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A test of fidelity for this `Janaki' too!

DIWAN SINGH BAJELI

"Pati Gaye Ree Kathiawaar" mounted at New Delhi's LTG auditorium this past week is a lively comment on patriarchy.



CONSPIRING TOGETHER A scene from the play "Pati Gaye Ree Kathiawaar"

Sparsh Natya Rang's presentation of Venktesh Madgulkar's "Pati Gaye Ree Kathiawaar" in Hindi at the LTG auditorium this past week is a lively comment on patriarchy. In the battle of wits it is the wife who emerges stronger and wiser. Adapted from the original in Marathi by Sudhir Kulkarni, the central character of the play is Janaki, the wife of Subedar Sarjay Rao. The husband is leaving for Kathiawaar to collect revenue and will stay there for a year. Janaki is intelligent, beautiful and dearly loves her husband. They play out their roles on conventional lines.

The thought of separation from her husband for a year makes Janaki sad. As a token of her fidelity, she offers Subedar a garland to be worn on his headgear, assuring him that the garland would remain fresh as long as she remains faithful to her husband. She also requests him that she should be assigned some work to escape from monotony and boredom. In an aggressively masculine tone, the husband assigns her two tasks: she should build a grand palace without spending any money from the official treasury and should give birth to a male child. These are impossible tasks.

Right ambience

The play has been directed by Ajit Chowdhury who has also composed music beautifully. He is able to create the right ambience for the action that moves from one locale to another in a smooth manner. Compared with Ajit's earlier work "Kaafila", "Pati Gaye... ." is a slight theatrical piece. Though it has potential to expose the men-dominated society which demands from women total fidelity to their husbands, this moral code is not applicable to their husbands. Only towards the end it addresses itself feebly to the gender issue.

The other weakness of the script is that there is hardly any complexity in character-conflicts. The complications caused by the jealousy of the local ruler who cannot stand the freshness of Subedar's garland are not sustained for long. Having come to know the secret of the garland the local ruler goads his minister into going Subedar's home to seduce Janaki to humble the proud Subedar. After spending several months in Subedar's town, a beaming minister comes to the local ruler, boasting of his `success'. A pleased ruler celebrates his `achievement' in a frantic way. Enters Subedar with his garland as fresh as ever. At his wits end, the ruler accuses his minister of betrayal, threatening him of inflicting severe punishment on him. A clever Janaki knows the ulterior motive of the minister and she is also aware that her husband wants her to cut a sorry figure before him. These two men walk into a trap laid by Janaki without jeopardizing her chastity.

Most of the performers are experienced actors of Delhi stage. Rachna Joshi as Janaki exudes grace, boldness and intelligence which enables her to accomplish the tasks her husband has given to her. Shyam Sunder as Subedar acts with panache. His Subedar is candid with his wife, accepting her superiority of intellect. N.K. Pant's cacricature of the local ruler is eminently hilarious. The way he lampoons his ruler, the comic effect becomes all the more deeper. Nupur Shankar, a Kathak dancer, in the role of the maid of Janaki and Saurabh Pandey as the minister give impressive performances.

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