Premchand for children
Theatre for the grown-ups is common, but plays for children are rare. Amateur theatre group Dramatech recently staged three short stories of Premchand - Do Bailon Ki Katha, Shatranj ke Khiladi and Nimantran, making a praiseworthy attempt to fill up that void.
Keeping it simple, they played the three back-to-back and the lively story and hilarious performances left the audience, especially the kids, in peels.
First came Heera and Moti in Do Bail…, nodding their heads, moving their tails and cud-chewing continuously. The oxen love their master Jhuri but his wife thinks that they are lazy and sends them to her brother’s place.
Unable to stand the separation from their master, they flee, facing many difficulties, a cruel master and lastly a butcher.
Dressed in white outfits with black gloves for hooves, the oxen were deftly portrayed by Shwetank Sharma and Abhishek Kumar.
Shwetank comments, “It might look easy but these were probably the most challenging roles of our lives.
To behave like an animal – shrug shoulders, flap ears and lick the limbs, while delivering dialogues like a human, is not easy. However, it feels good to see that kids loved us, especially our bells.”
Shatranj Ke Khiladi, which came up next, was adored too. In the Lucknow of 1856, Jagirdar Mirza Sajjad Ali and Mir Roshan Ali are obsessed with chess. First, they ignore their wives, then, their duties towards Awadh, and finally, get into a fight over the game and kill each other.
Lastlycame Nimantran – a rip-roaring comedy. Moteram, a Brahmin receives an invitation for bhoj at a queen’s palace. He’s asked to bring along six other Brahmins for which he selects his own five little sons and wife. Hereafter, begins the tale of the queen and Moteram’s friend Chintamani catching them red-handed.
Ravi Raj Sagar, the director of these plays, expressed, “It was anyways a unique experience for me staging Do Bail, Shatranj... and Nimantran which have never been made into a play before.
“On top of that, the large number of kids in the cast posed an additional challenge. They would want to play and indulge in mischief all the time and it would take some effort to get them to rehearsing. It’s an amazing feeling now to see it all having gone so well.”
The kids in the audience also seemingly enjoyed themselves. Manutosh Gehlot, a standard V student of Army Public School exclaimed, “I loved Premchand in the books.
After seeing these plays, I like him even more. Are there more stories by him? Will they be staging them too?”
We certainly hope so.