Friday, September 30, 2005


A Hindi production of Mahesh Dattani's Final Solutions comes to Mumbai

Deepa Gahlot

Final Solutions is one of Mahesh Dattani's best known plays, it has had several productions (including one at Bangalore's Rang Shankara earlier this year), and won the playwright Mahesh Dattani a Sahitya Akademi Award.

His fifth play was eerily prescient, since it was written in 1991 before the Mumbai communal riots. The first production of the play to be directed by Dattani himself in Bangalore, was cancelled due to its volatile content. A little later, when the riots had given it a frightening relevance, Alyque Padamsee did a critically acclaimed production in Mumbai.

The play is about a Hindu family sheltering two Muslim boys during a riot, during the course of which deep seated prejudices are uncovered.

Mumbai will see a Hindi version of the play (Shahid Anwar adapted it), directed by Arvind Gaur, at the ongoing National Theatre Festival at Nehru Centre.

Arvind Gaur who heads the Delhi-based theatre group Asmita has done over 48 plays in the 12 years since he set up the group, and most of them have been socially relevant; Girish Karnad's Tuglaq, Dharamveer Bharti's Andha Yug, Dario Fo's An Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Munshi Premchand's Moteram Ka Satyagrah, Ashok Lal's Ek Mamooli Aadmi, Pinki Virani's Bitter Chocolate, Bhishma Sahani's Madhavi, Manjula Padmanbhan' Hidden Fires to name a few.

His latest production, Mr Jinnah was banned in Delhi leading to widespread protests by the theatre community. Final Solutions is still as powerful as when it was first performed-though it has been criticized for being a one-sided portrayal of communalism. The play examines the problem of communalism from the days of Partition to the present, through the eyes of three generations of a Gujarati Hindu family.

Hardika, the grandmother, cannot forget the Partition trauma, the betrayal by a Muslim friend and her father's murder. Her son lives with the guilt that his fortunes were founded on the ashes of a Muslim establishment burnt down by a Hindu mob. Hardika's daughter-in-law is a strict Hindu and the granddaughter cannot think of a relationship with a Muslim boy. The inner turmoil is exposed when two Muslim boys, Babban and Javed, being chased by Hindu rioters seek refuge in their house.

While a verbal and spiritual tug of war goes on, a Chorus comments on the conflicts faced by the characters-a device that helps put the various issues into perspective in the intense and disturbing play.

Gaur says in his Director's Note: " Final Solutions touches us, and the bitter realities of our lives so closely that it becomes a difficult play to handle for the Indian director. The past begins top determine the outlook of the present and thus the earlier contradictions reemerge. No concrete solutions are provided in the play to the problem of communalism but it raises questions on secularism and pseudo secularism. It forces us to look at ourselves in relation to the attitudes that persist in the society. Since it is an experiment in time and space and relates to memory, it is a play, which involves a lot of introspection on the part of the characters in the play and thus induces similar introspection in the viewers."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005




Direction - Arvind Gaur

1st oct 2005 at 7.30 p.m.,

Gandhi Smriti ,30 January Marg,New Delhi



When respect is denied to a man for the only reason that he is borne by ‘low-caste’ parents, the offence cannot simply be termed as a social violence. It assumes larger proportions of crime against humanity and society at large.

Yet by the turn in situation the murderer becomes a winner whereas the victim is unforgiven. The culprit may receive severe punishment at the hands of the law but, in fact, it is the society which is put in the docks.

Court Martial,written by Swadesh Deepak, is a story of recruit Ram Chander who is tried for murdering one of his officers and injuring another. The Court Martial is presided by a war veteran.

Col. Surat Singh who has witnessed many ‘life –and –death’ situation. But this trial puts him in a queer position, so far unknown to him, and during the course of interrogation he realize that the issues at stake are much larger than what meets the eye. Realizing that the Indian Army is the only government agency in which reservation on caste basis is not permissible. Court Martial presents a combination of legal and poetic justice.


Tight pace of Court Martial….not to be missed .

- Kavita Nagpal (H.T.)

Gaur’s hard hitting realism…..His infinitely intelligent approach….strong play.

