Is it the Indian theatre or a mixture of theatre traditions from various cultures and languages? The week-long national theatre festival, Kalinga Natya Mahotsav, organised by Shatabdira Kalakar, Bhubaneswar, tried to find answers to this question with theatre buffs gathering in large numbers for the event. It was the 15th edition of the annual theatre festival being hosted by Shatabdira Kalakar.
Festival director and general secretary of Satabdira Kalakar, Dhira Mallick said the festival is the only of its kind in the State that is organised with support from the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi and Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre, Kolkata. “Since we invite established theatre troupes from various parts of India, the theatre fraternity and audience get exposure to the latest developments taking place in Indian theatre scenario,” Mallick maintained.
The festival mounted at Rabindra Mandap showcased works of directors who have in many ways carved niche for themselves in the field. The multilingual drama fest this time featured troupes from Odisha, Bengal, Kashmir, Bhopal and Jharkhand.
The inauguration by Culture Minister Maheswar Mohanty was followed by a historical Odia play, ‘Kharavela’, based on the life of King Kharavela, staged by artistes of Satabdira Kalakar. Third Bell theatre group from Bhopal did something unusual on the second day. Director Anoop Joshi patched Uday Sahane’s Hindi translations of two separate Vijay Tendulkar one-acts into one narrative titled Please Mat Jao. The play was about three people in search of love and happiness. In the first, Rajiv played by Chandrahas Tiwari leaves his lover Savita played by Preeti Jha to whom he had returned after his marriage had broken up. In the second, he gives shelter to a woman Sujata, played by Bhavna Singh, from a disreputable area but she walks out when he pleads with her to stay.
While artistes of Ranga Mancha troupe from Rourkela staged ‘Suna Parikha Dandadhari’ on the third day depicting the story of a poor rickshaw puller, Yogendra Chaube, an NSD graduate based in Chhattisgarh, brought to this festival a story of Vijaydam Detha (1926), titled “Pakhandi Baba” on day four.
It was an experimental theatrical piece that aimed at conveying a contemporary sensibility through the dynamic folk form. While retaining the earthy humour and dynamic flow of action of the original, the director indicted the existing political class.
The basic theme was about a cunning young man who manages to fool people by declaring himself a saint. Emboldened by the unprecedented success of his roguery, he decides to join the ranks of politicians to amass money.
On all the four days, the stage was elegantly designed with minimal properties and the actors established a lively rapport with the audience.
The final three days were dedicated to Bengali, Kashmiri and Odia plays. Bengali play ‘Patol Babu Film Star’, directed by Ramprasad Bainik, was staged by Purba Paschim from Kolkata. An adaptation of Satyajit Ray’s short story, ‘Patol Babu Film Star’ was about a one-time theatre actor, Patol Babu, in his 50s, struggling without a regular job and family responsibilities who has nearly forgotten his love for acting. He is given a chance to play a part in a movie. His enthusiasm about the possibilities that this might bring him success is dampened when he realises at the movie set that his role is fleeting. Partha Sarathi Deb’s performance as Patol Babu was remarkable for his articulate communication, interesting gestures and spontaneity that made it engrossing.
The Kashmiri play Krouch, directed by Reshi Rashid and enacted by artistes of Roshan Art Centre, was an adaptation of Kabuliwala by Rabindranath Tagore. The festival’s finale was an Odia play Muthaye Mati, staged by the city-based New Repertory Theatre. Directed by Nalini Nihar Nayak, the play portrayed the gradual shift of villagers from farming to industrial sector.
Evoking a tremendous response from theatre activists and theatre-lovers of Bhubaneswar, the festival manifested Satabdira Kalakar’s determination to keep its tradition of artistically brilliant and socially relevant theatre alive.