What were you thinking,
When they stormed in?
Did you have time to
Comprehend the killing?
Were you too stunned to
Even pray to be spared?
Or did you suddenly remember
A martyr’s story, who won’t be scared?
Did you think that if you were
Just allowed to live and grow up,
The world won’t remain like this
When it was in your adult hands once?
If that was the regret with which
My innocent sweetheart, you died
Let me assure you, there is nothing to regret
No matter how much this world now cried.
Because had you lived and grown up
Here is what you would have seen.
The oppressed turns into oppressor
Before history has even time to wean.
You would have struggled to separate
The wrong from the right.
Revenge, pettiness would have been thrust
Into your face with all their might.
You would have wondered
If the pain of those few moments
Wasn’t better than these long, slow
Don’t believe? Then just look at me
I lived, grew up, but must be numbed in senses.
Instead of shedding human tears at your fate
I am offering these horrendous reassurances.
Stories in a Song is a musical (performed in Hindi). And I must admit that while I enjoy music in certain forms, musical plays are not exactly to my taste. That doesn’t take away from the beauty of this play, although I enjoyed it a little less than someone interested in musicals would have.
As the title conveys, the play has multiple stories woven around songs. The stories start right from the time of Amir Khusro. We are given glimpses of musical traditions carried forward by tawayafs and by nautanki troops. The effect of national independence movement on these performances are depicted very well. Nautanki doesn’t stop being lewd, but carries the message and dream of independence. The tawayafs do not stop performing despite the protest of puritans, but passionately sing at least one nationalist song during their performances.
The story of a student of classical music getting tricked into singing a remix dance number, where the original song is stripped of its essence, was a heart-tugging one. Although one has to stop for a moment and think if we are too hasty in passing the judgment that the “new” is wrong and shallow. Art doesn’t remain stagnant. And the judgment of history can be quite different form the judgment of the contemporary elites. What is “pop” at present, can become “classy” in future, especially when coated with the paint of nostalgia. What is “classy” today becomes “incomprehensible” and “archaic” tomorrow. The play doesn’t touch on this.
Another interesting story was that of “Kajari” – a performance where the lyrics is created on the go in response to a challenge.
The play is well worth a watch for excellent production, and even just for the musical performances sans the stories. That some stories are good is an added bonus. What stands out is the “acting” in musical performances. The folk forms and the nautanki are performed with the right element of rustic. The classical is performed with finesse and the modern dance-number has all the beats it needs!
Corruption and comedy are timeless, that is the takeaway from watching the modern Indian adaptation of this Russian play written by Nicolay Gogol is 1836. The play was presented by NCPA and Akvarious Productions and I watched it in Jagriti Theatre
There is a rumour that a government inspector is coming to a small town in the middle of nowhere and everyone from the mayor, the school headmistress, town hospital doctor, the judge, the police chief to the postmaster is distressed. All of them have something to hide – in their work, which they are worried about, and in their private lives, about which they are assured, because they don’t expect those to be exposed by the visit of a government inspector.
Despite the initial anxiety, things start to fall in place for them. The government inspector doesn’t turn out to be as incorruptible as they had initially feared. The inspector doesn’t condemn anyone of them, and what more, even finds himself a fiancée in the mayor’s daughter. Mayor’s wife is now happily imagining her happening future in the capital, thanks to her worthy son-in-law-to- be.
But by the end, they are proved wrong on so many levels that I can’t recount it all here. What can be promised is that you laugh through it. My guess is that the play has been made even funnier by the adaptation and Mona Darling jokes thrown in to take advantage of a character named Robert. Although we can know for sure only if we read the original (translated to English!).
Ah! Did I forget to mention, this play is being enacted within the play we are watching? So, the actual play features a bunch of stage actors, who are performing this play about the government inspector’s visit. So, add the backstage goof-ups and the less than ideal dynamics of the relationships between the actors, and you get some more laughs.
A good, time-pass, entertaining play.
Caught this play during Ranga Shankara’s annual theatre festival. You can read here how the creators describe the play. I will tell you how I received it.
It is a play-within-a-play story, set in 1960s in Allahabad’s Neelima theatre. The big actors seem to command the same fan-following and are entitled to the same show of tantrums and arrogance as the big movie stars of our days do. One such talented and popular, but arrogant, actor is Satyasheel. He has grown old and his eyesight is weakening. At the brink of blindness he is going to give the last three performances of his illustrious career.
Like many professional successes, he hasn’t been much of a success in his personal life. He hasn’t proved to be a great husband or a great father. And he doesn’t repent it enough to exonerate him in the eyes of the audience. He almost justifies his failures – sometimes even alluding to them as his righteousness.
In these last three days of his professional life, he has to confront his personal life though. He has to answer his long estranged son, who, though young, has still made a name for himself in the world of theatre. The father-son reunion is not all tears, love and emotion though….
Then there is the play they are performing inside the play. A rather scathing and satirical take on Mahabharata spun by Lord Krishna. How many common and uncommon people are sacrificed in making of one hero? Is it worth it? Probably yes. The world needs heroes. But it’s difficult to agree to that once the sacrificed stop being invisible and are presented to you in all their glory – and with all the gore of their fate. Abhimanyu and Eklavya have more in common than meets the eyes. They are both sacrificed at the altar of Arjuna’s greatness.
You laugh through this heart-rending realization though. That’s the success of satire. This play within the play was the strong part of the performance.
The story of theatre, of father and son did not leave as strong an impression on me. It was supposed to tug at my heart, but it didn’t.
Overall, however, worth a watch.
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
I had written about it on my blog a long time ago. The news of Google and Barnes & Noble tie-up to take on Amazon is making me write it again. This move is a non-starter. Google has the cash to keep such non-starters running for a long time. But it won’t do anything for Barnes and Noble. And it will pose no credible threat to Amazon.
To understand why let’s start by talking of Google’s core business – Search. Most website owners are unhappy with Google. Why? Because Google keeps changing algorithms and “punishes” websites in search results. They don’t make the “rules of the game” known. They are “undemocratic” and “opaque”.
Too bad! Let’s come up with a search engine that will be nice to webmasters. Brilliant idea, right? Except, it won’t work. Consumers will continue searching on Google because Google works for them. Webmasters’ troubles do not concern them.
Similarly, the frustration of “industry” folks – the publishers, the booksellers, the distributors, and others looking to subdue Amazon – won’t translate into an opportunity to build an Amazon competitor. The customer mostly does not care about these frustrations. By customer, I don’t mean the loud voices on industry blogs, but the real customer who reflects in those sales numbers which Amazon has aplenty. Amazon is a business entity shrewd enough to know when a customer cares and will cater to his needs. They are not idiots or egomaniacs; they will do whatever it takes to advance their business interests.
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