- Aruna Ahluwalia (E.News)

Kudos to Court Martial….a drama that went beyond the limits of drama .

- (Indian Express)
The Asmita team has created a marvelous piece of theatre out of a wonderful script….don’t miss it. The times spent watching it is well worth it.

-Smita Narula (Pioneer)

Stealing scenes with revolt as the theme ….Court Martial was an engrossing display of theatre for social awareness.

-Sushama Chadha (T.O.I.)

Excellent acting, live and memorable…..worth visit.

-Ajit Rai (N.B.T.)


ASMITA (A Sedulous Move for Innovative Theatre Activities) stands committed to aesthetically innovative and socially relevant theatre. It takes up contemporary issues to underline the contours of our time while providing the best of entertainment. It is today one of the leading hindi theatre groups in the country.
To date, it has 48 production to its credit and on an average has been performing for about 60 nights a year.
All these plays have been directed by Asmita’s Resident, Director Arvind Gaur. For ASMITA, theatre has a purpose of awakening the audience to contemporary issue and creating a dialogue on prevailing social problems.
It has carved a niche for itself in the Indian theatre scene by staging plays of varied socio-political interest while not losing out mass appeal.


(In order of appearance)

Col. Surat Singh : Susan Brar
Judge consultant- I : Sandeep Srivastava

Judge consultant­-II : Amita Walia
Judge-III: Shamim Gandhi / Rajesh Mishra

IV: Sunil rawat / Mohit Chabbra
V: Rajesh Kumar / Awadesh Kr.

Major Ajay Puri : Ajeet Kumar Mahato
Capatian Bikash Rai : Pushpraj Rawat

Subedar Balwan Singh : Prageet Pandit

Cap. Dr. Gupta : Vipin Arora

Lt. Col. Breajendra Rawat : Amit Rana
Captian BD. Kapoor : Akhilesh Praveen
Ramchander : Rohan Madeshya

Soldier -I : Shilendra Bist
Soldier –II : Rakesh Shah


Ramchadar : Sidharth Dubey
Capatian Kapoor : Tanmay /Siddarth Dubey
Mrs. Kapoor : Anupam Pachauri

Soldiers : Sanjay Chawhan, Kartik Shah, Abhijit, Suleman Khan, Aman Sharma,

Deepak Rajor,Abeer Mourya, Amit Baisoya, Sharad Verma, Prabhakar Ranjan,

Abhishek Sharma, Rajesh raj, Nitin Garg,Ashutosh Das

Music : Dr. Sangeeta Gaur


Sunil Rawat,Sharad Verma,Akhilesh Praveen,Ajit Mahto,Susan Brar,Kranti Pratap Singh,Sandeep Srivastava


Arvind Gaur who heads the Delhi , based Theatre group ASMITA is committed to innovative and socially relevant theatre. Starting off as a journalist and working for sometime for the electronic media, he set up ASMITA and earned a reputation in theatre circle in India and abroad.

In the past 12 years, he has directed 48 major plays which include Girish Karnad's Tuglaq and Rakt Kalyan, Dharamveer Bharti's Andha Yug, Swadesh deepak's Court
Martial, G P Deshpande's Antim Divas, Albert Camus' Caligula, Mahesh Dattani's Final Solutions and Tara, Eugene O'neill 's Desire Under the Elms, Dario Fo's An
Accidental death of an Anarchist, Dr.Narenda Mohan's Kalandar, Bertolt Brecht's Good Woman of Setzuan and Caucasian chalk circle, Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot, John Octanasek's Romeo Juliet and the darkness, Neil Simon's The Good
Doctor, Vijay tendulakr's Ghairam Kotwal, Munshi Premchand's Moteram ka Satyagrah, Ashok Lal's Ek Mamooli aadmi, Rajesh Kumar's Me Gandhi Bolto ,Vijay Mishra 'sTatt Niranjana, Doodnath Singh's Yama Gatha,
Women in Black ( written & acted by Bubbles Sabharwal) ,Untitled Solo by Lushin dubey, Uday Prakash's Warren Hastings ka Saand, Pinki Virani's Bitter Chocolate,(solo by lushin Dubey) ,

Bhishma Sahani's Madhavi & Manjula Padmanbhan' Hidden Fires ( both solo by actress Rashi Bunny),Walking Through the Rainbow ( joint production with PCVC, solo by Rashi Bunny) & Gandhari ( solo by Aishveryaa Nidhi).

