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Quite a story!

ROMESH CHANDER

The presentation by Rangayan, a new group on the college theatre scene, not only revealed the young team's talent, but also reiterated the genius of playwright Badal Sircar



A COMEDY BY ALL REASONS A scene from "Ballabhpur Ki Roopkatha"

Considering that Rangayan, Atma Ram Sanatan Dharam College Dramatic Club, is just three productions old, its latest presentation, Badal Sircar's "Ballabhpur Ki Roopkatha" in Pratibha Aggarwal's Hindi translation directed by Satish Anand could well be the envy of some of the much older and better-known dramatic clubs in the North Campus. What is more, for the cast, except for one actor, it was their first experience in theatre.

Personally, I consider Badal Babu's "Ballabhpur... " as one of the best Indian modern comedies. It has everything a comedy should have: humour, satire, fantasy, pace, action and some element of surprise thrown in. Satish Anand's overall production design has them all in well-balanced proportions.

Storyline

Briefly, Badal Babu builds his story around two nouveau riche soap manufacturers, Haldar and Chawdhry, both crazy for old houses as antiques. If Chawdhry has bought a 267-year-old house, Haldar offers to pay a much larger sum for a 400-year-old haveli, and when he actually hears a ghost recite some verses at an appointed hour in the middle of the night, he insists on paying much more.

The play opens on a worried Bhupati living in a dilapidated ancient haveli. He owes money to everyone, from a paanwallah to a grocer and has been wanting to sell the house. But who will buy a crumbling old structure? Bhupati is surrounded by his creditors demanding the money he owes them. Comes a telegram from Haldar that he wants to buy the haveli and would be coming that very day. The mood changes and the creditors not only agree to loan everything required for the guests, from crockery to furniture and even the food, etc., but also to double up as Bhupati's retainers for the evening. Begin the rehearsals to welcome the guests and the audience is in fits of laughter. Walks in Bhupati's friend and takes over as the Dewan Sahib, complete with a moustache.

Arrives the Haldar family who are greatly impressed with the feudal set-up. The deal is finalised and the guests leave, but return after a while for their car has broken down and they have no other alternative but to spend the night at the haveli. Now comes the playwright's masterstroke. The ghost scene becomes the high point of the play. With the ghost reciting from Kalidas and that too in a farce. Jaspreet Singh has an excellent voice and will be long remembered.

Element of love

As someone said, "If there is a story there is also love," and so Badal Babu has introduced an interesting element of love in the story, pretty well played by Chanda (Atmja Pandey), and of course playing against her Sandeep Kumar as Bhupati and also as the ghost was very good. Sandeep has a good voice and his laughter was that of a professional. What is more, he is said to have come in as a substitute four days before the show. Well done, Sandeep! In Disha Sharma we have yet another good performer, who could delineate well the protective mother and also Haldar's wife.

As mentioned earlier, Rangayan's "Ballabhpur Ki Roopkatha" is a commendable presentation. The cast certainly has talent. However, apart from the annual production, it would be advisable for Rangayan to draw a year-round programme of workshops and short plays as is the practice in some of the colleges in Delhi.

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