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Sir, Sir and then there was Sarla

ROMESH CHANDER

The Old World Theatre Festival 2005 featured two very good plays - "Sammy" and "Sir, Sir, Sarla". Otherwise it was a mixed bag.



DIFFERENT NOTES (From left) Sonali Kulkarni, Makrand Deshpande and Anurag Kashyap who brought together "Sir, Sir, Sarla".

This past Sunday the curtains came down on the Old World Theatre Festival 2005 that in the last four years has become an eagerly awaited theatre event in the Capital. This year the festival featured four plays spread over seven evenings besides eight different plays by Delhi Colleges at the Basement theatre of Habitat Centre. The fare this year was a mixed bag with two very good presentations - Pratap Sharma's "Sammy" presented by Primetime Theatre, Mumbai and directed by Lillete Dubey and Ansh Theatre Group's "Sir, Sir, Sarla" written and directed by Makrand Deshpande. The same was true of the College plays, "Eclipse" and "The Connection" presented by Kirori Mal College were amongst the best that one has seen from Delhi University. Unfortunately this critic was unable to see some of the other college productions but we are told that presentations by Gargi, Lady Sri Ram and Shriram College of Commerce all underlined the histrionic talent of the young.

A couple of months back "Sammy" had played in Delhi to very appreciative audiences and will be again in Delhi early next month to participate in NSD's annual festival. It is a play not to be missed. Yet another excellent play in the festival was Makrand Deshpande's "Sir, Sir, Sarla". The first thing that intrigues the audience is its billing: "Sir, Sir, Sarla Part I and Part II". It is for the first time that we have seen a production that is presented in two parts and that too on two consecutive days. We have known plays being reworked even after they have opened but seldom as sequels and that too the next evening. The one exception that comes to this critic's mind is Mahesh Elkuchwar's "Wada Triology" of parts 2 and 3 of the original "Wada Chirebandi".

Explaining the need for Part II of "Sir, Sir, Sarla", the playwright says, "it came out of my need to see these characters grow and till they are on the stage you can't see them live. Fanidhar and Sarla were at a very interesting point when part one of the play ended. I wanted to see where their story goes". Since the playwright wanted to see what happened to his protagonist, he keeps the three main characters of Part I playing the same roles with the only difference that the Professor has now retired.

First part

Briefly, the first part of the play is built around a professor of English Literature (Makrand Deshpande) and his two students Sarla and Fanidhar (Sonali Kulkarni and Anurag Kashyap) who are working on a research project on love under the professor's guidance. Sarla's earlier memories are revived and we find that both the professor and Fanidhar were in love with her. But, perhaps because of family pressure as also encouraged by the professor she marries another student, Kashyap (Abhimanyu Singh).

Part I of the play ended with Sarla expecting a child and Part II opens seven years later, Fanidhar has become a professor. With the `Sir' having retired he is still in love with Sarla who now has a baby and has also divorced her husband. The mood of the play is completely changed. If the first play had projected a soft note the second is violent with fights and tempers running high. The contrast between the two plays is beautifully captured by the director who himself is a picture of different moods in the changed environment and in Sonali Kulkarni we have an actress of immense sensitivity. Fanidhar is played by yet another talented actor, Anurag Kashyap who is now a professor and is a changed character but still in love with Sarla whose divorced husband Kashyap (Abhimanyu Singh) wants to meet him to talk. Fanidhar is reluctant but `Sir' persuades him to agree. The confrontation turns violent. To see how the situation is resolved don't miss to see the play whenever it is in Delhi again.

The Company Theatre, Mumbai brought to us Lutz Hubner's "Creeps" in its English translation. About four months back, "Creeps" in its Hindi adaptation titled "Ouch" brought to us by Sohaila Kapur Productions as also directed by her, was on the boards in Delhi. It was a delightful presentation especially for the MTV generation but "Creeps", presented by The Company Theatre, Mumbai had everything that a real good satirical play should not have and yet, we are told, it was a hit in Mumbai. Maybe it had a different cast.

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