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!