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Review of play Mahesh; classic story retold for contemporary times

Shapno Ekhon, a well-known theatre group based in Delhi NCR staged the play “Mahesh” at LTG auditorium on the occasion of Bengal Theatre Fest organised by Karol bagh Bangiya Samsad as part of their yearlong Diamond Jubilee celebration recently.

Dilip Guha | New Delhi |

An impressive drama based on a powerful storyline. The overall treatment is sensitive as well as thrilling alongside the universal appeal of the issue leaves the audience captivated.

Shapno Ekhon, a well-known theatre group based in Delhi NCR staged the play “Mahesh” at LTG auditorium on the occasion of Bengal Theatre Fest organised by Karol bagh Bangiya Samsad as part of their yearlong Diamond Jubilee celebration recently.

Mahesh was penned, designed, and directed by Shomik Ray who has been associated with the group since its inception in 2009.

The story of the play is essentially a contemporary interpretation of the famous novel of the same name by famous Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. He, very poignantly, paints the picture of a typical rural family where relations and bonds extend beyond humans to include the livestock as well.

Talking about the play with The Statesman director Shomik Ray said, “The story assumes significance in the currently prevailing environment of religious bigotry, intolerance, and the politics of cow-protectionism perpetuating nationwide hatred towards a certain religious community. The story uses the backdrop of a communal riot in Bulandshahr and presents images to the audience leaving them to interpret. The production takes theatrical liberty to depart from the text of the novel to draw parallels to current times and events.”

The storyline of the one-hour-long play revolves around the suffering of poor village farmer Gafur. The role is skillfully played by the director himself.

Gafur, in his most trying of times, refuses to part or harm Mahesh, the family bovine who is no less a son to him as Amina (played by Riddhi Mishra) is his daughter. But the hawkish elements of society have always loved to paint in black or white using religion, caste, and language as dividing lines to their own benefits. Gafur is pushed to the wall and kills Mahesh in a fit of rage and is forced to part with his family. The opportunistic society is quick to paint the event in the colours of convenience. The play ends with his passionate prayer for his Mahesh.

Notable was the modern design of the play with minimal stagecraft and lots of imagery to establish contexts and settings.

Actors played multiple roles and the shifted smoothly from one role to the other. Use of lights and music were imaginative. The blend of a classic story from the ninetieth century with a current incident was perfect and the political statements emerging were bold and clear. The use of multiple acting styles ranging from classical melodramatic for the main story to subtle-suggestive for the contemporary part added dimensions to the presentation.