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Seriously comic

DIWAN SINGH BAJELI

"Jaat Hi Poochho Sadhu Ki" was back on boards in the Capital the other day.

Vijay Tendulkar's "Jaat Hi Poochho Sadhu Ki" is the second offering of Leela Arts staged at Habitat Centre recently. Sponsored by OSHO Foundation, the group made its bow to the Delhi stage with Tendulkar's "Panchhi Aise Aate Hain" in June this year. Though the production of "Jaat... " to be inadequately rehearsed, it offers some hilarious moments to the audience.

Sanjeev Johri, who has considerable experience of working with eminent theatre directors as an actor, apart from directing some plays skilfully, has directed the play under review. In fact, the play is a blend of social satire and pure entertainment. Johri seems to have been more interested in keeping his audience in good humour. This is in evidence the way he treats comic situations in a farcical manner and aims at incorporating additional dialogues into the script laced with double entendre. Of course, he succeeds in evoking laughter long and loud but in the process the sharp social comment on the caste-ridden Indian society gets diluted.

Originally written in Marathi, "Jaat... " is very popular on the Hindi stage. Over the years, several groups have presented it with varying success. The most notable production of the play is by Abhiyan which was directed by Rajinder Nath in 1978. It featured top-ranking actors of that time such as S.M. Zaheer, Kimti Anand, H.S. Kulkarni, Shailendra Goel and Subhash Gupta. It was revived several times with some changes in the cast, always evoking tremendous response from the audience.

Director Sanjeev has been with Abhiyan and he had already directed one play for the group which was adjudged one of the 10 best productions of 2003-04 by Sahitya Kala Parishad. His "Jaat... " lacks consistency as far as directorial art of treating a comedy is concerned. What is the strength of Tendulkar's comedy is the alternation between emotional tension and comic situation. This aspect is not explored fully. The transition of dramatic sequences is abrupt at times.

Structurally, the play is woven round Mahipat, who comes from a poor family and in terms of caste hierarchy he belongs to intermediary one and hence disowned by both the upper and lower castes. After facing a great deal of hardships, he manages to obtain an MA degree with third division and gets the job of a professor in a most backward village that clings to feudal values. There is an element of romance. It is Mahipat's caste which spells disaster for him.

Some of the performers give brilliant account of themselves as comic actors. Ishwar as Mahipat creates a comic portrayal which is tinged with sadness. Despite the fall his Mahipat accepts his misfortune which the spirit of a young man who has been fighting all his life against social and economic obstacles. Danish Husain as Bahna brings to his role vitality and conviction to project a lumpen and bully. He and Ishwar make their sequences immensely hilarious. The most aptly cast comic performer is Rekha Malhotra who falls in love with Mahipat but betrays him in the most critical moment. Through her delivery, movements and facial expression, she keeps the audience roaring with laughter. Manu Dhingra as the chairman of the college brings to the fore the arrogance and highhanded attitude of a local feudal chief.

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