The Shanmukhananda Theatre Festival – 2006 celebrates two things. A multilingual array of plays and a newly renovated auditorium (the M S Subbulakshmi Auditorium, Sion). Here are five stage productions that theatre directors and playwrights recommend as must-see
COTTON 56 POLYESTER 84 (HINDI)
The play is set in Girangaon, the township of cotton textile mills in Mumbai. It covers the mill worker’s movement through its various phases. But, not restricting itself there, it explores a section of the city’s underbelly and an associated culture that in a way affects every Mumbaikar. “It is an important piece of theatre, chronicling the history of the city and doing so at an apt time,” sums up theatre director and actor Jaimini Pathak.
Date and time: May 29, 7.30 pm Playwright: Ramu Ramanathan Director: Sunil Shanbag Venue: Shanmukhananda Auditorium
JUNGAL MEIN MANGAL (MARATHI) A creative adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, the play takes the Shakespearan tradition of males playing female characters a step forward – it has females playing male roles. It pushes boundaries with another renowned Shakespearan trademark – comedy. Slapstick and knockabout humour are weaved seamlessly with folk styles, never for a moment dropping the manic energy of the text. “Everybody’s seen Tim Supple’s grand version. Now watch how so much can be attained with so little,” comments playwright Ramu Ramanathan.
Date and time: June 2, 7.30 pm Adapted by: Chetan Datar Director: Chetan Datar Venue: M S Subbulakshmi Auditorium
Based on Raish Maniaar’s Astitva Ane Vyaktitva, the play explores the life of a poet-genius who loved alcohol, courted muses, and had to sell his verse to others who presented them as their own. An under-rated, but much read and loved Gulam Mohammed Shaikh, alias Mareez, is brought to life handsomely by an exacting performance, a reminiscent Kalbadevi backdrop (courtesy the sets), and finally by his poetry which is reason enough to buy that ticket. Or, as veteran director Sunil Shanbag puts it, “Mareez is as much a must-watch for the story as for the historical sense it has re-created.”
Date and time: June 3, 6.30 pm Playwright: Vinit Shukla Director: Manoj Shah Venue: M S Subbulakshmi Auditorium
DOWRI KALYANA VAIBHOGAME (TAMIL)
A creation of the ‘70s when entertainment had a compulsive social thrust. The vintage comedy personifies ‘dowry’ as a demon with different faces and depicts how its tortures middle-class families. “Besides the humour, what’s striking about the play is that it is relevant even today, 30 years after it was launched,” says Viji Iyengar, Vice President, Shanmukhananda Fine Arts & Sangeetha Sabha, instrumental in inviting the play to the festival.
Date and time: May 30, 7.30 pm Playwright: Visu Director: Kathadi Ramamurthy Venue: Shanmukhananda Auditorium
MAHADEVBHAI (1892-1942) (ENGLISH)
A play that continues on the favourites list despite having being around for a while, it looks at the period mentioned in its title through Mahadev Desai, Mahatma Gandhi’s secretary. Using a pronounced storytelling style, Jaimini Pathak hop-scotches through many a historical character and date, being both engrossing and meaningful. It talks of values of a bygone era, and reveals their current relevance. “Mahadevbhai is a must-watch because of two things – its simplicity and its subject,” says Chetan Datar, theatre director and playwright.
Date and time: June 4, 6 pm Playwright: Ramu Ramanathan Director: Ramu Ramanathan Venue: M S Subbulakshmi Auditorium