Remembering a legend
Once the brimming crowd had adjusted itself in the auditorium at Shri Ram Centre and the lilting notes of Kishore Kumar’s songs had uplifted the mood of the patient audience, in walked Anuradha Kapur, director NSD and filmmaker Shekhar Kapur for ‘Theatre Festival 2012’.
Organised by Katyayani Theatre Group and Three Arts Club, the fest was a tribute to the deceased social satirist and playwright Ramesh Mehta and a major attraction among theatre lovers who still fall for the nostalgia evoked by the 50s.
Three Arts Club brought to the fore three of Mehta’s plays – Paisa Bolta Hai, Uljhan and Under Secretary over three days. The out and out comedy, Paisa Bolta Hai opened the festival and toyed with the now redundant idea of the ‘power of money’. Its story revolved around a domestic servant Panju whose lottery brings him a windfall and thus it is proved that money purchases not just material comfort but also relationships, respectability and status.
The following day saw a comedy again but this time with a romantic twist. Uljhan revolves around an astute bluffmaster who is outwitted at his own game by the beautiful woman he falls for. The concluding play, Under Secretary, is a showcase of middle-class hypocrisies and lampoons bureaucrats and their status-conscious wives.
Directed by Sohaila Kapur, the plays were retained in their original forms and not adapted to modern sensibilities. Sohaila defends her choice, “When you are paying a tribute to someone, you don’t change the play. I didn’t feel the need to adapt them because to me the issues raised by Rameshji gel with today’s times. The only change I made was in Uljhan where I gave regional identities to the characters and made it more cosmopolitan.”
The director admits that they were pleasantly surprised at the audience turnout which included both youngsters and oldies. In this audience was also Kamlesh Gill (better known as Beeji of Vickey Donor) who used to act as the tenant in Paisa Bolta Hai when Ramesh Mehta used to direct the play. Says Kamlesh, “The festival was good but the amount of laughter which the audience got through the ‘punches’ in the 50s is not the same now. In those times, every dialogue was stamped with Rameshji’s style. I think the plays should have been adapted a little for modern times.”
Anuradha Dar, who revived the Three Arts Club in 2008 says, “Rameshji was a theatre legend. He gave 35 years of his life to Three Arts, so this festival is the bare minimum that we could do for him.”