Arvind Gaur has been invited to perform in theatre festivals organized by National School of Drama, (Bharat Rang Mahotsava), Sangeet Natak Akademi, Sahitya Kala Parisad,Nandikar and Vivachana Theatre Festival, Old World Theatre Festival,National School of Drama weekend theatre, Muktibodh Natya Samaroh,World Social Forum and Nehru Centre Festival Mumbai.

Arvind Gaur has conducted many theatre workshops and directed productions in different colleges & schools in Delhi. Such as L.S.R., I.P., Gargi, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Hindu college,I.I.T.(Delhi), Aditi college, School of Planning and Arhitecture (SPA),Mother International & Sahyadri school Pune, J.Krishnamurti Foundation India. Workshops for children in schools and slums as well as Street
Theatre performances on different socio-political issues organized and conducted by Arvind Gaur are many in number.

He has also conducted theatre workshops for Actors and Directors at Houston, USA and India Habitat centre, New Delhi. He also performed various plays in collobration with culture organizations like Theatre World, British Council ( channai) ,Paridhi, bahroop, Banjara Theatre group (IIT , Khargpur ),Rainbow Cavaliers ,3M Dot Band (Jaipur) , Vivchana (Jabalpur),Prithvi Theatre Festival ( platform theatre IHC ,2004) and NGOs like Mobile Crèches, Action Aid , Haq, PCVC, Deepalaya , Heinrich Boll Foundation ,Asian Social Forum, Youthreach and world social forum.

He also design lights for NAYA theatre under the Direction of Shri Habib Tanvir.

Director Arvind Gaur has also collaborated with various Theatre artists and Groups specially in exploring a new language for Solo performances which includes Dario fO's Story of the Tiger ,solo by Jaimini Kumar Srivastava ,'Women in Black' by Bubbles Sabharwal and "Untitled Solo" by Lushin Dubey in collaboration with THEATRE WORLD. Not only have these plays received great audience response from important metropolis of India, "Women in black" was invited to perform in Dubai and "Untitled Solo" was performed in Chicago, Dallas, Washington DC, Boston, Rochester , San francisco, Ohio, stanford, Harvard & Stony Brook Uni. in USA and at the Edinburgh Theatre Festival last year .

"Bitter Chocolate " a new solo by Lushin was also performed at Harvard (USA) & at Nehru Centre, London and Gandhari solo by Aishveryaa Nidhi was recently performed at NIDA theatre , Sydney.

With Rashi Bunny, young actress trained in Theatre design at University of Alabama at Birmingham and Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA. Arvind Gaur Has
directed three solos .Bhishma sahani's" Madhavi ", Manjula Padmanabhan's "Hidden fires " & Walking through the rainbow

Madhavi & Hidden fires has received rave reviews all over and have been invited to perform for Mahindra's OLD WORLD THEATRE FESTIVAL, Vivachana National Theatre
Festival Jabalpur, Muktibodh Natyaotsav raipur, 5th National Theatre Festival Balaghat ,World Social forum Mumbai and National School Of Drama (N.S.D.),
Satta Festival Jaipur, Theatre Club J.N.U., PCVC, and Queen's Award Project
(UK) for Communal Harmony.

Bishma Sahani's MADHAVI ,Solo by Rashi Bunny & directed by Arvind Gaur,received special award for best play in experimentaion with tradition at International Solo Theatre Festival Armenia.

