Starting from Laila Majnu’s struggle for love to a patriarchal society’s fixation with a male child, to characters of Saadat Hasan Manto, the Bhartendu Natya Utsav had it all on a single stage. Organised by the Sahitya Kala Parishad, the cultural wing of the Delhi government, the 30th Bhartendu Natya Utsav featured an array of plays. directed
Starting from Laila Majnu’s struggle for love to a patriarchal society’s fixation with a male child, to characters of Saadat Hasan Manto, the Bhartendu Natya Utsav had it all on a single stage. Organised by the Sahitya Kala Parishad, the cultural wing of the Delhi government, the 30th Bhartendu Natya Utsav featured an array of plays. directed by senior directors like Salima Raza, Sohaila Kapoor and Bapi Bose, depicting a wide range of social issues. The eight-day festival started with the story of star-crossed lovers Laila Majnu. Written by Natharam Gaur and directed by National School of Drama graduate Anil Chaudhary, the play, a “nautanki-styled” dialogue-less performance, depicted the story of Laila and Majnu in the most heartening way. Born to love but destined to drift apart, the lovers and their era were brought to life in a colourful way by Mr Chaudhary and the artists. The second day of the festival showcased Ek Kutte Ki Kahaani. Written by Danish Iqbal, the play, directed by Salima Raza, used analogies from Manto’s short stories Thanda Ghost, Kaali Shalwar and Tetwal ka Kutta to depict the brutalities of a society. The play also characterised Manto, played by theatre artist Tarique Hameed. The third day of the festival featured Chitralekha, an adaptation of Bhagwati Charan Verma’s well-known 1934 novel of the same name. The play showcased the age-old question of sin and virtue, and the limits of love in life were brought to the stage. Directed by Surendra Sharma, the story explored the philosophy of virtue and vice and its subjectiveness in human life through the characters of a soldier and a beautiful dancer Chitralekha. Speaking about the festival, Mr Sharma says, “It was great experience in the Bharatendu Natya Utsav. We were given all opportunities to make this a memorable event.” Talking about lesser opportunities for theatre performers to showcase their talent, Mr Sharma says, “More and more theatre festivals should happen so that artists like us get a chance to bring our production before people. It will be good for artists as well as the audience, who can come out of the regular TV soaps and see something more meaningful and creative.” The fourth day of the festival featured Anaavrit, which brought to life the degradation of the moral fabric of society and the growing onslaught of consumerism. Presented by the Sansaptak theatre group, the play is the Hindi translation of the Bengali play Biboshan, written and directed by Torit Mitra. Through the story of a man caught in a complex web of relationships, the play depicted the opportunism and depravity of man in a post-modernist society. The story of a professor who marries a woman out of greed but gets romantically involved with her younger sister traces the life of the man in the backdrop of a rising consumerist, capitalist culture. “We are artists. We do theatre for the audience, and with the objective to provide a meaningful prospect. And Sahitya Kala Parishad is doing a lot for us. They are doing what the National School of Drama should do,” says Mitra. Vouching that Hindi theatre has more audience than Bengali or other regional theatres, Mitra says, “I am basically a regional language theatre director. Though Bengali theatre has very less audience, Hindi theatres attract more people. However, when it comes to buying tickets for theatres, people don’t come. But I ask why If they can spend money to watch a movie in multiplex, then why not in theatre ” Mitra says what we need is awareness among people to come and take theatre as their profession. “Young people only do theatre when they want to go to a TV serial. This should change,” adds Mitra. The fifth day of the festival featured Uljhan — a youthful, romantic comedy about a bluff master who is desperate to make it big in the city and is outwitted in his own game by the woman he falls for. Written by Ramesh Mehta in 1955, Uljhan was packed with innocent lies and distorted truths. Directed by Sohaila Kapoor, the play was presented by the Circle Theatre Group. It is the third time that Kapoor has been associated with Sahitya Kala Parishad and she has seen immense improvement in the facilities from the previous years. Though she feels that in Delhi the audience is coming back to theatre, commercialisation is a big hurdle artists like her face today. “I can see the same craze in audience that was there in the 70s or 80s. But commercialisation of theatre is saddening. The rates at which the auditoriums charge us are very high. It’s about `1 lakh for a day in Kamani Auditorium. So the artists find it very difficult to afford such huge amount and take on rent the auditorium for a day,” says Kapoor. Kapoor says the need is to have more spaces with parking area where theatre artists can showcase their productions. “We need initiatives from the private sector to help widen the scope of theatre in Delhi.” The sixth day of the festival featured Kissa Maujpur Ka, which talks about a society with a skewed sex ratio. The play focuses on the importance of balance in nature and showcases how the misuse of technology has spelled doom for the girl child. The seventh day of the festival featured Metamorphosis, which adapted nine myths from Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Set in and around a large pool of water on the stage, all these tales emphasise the idea of loss and the transforming power of memory, love and imagination. The final day of the festival presented Seventeenth July, the Hindi version of Bratya Basu’s original play in Bengali. It was based on religious fascism and politicalisation of beliefs in Gujarat, with a take on communalism and its threats to Indian democracy. “Our plays presented an interesting mix of subjects and issues. It was a delight for the Sahitya Kala Parishad to provide a platform to actors, directors and playwrights to showcase their art to theatre lovers who yearn for good visual performances,” said J.P. Singh, assistant secretary (drama), Sahitya Kala Parishad.