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More than just a manuscript!

ROMESH CHANDER

The 2nd Foundation's presentation "Manuscript" is a beautifully coordinated play.



LABOUR OF LOVE A scene from the play "Manuscript" staged in New Delhi.

The 2nd Foundation is the brainchild of a group of four young architects from The School of Planning and Architecture, who during their college days had some experience in working with some of the leading Delhi-based theatre directors. And after college, in May 2000, they took their experience into a professional plane under the banner of 2nd Foundation. Aiming at an in-depth exploration of its potential as a complete art form. And, that is exactly what it has tried to achieve in its latest presentation, "Manuscript" that in the words of the director Soumyabrata Choudhury, "is the physical and imaginative recreation of the process of writing of Mohan Rakesh's well known play `Leheron Ke Rajhans'". What is more, while exploring the process on stage, the director has strictly confined to the scenes from "Leheron... ", Rakesh's diary, letters and his other writings about the play.

"Manuscript" is more in the nature of an in-depth look at the process that went on in the playwright's mind for nearly 20 years before the play was finally published in the form that we know it today. Many theatregoers are perhaps not aware that Rakesh first wrote "Leheron... " as a short story and then turned it into a radio play that was first broadcast from Jallandar under the title "Sundri", if this critic remembers correctly. The struggle in Rakesh's mind over different manuscripts and forms for the play went on for nearly 20 years. Soumyabrata delves deep into this struggle through a most interesting and innovative device of having Mohan Rakesh along with Rishika Meharishi, Satyajit Ray's contemporary, sit upstage slightly below the stage level talking not only of carrying the play forward but also giving us some interesting insights to archival material regarding many a restless attempt by Rakesh to find the right form and the balance of speech to carry the story forward as also to reinterpret the ancient Buddhist tale of love, conflict and renunciation. Indeed, a theatrical stroke of genius on the part of the director not only to provide us a glimpse of Rakesh's inner struggle of mind while writing "Leheron... " but also have Rishika play as his muse.

Festival of Desire

Action moves to the stage with a sort of prologue with two karamcharis arranging the stage for the Festival of Desire, Kam Utsav. One of them keeps talking about Kalidas to perhaps hint at the commonality between Mohan Rakesh's mind or way of thinking and that of Kalidas to which reference is often made by Rishika who has by now moved on to the stage and walks to Sundri (a character in "Leheron... ") who had been all along on the stage but in darkness. Sundri seems a little restless. Rishika hums a few linesto put her back to sleep. Rishika's beautiful voice immediately touches the audience. And action on the stage goes on from "Leheron... " interrupted at times by Mohan and his muse.The interventions by the playwright in "Manuscript" serve yet another purpose of carrying out a parallel reflection on the action being played on the stage. The questioning arouses the element of doubt in Mohan's mind.

Vaibhav Dimri as Nand, Aastha Gandhi in Sundri's role and the director himself as Mohan Rakesh with Rishika Meharishi playing her inner self give meaningful performances. But finally, "Manuscript" is a beautifully coordinated play and its form totally new and thought provoking for the audience. A must-see presentation whenever it is on the stage again.

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