For any communication purposes or information on Gandhi Festival you may please contact Times Foundation office at below mentioned :
Gandhi Festival Council, Times Foundation, Times of India Building,
7,Bahadurshah Zafar Marg, New Delhi –110 002.
Tel: -011 23302103 FAX: - 011 23319764
Email -



Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Mahesh Dattani's Play Final Solutions at Hindu College,16th sept,2005



Where :
Hindu College
University of Delhi

When :
September 16, 2005 @ 11.15 am

Translation by Shahid Anwar
Music By Dr.Sangeeta Gaur


On Stage

Hridika: Anupam Pachauri

Daksha(young Hridika):Sangeeta Das

Smita: Manisha

Ramnik: Girish Pal

Aruna: Amita Walia

Babban: Naresh Kabir

Javed: Susan Brar


Ajit Kr Mahato, Akhilesh Kr (Praveen), Vipin Arora,
Shailender Bisht, Sanjay, Siddharth Dubey, Rohan Madhesia,
Shamim Gandhi, Amit Rana, Pushpraj Rawat, Prageet Pandit,
Rakesh Kumar, Rajesh Kr Sangwan, Tanmay, Rajesh Mishra,
Sandeep Srivastava,Kranti Pratap singh

Off Stage

Set Execution : Ajit Kr Mahato, Akhilesh Kr (Praveen),
Sandeep Srivastava, Girish Pal

Property: Prageet Pandit, Pushpraj Rawat

Production Controller: Sandeep Srivastava

Brochure: Anupam Pachauri

Music: Dr. Sangeeta Gaur

translation : Shahid Anwar

Direction: Arvind Gaur

The Play was recently staged at the National Theatre Festival organised by Nehru Centre, Worli, Mumbai on 29th Aug,05 & also at Paavas Theatre Festival, organised by Manch Theatre Group (Dirctor Vijay Kumar )Patna,Bihar on 10th sept 2005.

In Retrospect: Select plays of the 9th National Theatre Festival .... Deepa Punjani

National Theatre :

Deepa Punjani

(The writer is Editor, Mumbai Theatre Guide, a practicing theatre critic and an academic keenly interested in 'Performance Studies'.).

The 9th national theatre festival organized by the Nehru Centre in Mumbai ended on September 1, 2005 with a Sanskrit play titled KARNABHARAM, written by Mahakavi Bhasa. According to the organizers, the play could be seen as a fitting end to a festival marked by a variety of forms, traditions and languages. Directed by Kavalam Narayana Panikkar, one of the well-known figures in the world of Indian theatre, the performance was a stylized representation in Sanskrit of an episode from the Mahabharata.

The play drew on the dance form of Kathakali and the martial art form of Kerela-Kalaripayttu to present its dramatic content. As is evident from the title of the play, the dramatic narrative revolved around Karna, Kunti's ill-fated son begot by the Sun God, Surya. Bhasa's play delineates Karna's hour of trial in the face of the raging war at Kurukshetra. On the one hand, his mother Kunti has pleaded with him not to kill his brother Arjuna, on the other Indra in the guise of a Brahamin takes advantage of Karna's large heart and deceives him into giving up his protective armour and earrings. Nevertheless, Indra repents his fraudulent action and sends a weapon to Karna with which he could kill one of the Pandavas.

Despite minor glitches with regards to the inability of a couple of actors to position themselves gracefully on the ground after one or the other aerial bodily movements, most of the other actors were practiced in their footwork and body movements. But stylization has its own problems and one such problem that seemed evident in a play of this kind was that character played second fiddle to form. While movement was competent as was the case especially with the actor who played Surya, the emotion that emanates from the being of the character and which is the pulse of drama remained largely muted.

What simply shone through was the dexterity with which the actors with the help of their bodies could create objects and images. The live music with the help of instruments and vocals nevertheless infused the play with an ambience that the character felt short of creating.

On a more contemporary note, Mahesh Dattani's FINAL SOLUTIONS directed by Arvind Gaur easily stood out as one of the few truly satisfying experiences of this eleven day treat for the senses. Presented by the Asmita theatre group (which is based in Delhi) and translated from English into Hindi by Shahid Anwar, Dattani's play seeks to de-sensationalize communalism and its extremities.

The subject that has often been prey to heightened drama (or melodrama?) finds itself reduced or rather alleviated to an objective inquiry in the manner of a behavioral psychologist or an anthropologist seeking to research its genealogy and later stages of development. And yet, despite the script's logical and questioning stance, it is pure drama with its narrative and characters weaving an engrossing story and a string of events for its audience to ponder upon.

