Ek mamooli aadmi on stage

Play on

Seldom does one come across a story written so thoughtfully, directed as a play this deftly and acted out with such finesse.

Not one but several social issues such as the state of older people in urban families, the problems plaguing Indian bureaucracy, religious fanaticism etc. are taken up simultaneously, and yet there is not one discordant or boring moment.

The Asmita theatre group, known for its socially-relevant productions, played out celebrated writer Ashok Lal’s Ek Mamooli Aadmi once again in the City. The theatre world is not new to Ek Mamooli Aadmi. The Asmita group has been performing it since 1997 all over the country and this was its 251st show. 

Yet the play has not lost its relevance. In fact, it has become all the more significant in today’s age where we just don’t have the time to care for our children, elderlies, other dependants or society as a whole in the run for an elusive world of personal comfort.
The protagonist Ishwar Chand Awasthi, a 60-year old head clerk in a municipal corporation is one such man caught in the web of oppressing circumstances. He lost his wife many years back and raised his son alone.

However, the son and his wife now do not care for him. Having led his life as a typical government babu, he is also about to retire just when he comes to know that he has gastric cancer. A chirpy young woman colleague gives him the idea of utilising his remaining days in doing something for society.

So, he suddenly goes all out against his boss and the whole system to get a park and essential public lavatories built in a JJ colony where a lobby of religious leaders were pushing hard to get a temple built. It is only after Awasthi is dead and Brahmins of the area refuse to attend his tehrvi, that his son Umesh discovers the story behind it.

Inspite of the heavy-duty subjects taken up, the play remained interesting due to the use of directorial techniques like freezing characters in one part of the stage while the spotlight moves to another and then switching back, and other aesthetic innovations.

The serious tone of the play was offset by well-etched out characters of government officials like Tiwariji, who’s more interested in running his tent business than working for the municipal corporation and Khare - the sanitary officer who happens to be a part-time shayar.

The play would not have been the same without the excellent performances of each actor. Viren Basoya as Awasthi had a hoarse voice typical of old unwell men throughout, and left audience wondering if it was modulated or real. “I have trained very hard to develop that voice just for this play and it is very difficult to maintain it for 120 minutes.”

The performance of Bajrang Balsingh as Khare was great and he later confessed that his “love for Urdu shayari in real life” has helped him play this role better.

As the gifted director Arvind Gaur concluded, “This play touches a chord with anybody who views it because in real life too we are all looking for happiness, to do something for others in the short time that we have been granted on this earth by God. I hope Ek Mamooli Aadmi will continue to inspire people.”

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