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What a transformation!

DIWAN SINGH BAJELI

"Arey! Mayawi Sarovar", mounted at New Delhi's LTG auditorium this past week is a light-hearted comedy.



COMEDY A scene from the play "Arey! Mayawi Sarovar".

To mark its third anniversary, Natraj Art Theatre and Cultural Society presented Shanker Shesh's comedy play "Arey! Mayawi Sarovar" at the LTG auditorium this past week. Committed to encouraging budding theatre artistes and playwrights, the group also pays tribute to eminent writers by staging their works on their birthday with a view to reviving the rich legacy of Hindi dramaturgy.

Despite a few flagging patches, the production holds our interest, offering some truly amusing moments. Apart from comic situations, what is really interesting is the vigour of the dialogue - witty and pithy. Dr. Shanker Shesh has a special niche in the world of Hindi dramatic art. His famous plays include "Poster", "Aadhi Raat Ke Baad", "Gharaunda", "Dooriyaan" and "Ek Aur Dronacharya". In fact, "Gharaunda" and "Dooriyaan' were made into award winning films. His thematic concerns are varied, ranging from exploitation of workers and their struggle, the social and economic dimensions of crime and punishment and the opportunism of teaching community.

"Arey! Mayawi Sarovar" is a light-hearted comedy about a couple caught in a tug-of-war. The playwright seems to have borrowed the title from one of the episodes of Mahabharata that depicts the Pandavas' confrontation with an enchanted pool just before their exile is about to end.

The play opens in the court of a king of an imaginary kingdom. Since king's courtiers and officers are running the administration, he has nothing to do. A bored king is also not able to have the company of his queen who is attending to the household chores and is too busy to spare time for the king. Whenever an agitated king would ask her what is keeping her busy all the time, the queen would reply, "If you really care to know why I am so busy, become a woman and only then you would understand my position". This explanation made the grumbling king all the more angry. Once he forced the queen to accompany him on a pilgrimage.

The transformation

Passing through a dense forest, they finally reach a beautiful spot with a pool. Leaving the queen along in the green meadow, the king goes towards the pool and takes a dip. As he emerges out of the water he is no longer a warrior. The enchanted pool has transformed him into a beautiful woman.

This change of sex of the king is the main source of comedy. The queen is shocked to see this transformation. Finally she reconciles to her fate and returns to the kingdom to run the administration. The king changed into a voluptuous young woman continues wandering in the forest searching for a man. There are a few twists and turns to the plot that keep the audience amused. A vice-chancellor, a young girl and a journalist have also been transformed by the enchanted pool into an own, cow and dog respectively.

Director Pawan Mishra displays his fidelity to the original script. His scenic design is symbolic. At places the production takes the form of sex comedy, especially when the king-turned-woman seduces a long bearded saint lost in deep meditation and his encounter with the woman. But the director has not allowed it to lapse into vulgarity. However, the treatment of the music score is far from satisfying.

Towards the climax the production also raises questions about the supremacy of matriarchal system over patriarchal. Here the king and the queen fight over the issue. However, the conflict is resolved by Indra by bringing the king back to his former self, suggesting that marital discord could be avoided if the spouses humanise themselves by understanding each other's psychological and gender needs.

Mukesh Sagar as the king, Pooja Singh as the queen and Ankit Sharma as the journalist-turned-dog give credible performances as comic actors.

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