This story concerns a Gujarati lady Hardika and her family. When the play opens, Hardika is both young and old. Her youth talks of the past while her aged self lives in a present, bitter and withdrawn. This stylistic device of using two actors consecutively to represent one character works very well in a play seeking to probe beyond the obvious. As the old Hardika is haunted by her trenchant memories, the youthful one although zestful is finally shown to break down in the face of a communal acrimony that results between her husband's family and his Muslim neighbours.

As the unpleasant memories of the past continue to hound Hardika, her son, Ramnik Gandhi too is shown suffering in the face of his own conscience. Redemption of the hatred and the guilt that is wrecking each comes in the form of two Muslim boys Javed and Babban who are sheltered by Ramnik Gandhi during a communal riot. Much against his mother and wife, Aruna's whishes, Ramnik Gandhi is drawn towards helping the two young boys. His teenage daughter Smita also uses the opportunity to confront her mother who is a staunch Hindu and to understand her own subtle prejudices owing to a religious and devout upbringing.

As the dramatic tension (neatly orchestrated by a chorus) rises in the play, the subterranean psyche of each character is laid bare. Abuses are hurled, raw passions are evoked, attempts at reconciliation are made and prejudices and fears are acknowledged. It is almost as if the characters have spent an afternoon in the psychologist's couch that has emotionally drained them.

The beauty of the script indeed lies in its ability to relentlessly and sensitively question. Its urgent need to use 'dialogue' as a remedy for a socially pressing issue such as communalism, is the play's underlying theme. Arvind Gaur's direction is commendable. While the front of the stage is peopled by the principal characters who are psychologically exorcizing themselves, the back part of the stage has a chorus whose role is as symbolic as it is instrumental in furthering the action in the play when required.

In the process, some evocative compositions are created on the stage and which by themselves serve to create symbolic connections between what the character is experiencing in the present and what s/he has been through in the past. Music designed by Dr. Sangeeta Gaur complements the performance well and although the actors could do better, the play succeeds in creating a charged and a thought-provoking atmosphere.

Yet another play in Hindi that was fairly engaging was ARTH DOSH presented by Third Bell Theatre of Bhopal and directed by Anoop Joshi 'Bunty'. ARTH DOSH is a Hindi translation of Albert Camu's THE MISUNDERSTANDING (Le Malentendu). While the director was at pains to make the audience reflect on the symbolism inherent in the set and the props used for the play after it was over, it was evident that most members of the packed auditorium on that evening had found the play boring and inaccessible to say the least.

Camus' vision of the world as absurd, the panoply of his characters trying to make sense of their existence seemed too foreign in a world engaged with incessant mobile phone rings that were particularly irksome that evening. But the audience could not be blamed completely. Although the actors gave controlled performances as befitting their characters, they were unable to project their voices well and that made people all the more restless.

Parts of a painted panel representing Christ's last supper were used as a figurative backdrop along with other metaphorical props to add a physical dimension to the plight of the characters in the play. In bits and parts, appropriate lighting also created an enigmatic mood, which was reflective of the characters' state of mind itself. Martha, the principal character who relentlessly murders her unsuspecting guests using her mother as a weary accomplice, offers a critique of a society in which a woman is made to compromise her dreams endlessly. Unfortunately again, that is the only aspect of the play that comes through in this Hindi translation of the original.

The play loses out on the socio-political and the cultural references of the French original. For instance, Camus it seems had written this play during World War II when France was occupied by Nazi forces. While Martha could be seen as a victim despite her seemingly superior status as an aggressor, there is no doubt that her motives also need to be examined with reference to the times she was living in. Murder is a cardinal sin as far as Christian morality is concerned. Could Camus be also using Martha as an extreme example with reference to the war in which there was no place for ethics or anything of the sort. Perhaps this could be another reason why a culturally different audience in time and space found it difficult to relate to the play.

After ZEN KATHA, playwright Pratap Sharma's latest offering to Lilette Dubey's Prime Time Theatre Company is SAMMY! - 'A word that broke an empire.' Unlike the former, which was cramped with anecdotal trivia, this one has at least attempted to get its fundamental research right. In the process, a history lesson, reminiscent of those cloying hours at school gets its deserved two-hour reprieve on the stage. Most of the actors were proficient (Joy Sengupta as Gandhi manages to give a decent performance despite his cultivated Gujarati accent betraying him at times) and the set is elegant. The music designed is not remarkable but agrees with the largely unquestioning treatment of the subject. Light-design is favourable.

