When an Elephant Met the God of Death

City Express speaks to artiste Arjun Deo Charan on his play Jamleela and what he hopes to catch at the ongoing theatre festival in the city

Published: 19th January 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th January 2015 01:30 AM   |  A+A-

VASANTHNAGAR: Arjun Deo Charan, Rajasthani poet and writer, is  in town for the national theatre festival, Ranga Bharati organised by Kendra Sahitya Akademi. His play Jamleela was staged on Saturday and he will speak in today’s seminar at Gurunanak Bhavan, Millers Tank Bund Road during the 12 o clock  session on Playwrights Speak: Writing for Stage. City Express caught up with him amid his busy schedule.

On Jamleela, a play he both penned and directed: It’s a socio-political satire, easy to digest. An elephant dies and its spirit goes to Yamlok. Yamraj says: “Why are you here, your death is untimely.” So the elephant replies saying, “There’s a creature on earth called Neta, a politician, and there’s nothing he can’t do.” The God of Death’s curiosity is aroused and he asks the elephant to bring him to Yamlok, which he does. In no time, the politician wreaks havoc in Yamraj’s world like he does on the earth below. Vishnu hears of it, and brings the situation back to normal by uprooting one man. So the elephant asks the saviour, “What of my world, can you set things right there as well?”

Till here, the play is comic and fun, but nearing its conclusion, it takes on a more serious tone. And Vishnu says, “In a democracy, it’s up to the people in terms of what they tolerate and what they let pass. If they tolerate evil, they should also know that they can’t blame anyone else for it.”

“Originally in Rajasthani, I translated the play into Hindi for the audience here. The production, which took off eight to nine years ago, has travelled to all the major festivals in India.

On the theatre festival: This is the first time that Sahitya Akademi has organised a theatre festival like this. Usually, it’s seminars, lectures and the like. Drama makes up a large chunk of literature, and until they are performed, plays are incomplete. So this is a welcome move.

Plays he wants to watch here: I have already watched Bhanu Bharati’s play (Tamasha Na Hua) once. But I haven’t watched Kambar’s (Kirimaayi), Shivaprakash’s (Maaranaayaka) and Waman Kendre’s (Mohe Piya). They are much discussed plays, and I’m looking forward to them. I will watch all the plays.

On Kannada theatre: You have Karnad and Kambar, and you’ve had Shivaram (Karanth). Even many of the earlier poets have written great plays. Among directors, Kannada theatre has produced greats like (B V) Karanth, Prasanna and even Basavalingaiah. There’s a rich tradition here that has contributed to theatre in the rest of India as well.


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