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Of mice and men!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Being Association, the theatre group founded by Rasika Agashe and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, started a Hindi play-writing competition last year, that led to the Sanhita Manch Theatre Festival.

In the second year, the competition saw an overwhelming response with a hundred entries, and three of the winning plays were staged at the festival.

'Harus Marus', written by Mukesh Nema and directed by Rasika Agashe, is a unique tale of humans and rats. Rats living in the warehouse of a village landlord, have been gnawing at bags of grain and causing damage. The landlord (Vipul Nagar) is mean-spirited enough to forbid his poor workers from taking the wheat scattered by the rats. He wants Garibprasad (Vikas Tripathi) to kill the rodents, but the poor man is hesitant, because rats are the vehicle of Lord Ganesha. Among the colony of rats are Harus (Saurabh Thakare) and Marus (Atul Kadam) – two white mice, who can speak like humans.

The landlord's selfie-obsessed wife (Vaishnavi Dubey) persuades Garibprasad to kill the rats, in return for which she would give him money for his older daughter's engagement. Instead of killing the rodents, he drives them out, and ends up taking Harus and Marus home, where his younger daughter keeps them as pets.

The landlord refuses the promised money, because Garibprasad did not kill the rats, which is when Harus, Marus and their clan decide to help the family.

The satire about humans being worse off than rats comes across in an entertaining manner, with songs (Amod Bhatt) and the large cast performing with enthusiasm.

'Pashmina', written by Mrinal Mathur, and directed by Sajida, is a serene and moving piece about an elderly couple (Joy Maisnam, Barnali Medhi) going to Kashmir, where their only son, a soldier was killed. Meeting a seller or Pashmina shawls (Mohan Joshi), who is also grieving the death of his son, they somehow find closure. Without overstating anything, the play talks about the devastation of Kashmir by militancy, the forced eviction of the Pandits and the young lives needlessly lost.

'Nirala' written by Ashwini Kumar Tiwari and directed by Rajinder Singh, is about eminent Hindi poet-novelist Suryakant Tripathi Nirala. Written in a non-linear style, with three actors playing Nirala at three stages of his life, the play would appeal more to those familiar with his work, and that of his contemporaries and friends, Mahadevi Verma and Sumitranandan Pant.

The three productions showed that even with simple staging, the power of words and performances can engage the audience. The Sanhita Manch initiative will hopefully grow, and over the next few years, give Hindi theatre in the country a bank of fine original plays.

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