The sixth National Theatre Festival, Jashn-E-Rang (Celebration of Theatre) was organised by Little Thespian at Gyan Manch in Kolkata. The six-day extravaganza, financially assisted by the ministry of culture, Government of India, came as an example of excellent team work by young enthusiasts.
The inaugural ceremony was graced by dignitaries like Kusum Khemani (president, Bhartiya Bhasha Parishad), Sanjay Upadhyay (director, Madhya Pradesh School of Drama), Kamal Ahmed (Urdu playwright), Sheo Jhunjhunwala, (theatre director) and several others. Padmashree Ram Gopal Bajaj (theatre veteran) emphasised on the need of such theatre presentations on a regular basis. Uma Jhunjhunwala, president of Little Thespian group, hosted the inauguration and the felicitation of dignitaries.
The opening day saw Kahan Gaye Mere Ugna (Hindi), based on Ugna Re Mor Katey Gelah. It was scripted by Usha Kiran Khan and presented by Nirman Kala Manch, Patna, while the musical score and direction was by Sanjay Upadhyay. It told the life-story of Vidyapati — the immortal poet from Mithila — who was an advisor to five rulers from the Oinwar dynasty that was under the control of the Sultans of Delhi and Jaunpur. Vidyapati was close to Raja Shiv Singh and Rani Lakhima of Mithila and many of his songs are dedicated to them. He stopped the widow of King Padam Singh from performing sati and helped her to administer the kingdom. The poet died at the age of 107.
On the second evening, playwright Mani Madhukar’s Dulari Bai was staged by Anurag Kala Kendra, Bikaner, under the direction of Sudhesh Vyas. It was a story in which the Rajasthani folk drama Rammat, Holi songs, traditional marriage songs and other festive songs added colour. Dulari Bai is a rural woman who is a miser in love with only gold and money but Kallu Bhand traps and marries her. It is then that she realises that love and human relations are much more important than riches. The play was a laugh riot but despite being a comedy, it gave out an important message of love.
Sayed Haider Ali — revered Urdu playwright who has authored almost 70 books including plays, stories and translations — was felicitated for his contribution to theatre prior to An Adda with Padmshri Ram Gopal Bajaj and other theatre personalities on the third day. It focused on various aspects and the current situation of Indian theatre. Eminent personalities from the world of theatre discussed and debated how it is a powerful medium to change society’s outlook, how it is perceived by present society, how cinema altered the progress of theatre and the decline of Hindi and Urdu theatre in Kolkata.
The session also saw a presentation of poems and some literary pieces by Ram Gopal Bajaj and Azhar Alam.
Next up, Prem Aprem — a play based on a collage of two stories penned by Kusum Khemani — was enacted by Little Thespian, Kolkata, and directed by Uma Jhunjhunwala. The stories had a common thread of unconditional love as the underlying theme. The first story Ek Maa Dharti Si dealt with the love of a mother for her son while Ek Achambha Prem showed the unconditional love of a husband for his indifferent wife.
The second half of the day four experienced the brilliance of the dying art of Qissa Khwani (dramatic reading of story) performed by some elite artists. Thereafter, Hamzameen (Avadhesh Preet) was presented by Dinesh Vadera and Dilip Dave. It was about two dead people who had perished during communal riots but were buried in the same graveyard despite coming from different faiths. In their graves, they discuss about life and death and ask a pertinent question — Why do we have to be so petty-minded?
The next story was Tikaton Ka Sangrah originally written by Carl Chapek and translated by Nirmal Verma. It was about a man who as a child loved collecting tickets.
An incident happens, which changes the course of his life or rather he changes himself. Now as an old man of 60, another incident occurs, which takes him to the confession box of the church.
Earlier, May be This Summer, a play by Unicorn Actors Studio, Delhi, written and directed by Tripurari Sharma, looked into the life of a man and woman who lived together in an urban metropolis where the trend is catching on.
The play explored the nature and complexities of such a relationship and it also brought out the conflict between moral and socio-cultural values and individual freedom.
The penultimate day was reserved for Welcome Zindagi, a play by Aakar Kala Sangam, Delhi. Originally a Gujarati play, this is a top class piece written by Saumya Joshi about middle class, ordinary, real people.
The story was a dramatic depiction of relationships between parents and their son. It delved into the myriad emotions and psychological interplay that prevents people from accepting another’s point of view. In all of this, the mother was the bridge, doing her best to set things right. She in fact was also a tongue-in-cheek sutradhar (narrator) with the keenest sense of humour.
That was followed by a session of Qissa Khwani or dramatic reading. The first was Gadar Ke Baad by Jyotish Joshi and Uma Jhunjhunwala, a piece penned by the legendary Hindi writer Jainendra Kumar. It was based on the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 and focused on love and goodwill, which was indestructible and give meaning to life.
The second piece was Meri Rotiyan Kahan Hain by Jeetendra Singh and Mamta Pandey. The Safi Jawed piece was a sensitive story about haves and have-nots.
The final evening showcased Balkan Ki Aurtein (Urdu/Hindi), by Little Thespian, Kolkata. Playwright Jules Tasca’s translator is Uma Jhunjhunwala and it was directed by Mushtaq Kak. It was a thought-provoking, powerful play where the characters are crafted with wonderful complexity.
It brought to the forefront, the universal issue that human relationships are above religion and war.
Little Thespian began the groundwork of the festival much earlier through a three-month-long “Dramatic Recitation of Poetry and Story-Telling”. As the optimistic culmination of the theatre fest, the final presentation of these students was staged at Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad Hall before an erudite panel of jury members including personalities like SM Azhar Alam and Mahesh Jaiswal. The youngsters recited rich Hindi poems and stories penned by immortal litterateurs. It was definitely a commendable step to expose youngsters to the rich literary tradition of Hindi and Urdu.