With its familiar team of regulars running the show, as part of its 16th Annual Festival of the Arts, India International Centre presented Shabd Leela, a dramatised rendition of Dr. Dharamveer Bharti’s powerful and romantic words in Kanupriya, Andha Yug and Ek Sahityik Ke Prem Patra.

Conceived, designed and scripted by Ila Arun, the play was directed by K.K. Raina, presented by Surnai Theatre and Folk Arts Foundation, with Visuals by Arnab Chaudhary; Lights and sets by Salim Akhtar; and including Ila Arun, Rajeshwari Sachdev, Varun Badola, K.K. Raina, Abhishek Pandey, Gaurav Amlani, Mayank Pandey, Navneet Raina, and Avinash Kumar as the cast members. Kanupriya is a poetic representation of the relationship between Krishna and Radha, and describes Radha’s longing for Krishna when he leaves for Dwarka.

Ek Sahityik Ke Prem Patrais a personal collection of letters Dharamveer Bharti wrote to his wife Pushpa Bharti, and Andha Yug traces the last days of the epic Mahabharata.

In Hindi, Shabd Leela is a unique presentation of letters, poetry and drama. Surnai Theate and Folk Arts Foundation was established in 2016.

The Foundation is committed to uplifting women, beginning with the survival of the girl-child, her literacy, health and the seemingly insurmountable problem of child-marriage and widowhood.

The Surnai Foundation, with its focus on folk theatre, puppetry, and traditional story-telling forms like the phad hopes to reach out not only to urban audiences but also to rural platforms to carry these themes to villages in far-flung areas.

Ila Arun is an actor, singer, theatre person, music composer, dancer, director and producer.

She is also a passionate playwright, poet and lyricist. She has written 70 per cent of the lyrics of her ten music albums besides composing their music.

She has scripted one original play. Riyaz, and eight adaptations of Ibsen, llossa, Arbuzov, Rattigan and Fugard. She has just completed her second original play, Chhota Kashmir. K.K.Raina is a veteran in theatre, films and television for over thirty years, Ibsen’s Peer Gynt (Peer Ghani) and Ghosts (PeechhaKartiParchhaiyan), and Jon Fosse’s Death Variations are his latest directorial ventures.

The most recent is Shabd Leela, based on Dr. Dharamveer Bharti’s creative writing. With an illustrious crew as the play has gathered, the delivery seemed a tad monotonous.

Two people, flung each on the further most ends of the stage, endlessly reading on could get a bit tiresome for the audience.

Flawless diction and pronunciation are a basic requisite in theatre. Therefore, how, by now an accomplished actor, like Varun Badola could mispronounce some of the mildly Urdu words is not just surprising but disappointing as well.

Rajeswari Sachdeva as Pushpa, on the other hand, is a wizard with words, flawlessly pronouncing them at the trickiest of junctures. Ila Arun was her usual comfortable self on stage, utterly familiar and at home with her subject.

What one did miss though the actual air of romance, considering that these were a writer’s love letters! So while it was a great piece of literature, in spite of the suitable backdrops and lighting, as a stage performance it seemed to lack in the theatrical.

In any case in this day and age of pizza and torn jeans, it was gratifying indeed to hear such a spate of such chaste Hindi! Bless Dr Bharti, and the choice of selecting it.