So Mahatma Gandhi's biography gets yet another theatrical ministration and a device such as having two actors play Gandhi (Vijay Crishna plays Gandhi's alter-ego and conscience) helps to an extent to demystify the status of the 'father of the nation'. More often than not however, the play works at the level of pleasing recreation without leaving any space for a critique or a debate, considering the magnanimity and the scope of its subject. And I really wonder if it was necessary to make use of the evidently forced Gujarati accent… It sounded patently false, save for the genuine attempts that Neha Dubey (Kasturba) and Joy Sengupta (Gandhi) were making.

One of the best plays of the festival was Awishkaar's production of JUNGLE MEIN MANGAL. Adapted from Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, the play has indulged in cross casting and as a result one has male actors playing the female characters and vice-versa. The male actors do a superb job as against their female counterparts and set the stage for risqué entertainment a la Dada Kondke of popular Marathi culture.

The fantastical world of fairies hobnobbing with humans is made further entertaining by the introduction of a traditional folk form of Maharashtra- the lavani. Each of these diverse elements calls for a lesson in theatre aesthetics arising out of the imaginative use of knowledge at one's disposal.

An equally good play was the Gujarati AATHMA TARANU AAKASH presented by Fade-In theatre from Ahemdabad. Written and directed by the young Saumya Joshi, the play seeks to dignify the lives of an underprivileged section of our society surviving on the fringes of existence. Saumya Joshi has infused the play with a poetic grandeur that has its Gujarati audience completely bowled over. The refrains of the very vocal 'vah-vah' were endless during the performance.

But credit must be given to this young Gujarati chap who has indeed written a fine play and directed it well too. The simplicity of its plot, its brutal reality and its contemplative and alluring execution in turn are bound to leave one misty-eyed. What is truly commendable about this play is that it touches a chord without being a tearjerker. Sympathy is replaced by a genuine empathy of what it means to be an underdog and of how the human spirit has the gumption to hold out in the direst of circumstances. Alag's grandfather in the play despite being a 'romantic' does not cast a romanticized figure of himself. The lighting is very well executed and the set with minimal efficiency creates a world eking out its existence in the under-belly of poverty, filth and crime.

Bertolt Brecht's pointed social commentary in THE THREEPENNY OPERA finds an imperfect companion in a Konkani adaptation of the play titled TEEN PAISHANCHO TIATR. The play is undoubtedly interesting (quite entertaining too in the way it has been adapted) but it misses out on the Brechtian sensibility. Although it is faithful to the original in terms of its subject and plot, it trivializes the same by succumbing to the excessive use of Hindi film tunes. For Brecht, music and songs did not necessarily have to be aligned to action or were means to continue it; in fact he saw them as creating a disjoining effect.

So while this adaptation of the 'beggars' comedy' as the play is popularly referred to succeeds in making a critique at the beginning of the play, it does not progress in the same vein towards an examination of the action of the characters involved. True to the nature of the film songs it resorts to, it remains trivialized. Brecht would have been disappointed but it would not be wrong to say that perhaps he may have appreciated the attempt.

Despite the Nehru theatre festival claiming to be a national theatre festival, there were quite a few plays from Mumbai itself. One wonders if the number of plays from Mumbai could have been fewer in order to make space for more plays from other parts of India. If the festival had a theme in place, it was ambiguous. A representation of plays on a nation wide scale is not only welcome in theatre festivals but is also much required. The organizers could however do better by chalking out a plan that would consider various aspects.

Some of these include building on networks to find out about groups who are doing good work but have not received a desired platform as yet, an assessment of plays by an eclectic group of theatre practitioners, critics and academics, audience participation in discussions and workshops, etc. Perhaps these suggestions sound utopian but they along with a host of others need to be considered in order to make the hosting of festivals a fruitful and a fulfilling endeavour. The host institution/organization must bypass typical cul-de-sacs such as the dearth of funds and the lack of time required for planning. I am aware that this is all easier said than done but surely an effort in the right direction may yield some benefits after all.