'Satyashodak' that made a superstar weep

Shriram Lagoo, one of the most celebrated actors of Marathi cinema was among the audience present, when the play ‘Satyashodak’, by Pune Municipal Corporation Workers Union was staged for the first time.

Most actors on stage were harbouring stage fright, rendering them numb, as they were acting for the very first time.

At the end of the play however, Shriram was in tears, recalls Naganath Gaikwad, a 62 year old singer and a safai karmachari.

“I used to sweep the streets of Pune, and I still continue to do that when I am not acting,” said Savithra Chimmanbise, a theatre artiste.

Sandeep More’s routine, before being absorbed into the troupe, was to wake up in the morning and empty the dustbins, which were filled by the filth disposed by the residents of Pune.

Different story

With 15 safai karmacharis on stage, each person had a different story of their humble backgrounds to narrate, before they engrossed themselves in their performance of ‘Satyashodak’ - The Truth Seeker, for the 105th time. Apart from the 15 safai karmacharis, there are 10 young artistes and technicians who are also part of the troupe.

For Atul Pethe, director of the play, Satyshodak, is about raising the voices of the unheard. “Theatre is for all, especially the backward sections such as safai karmacharis. Theatre is an opportunity for these sections to express themselves, and thereby make a political statement,” he said.

Documentary

After having worked for a documentary, ‘The Garbage Trap’, that tried to shed light on the lives of such workers, Atul said that he was disturbed by the health, social, political and economic conditions of a community that worked to keep the city clean.

Following the documentary, G P Deshpande’s play, based on the life of 18th century social reformers Jothiba Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule, was chosen by Atul, to depict the turmoils faced by safai karmacharis in the 21st century.

“The safai karmacharis have amazing talent in performing arts. Their felicity in music - both vocal and instrumental - made me take up this project,” Atul said. It took a six month long theatre workshop to train them.

States

After two years and performances in several states of the country, it is clear that people are interested in knowing about the lives of these people, he said.

The play, which was performed twice on the last day of Bahuroopi, dealt with several issues that had affected social harmony in the 18th century and continues to prevail fractionally even today.

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