Saturday, October 05, 2013

Ashadhatil ek diwas

It opens with a sound of thunder and lightning. Accompanied by deep sonorous plucking of the Veena. Yes, it is definitely Ashaadh. The play (directed by Atul Pethe) takes us back to 5th century India during the time of the Gupt Empire. It is the story of Kaviraj Kalidas himself. Through a minimal set, authentic looking costumes, beautiful stage lighting and some rich background music, the mood is set right for an epic performance. The play scores full marks as far as the technical aspects are concerned. And for the artistic expression, it scores much more. The actors move as if they are dancing, controlled and precise. Yet even the slightest movement is seeped in emotion. Almost every other frame is exquisitely choreographed. The language (originally written by Mohan Rakesh and translated in Marathi by Jyoti Subhash), especially specific words, are chosen from old Marathi which adds to the overall period effect. But the expressions and body language feels strikingly contemporary. This gives the story a timeless quality. The characters are few and layered. Each is given its own time and space to develop on stage. There is no rush (of course the impatient among the audience might think of this as boring, but then you don't go for such plays if you want cheap and fast entertainment).

[Spoiler Alert. If you can, watch the play. If not, read on.]

The main character Mallika (played sincerely by Parna Pethe) is one among us. Perhaps more virtuous but filled with all the same emotions. She is willing to nudge past orthodox traditions and live a happy and fun filled life with her love, Kalidas. He (played by Alok Rajwade) on the other hand is a poet to the core. Doesn't give a hoot about money, status, fame or what fellow villagers think of him.

Act I - He leaves...

A copy of Kalidas's Ritusamhar reaches the court of Emperor Chandragupta and he is awed by it. He offers the post of Rajkavi to Kalidas. After years of ridicule and being considered a general failure by all, suddenly, he gets the ultimate recognition. But being the person he is, Kalidas refuses the Emperor's offer. Mallika realizes that this can be a turning point in his career. He can go from being a local nature poet to a world renowned one, read by millions. She makes him promise that he will go to Ujjain. Even if that means leaving her, the village and all that he holds dear. Why does she do it? It is considered a magnanimous, self-sacrificing gesture by all. But is it really? Why do we want the people we love to achieve what we want? He almost begs to stay, but is made to leave. And so he does.

Act II - He returns...almost

Many years go by and Kalidas does not return. Mallika is left solitary, spending her life looking after her sick mother Ambika (played by Jyoti Subhash). Kalidas writes many great epics during this time and news of his work reaches Mallika through traders passing by. She worships every word he has written and secretly wishes that one day he will return. In the meanwhile Vilom (played in characteristic style by Om Bhutkar), starts courting Mallika and wins the confidence of her mother. He is kind of a anti-thesis of Kalidas. Always bitter, always inconsiderate, but seldom wrong. In another part of the world Kalidas has married into the royal family and has become a man of great power. Once, while travelling to take over the reigns of a distant land he stops in his old village. Mallika is thrilled, but for reasons then unknown. he leaves without meeting her. She is heart-broken and though she maintains her outward aloofness she now starts to lose hope.

Act III - He returns...but too late

The lust for power has taken its toll on Kalidas. A time comes when he can take it no more. He runs away from that life and wanders in the wilderness for many days. Weary and defeated he comes to Mallika to find solace. But time has forced her to move on. She has married [Update: I misunderstood this part in the play. Thanks Krutarth and Tushar for the correction] is immutably tied to Vilom now, having a child from him. Both are unhappy but the unhappiness has grown from the seeds of their own mistakes. If you wish to leave your small world to explore the vast world outside, you have to accept the fact that you may loose both. And to do this for the wish of someone else, even if that someone else is a person dear to you, is stupid if not criminal.

Overall I felt it was a wonderful experience. This kind of theater is not seen much. Perhaps because it takes a lot of effort on the part of the audience also to sink into the world that the director has created. But the show was packed and many more will be. It is heartening to known that such audience still exists.

[Photo courtesy http://www.mytheatrecafe.com]

3 comments:

Krutarth said...

Hi.Thank you for such a wonderful review.There is small correction.In the third act vilom and Mallika are not married but they had a child due to circumstances which cant be avoided by Mallika.

siddhya said...

Hi Krutarth,

Thanks for your comment. I will make the correction. But is this mentioned in the play and i missed it while watching, or you know this from somewhere else?

siddhya said...

[posted on behalf of Tushar]

Hello,
I read your review on the play "Ashadhatil Ek Diwas" on your blog. It was a wonderful one, thanks for it. I am associated with that play, that's why I just want to inform you about one correction, that needs to be there in that review. it's the same thing that Krutarth has mentioned in his comment on your review, somehow I couldn't comment there, because of some technical problem there or reasons unknown, so I am sending you this mail.
Mallika is actually not married to Vilom, she just had a child with him, because of the circumstances, and this has been mentioned in the play, in Mallika's monolgue she performs in the third act, just before Kalidas enters her house.This might have been missed while watching the play, but it's there in the play.
It will be kind and generous of you if you make this little, but important, correction in that review. We have actually made a page on facebook of this play and we are sharing everything written and talked about our play on that play, so it would be better if there is no misinterpretations of the facts about this play if one reads these reviews. But again, Thanks again for writing such a wonderful and detailed review about our play.

Thanks and Best Regards,
Tushar Gunjal.