil Ki Dukan" had a fairly long run. Apart from acting and direction, Nagar is also a playwright. His "Anmol Sagar", that is still to be staged, has been published by Delhi Government's Hindi Academy and his short play "Kitiya" was also awarded by the Academy.

This past week, National School of Drama's Weekend Theatre Festival featured Nagar's latest play "Hi Murli, Bye Sudama" directed as usual by the playwright and presented by Ras. The play, using a mixture of Braj Bhasha and Haryanvi, has nothing to do with the Krishna-Sudama legend as the title may suggest but is a comment on the socio-political life as we see around us today. The format is not that of a comedy or a satire but more of the comic. But unfortunately, Nagar seems to draw his inspiration from the `C' category Bollywood films rather than explore the theatrical potential of the production. The formal style opens up new theatrical avenues that need to be explored by theatre workers.

As the lights come on, a narrator gives us a background of how Morari (Mukul Saran Mathur) had shifted from his village to a city and had even managed to go abroad. From his picture in a newspaper, the villagers recognise him as one of them who some years ago, had moved to a city and had now become a minister.

The opening, one feels, is a little too long, but gives us a glimpse of the goings-on in the village - the gossip of the women, the doings of the holy men and the village Romeos like Bhondua (Ajit Gupta) who wants to marry Murari's wife Susheela and is trying to convince her that Murari will never come back.

After seeing Murari's picture in the newspaper, Sudama's wife Maina persuades her husband to go to the city and meet his childhood friend and maybe like Lord Krishna, Murari too would change their lives. After much persuasion, Sudama agrees and with two green gourds in his bag as a present, leaves for the city.

The scene shifts to Murari's office. The atmosphere is again filmy with a pretty young secretary and some malicious characters hatching shady deals with the minister. Sudama somehow manages to find his way in but Murari needless to say, pretends that doesn't know him. The scene is tense and after sometime Sudama leaves without giving him the gift that he had brought with him.

Mixed bag

The cast, like the presentation, is a mixed bag. Most women play with immense confidence, like Sanjeela Mathur as Murari's wife waiting for her husband back in the village, Smita Sinha as Sudama's wife, and Shalik Rastogi as Pradhanni.

They spoke and moved with immense poise which could be the envy of many senior actresses on the Delhi stage. And of course, the best of the cast was Gujraj Nagar playing in different moods and situations. Among others, though type-cast, were Umesh Goyal as Langda Saleem and Ajit Gutpa as Bhondua who played well.

Gujraj Nagar's overall production design, cast in the folk style is far too loud particularly for a small auditorium like Sammukh.

The music, rendered by a professional group of folk singers from Uttar Pradesh, provided rich support to the presentation though.

The production, however needs to be tightened up a little but the format opens up new theatrical possibilities for exploration by theatrepersons.

In last week's column, of the plays reviewed, "Thodi Jagah Do Bhai" was directed by Imran Khan, a product of ANANT, and "Space.com" was directed by Ashish Ghosh and Ashok Roy with children from middle class families living in Chittaranjan Park, and not as reported.

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