Folk form enhances theatrics

The rasiks wonder why the spotlight falls on people stationed at a raised platform on the stage first.

Within no time, one of them beats a drum and others join him by playing various instrume­nts.

The musical sojourn at National School of Drama’s Abhimanch thus initiated he Final year students’ production.

One after the other, actors filled the stage, some singing, others dancing and rest accompanying them. It looked like a village, recreated on stage.

Soon a man dressed in rather urban clothes (as compared to the villagers) introduces the family of Ramach­andra Mangaraj and the story of Chhe Bigha Zameen unfolds in the format of ‘Pala gayan’ – folk narrative technique of Odisha.

Theatrically adapted from the novel Chhe Maan Aath Gunth (Six Acres and a Third) written by Fakir Mohan Senapati, the play does justice to the original work.

“Presenting a novel on stage has its problems,” admits Robin Das, the director, in his note in the brochure. A viewer feels the same as Das dramatises everything that is there in the novel and to be presented on the stage.

Das brings alive Fakir Mohan Senapati in the form of a narrator (played by Dhirendra Tiwari), who helps him in steering the narrative.

Chapter by chapter, Senapati recites the account of events as mentioned in the book and the story of Mangaraj evolves as an evil zamindar who exploits poor peasants. An issue that was prevalent in the times of the novelist.

The narrative-style appears Shakespearean due to the presence of specific characters and the underlying theme of tragedy.

But the interest throughout the two-hour-ten-minute performance is maintained only due to the supportive music – both live and recorded.

From the cymbals to the tabla, the musicians do a wonderful job of adding the  dramatic element to the play in the real sense!

In the absence of music, the verbose dialogues are difficult to understand and enjoy. Delivered in shudh Hindi, the dialogues are engaging but rendered at such a fast pace by the actors, that the audience is left wondering, trying to understand what went above their head.

Especially, when the story (of a rich zamindar duping a poor farmer through his tactics) has been narrated time and again. Otherwise capable of evoking all the nine rasas, the tale gains momentum with introduction of comic element intelligently blended with the mundane.

This is evident in scenes where the narrator fears a beating from the sadhu.
This treatment of the subject makes the audience feel gratified.

Even the use of the shadow effect to represent court proceedings and the projection of bagule (heron) with hand props highlights the ace sensibility of the director.

However, the need for a contemporary touch, than just allowing actors to enter and exit stage from all possible points, would have made the narrative more interesting.

Nevertheless, the music by live artistes, revived the old days of storytelling experience. Thus the ones on whom the spotlight falls first, evolve as the stars of the show ultimately.

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