Some fun, some farce
If Teamwork's play "God's Graves and Grandmother" was outstanding, Acme Theatre's short plays "Refund" and "email@example.com" were disappointing.
TOUCHING LIFE Scenes from the play "God's Graves and Grandmother."
Some of our senior theatre directors never tire of saying that theatre in Delhi is dying. To them one would suggest go and see Teamwork's "God's Graves and Grandmother" based on Namita Gokhle's novel of the same title that premiered at LTG recently. Teamwork's presentation in Sanjay Roy's direction in a mixture of English and Hindustan is set as a musical with the well-known singer Zila Khan, daughter of the sitar maestro, Ustad Vilayat Khan, in the lead role.
The script is a good adaptation by Nicholas Khargaonkar, a young Khasi playwright and director based in Delhi and Shena Gamat, a Delhi-based theatre artiste. Whereas one has seen two of Khargaonar's plays "Come As You Were" and "Vincent Didn't know He Was A Genius" written and directed by him, unfortunately one is not familiar with Gamat's theatre experience, but the joint script stands on its own legs and an excellent musical that explores the life of an ordinary person who is thrown into extraordinary life by circumstances.
As the lights fade out in the auditorium we see on the stage in a silhouette the opulence of an old haveli and Ammi (Zila Khan) sing a few lines and some are dancing a few steps of traditional Kathak. Suddenly the police burst in and hustle every one out. The song stops amidst shrieks and cries as people leave. We hear a train whistle, crowd scenes on a railway platform and a train pulling out. The scene changes to a street in Delhi with a Peepal tree surrounded by a small platform. Two small saffron flags flutter from the branches. There is a small abandoned hut on one side. Enters Ammi with Gudiyan (Tara Kapur) her grand daughter with a few ramshackle belongings. A beautiful way of projecting how Ammi had been forced to leave her profession of a songstress and move to Delhi.
In Delhi begins a new journey in Ammi's life, a journey that is not only personal but speaks of all the people as such of changing times. But more than that it is the story of all those who attempt to confront the inexplicable.
As we go along the play touches on many aspects of life - blind faith, corruption, romance and of course human courage. The play is full of beautiful lines as for instance in the scene between Ammi and Gudiya towards the end.
A beautiful play, but a little too long with the result that at places it begins to drag as for instance, the interview with a press reporter of the scene with Gudiya and Panditji. Then again one was surprised at the erratic sound control both for speech and singing. The performance by the cast on the whole is good and amongst them those who stand out are Divya Chandra in Phoolwati's role, Ankur Bhardwaj playing as Sunderlal, Tara Kapur as Gudiya and Lila who is not only a good singer but also speaker her lines with dramatic pauses. Listen to her in the scene with Ammi towards the end: "When I think of my son I feel sad but I also feel happy", says Ammi. "I am not letting go of him because I think the only way to get go is with love, otherwise you haven't let go. I think to let go of some one you love is the most difficult thing to do in this world." How true.
But the play belongs to Zila Khan who has a most powerful voice and is in complete control of whatever she is singing, may it be classical, a gazal, sufi kalam or a light filmi dhun. What is more Zila is not only a great singer but also a good actress. Here is play not be missed.
If " God's Graves and Grandmother' was outstanding, Acme Theatre's two short plays "Refund" and MD@ Chanderlok.com" directed by Tarun Anand Bali at Habitat Centre Basement theatre were disappopinting.
Fritz Kairnthy's "Refund" is an amusing expose of the education system but in Sewak Nayyar's Hindi translation turns into a meaningless farce. It is the story of a jobless young man who was not good at school mainly because of bad teaching. He cannot find a job and is advised by a friend to claim back his tuition fee from the school and so begins the fun. To solve the problem the principal calls a staff meeting. The teachers test his claim, he is asked many questions that he cannot answer. The Maths teacher asks him how much he expected from the school. Satyam calculates the total fee he had paid to the school. The answer is correct and he is given a Honours certificate but of course no money. The presentation is a total failure from every point of view.
The second play of the evening "firstname.lastname@example.org" based on Harishankar Parsai's story and scripted by Rakesh was yet another flop. Most theatregoers in Delhi have seen some delightful adaptations and presentations of Parsai's well-known satire on the Government's functioning particularly the police. Rakesh's script by and large, follows Parsai's storyline but the director turns it into a film face rather than a powerful satire that is.
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