Mumbai Memoir 114- Bell, Curtains & ‘Live Action’!
Maharashtra, the state of my origin, has exposed me to the Marathi culture. Besides the celebrations of various Marathi festivals like Padwa, Ganesh Festival, Dasra, Diwali, the culture has rich legacy of the ‘Art of Marathi Drama’. Theatre and Drama as an art is appreciated by the masses and the Marathi performing artists are truly, a class apart! I have got the honour of watching ‘live’ performances of few of the Marathi theatre personalities namely Shriram Lagoo, Kashinath Ghanekar, Pu.La. Deshpande, Damu Kenkre, Prabhakar Panshikar, Vikram Gokhale, Vijaya Mehta, Sulabha Deshpande, Nana Patekar! These were/are so passionate actors that you get to know the exact ‘definition of Passion’ from their acting! As per my understanding, the audience who follow Marathi theatre are a unique social breed and are die-hard fans of the art and the artists who ‘serve the Rangdevata’ (God of Theatre & Drama)
Being an amateur drama actor himself, my dad was a huge fan of Marathi theatre and it is he who introduced me to this art. Every vacation, he used to take the family to a nearby drama theatre and thats how I got to know about the Marathi Drama circle. Ghashiram Kotwal, Shantata Court Chalu Ahey, Moruchi Maushi, Fula-la Sugandha Maticha, Tur Tur, Toh Me Navech, Kusum Manohar Lele, Yada-kadachit, Sahi-re-Sahi, All the Best and Ranangan were some of the Marathi dramas which still are ‘green’ in my memory.
Its just not about the drama, its about the whole journey of going to see a drama on a weekend or in my school/college vacation that is precious to me. In the local newspaper the Marathi drama advertisement used to appear. Dad** then use to take the effort of pro-actively booking the tickets by visiting the drama theatre a week before! (Those were the days of offline booking) The day of the drama show, was nothing less than a festival. Usually post-lunch or late evening shows is what my dad preferred. There was a sense of excitement in me about the whole exercise of visiting the drama theatre and then getting to see the ‘live’ performance of the actors. The 3 rounds of bells that are rung before any Marathi drama starts, is still traditionally followed. After the 3rd bell when the curtain opens, all focus goes on the art direction, lights and the first entry of the performing artist, and that kickstarts the mood of enjoy the art form for the next 2-3 hours. Dramatics is just not about the actors, but it’s about the entire package that is presented to the audience at a time. The lights, the make-up, the costume designer, the music/sound department, the spot boys and the production crew, all put in equal effort to ‘run the show’. I am glad that Marathi theatre actors are humble enough to acknowledge the role of the ‘back-stage artist’ and their contribution to the art. In modern times where entertainment is streamed digitally, its unique to actually see the actors perform ‘live’. The whole feel of the ‘live’ experience is magical and feels real. The animal instinct in us knows that there is someone actual moving on the stage and the intense engagement of one’s senses mesmerises the audience and transports them to a ‘la la land’!
My next memory of good exposure to theatre in my adulthood, was my teaching association with Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s College of Arts, Chowpatty, Mumbai. Its a known fact that this college is popular for its cultural activities and is extremely competitive in drama and dance performances. My students, Hemant Hazare, Vipul Mahagaonkar, Vinod Gaikar and their respective teams have rocked the student Marathi drama competitions of their times and it was a matter of pride for the college that they continued the legacy of Marathi celebrity drama personalities like Lakshmikant Berde, Ashok Saraf, Devendra Pem, Aadesh Bandeker, who were the ex-students of our college.
In the busy schedule of Mumbai life, pursing or following an art form can take a backseat. But some random moments of life sometimes offer us an opportunity to re-kindle that flame of enjoying an art form. Last week when my friend Dr. Shiwani Tandel-Kamath invited me to see a Marathi Drama with her, I immediately confirmed with her of my readiness. We went to see the Marathi drama ‘Eka Lagnachi Pudchi Goshta’. The theme of this comedy drama is about a middle age couple who are initially struggling with a love-less marriage and how as the story unfolds, they re-kindle their affection towards each other. Prashant Damle and Kavita Lad-Medhekar are just amazing in the lead roles. The supporting actors too matched the energy of the lead actors. I want to make a special mention of Mrunal Chemburkar, who has comically acted as a frustrated divorcee, will stay fresh in my memory forever. I highly recommend this drama to all enthusiasts of Marathi drama.
After the drama, as I returned home, I was feeling recharged and rejuvenated, because its just not about watching a drama, but its the whole journey of catching up with family and friends, eating a snack before the drama starts, watching the drama intensely, discussing about the story after the show, and above all, creating beautiful memories in the process that truly matters!
**Dedicating this article to my late dad- Shri Chandrakant R. Sankulkar who introduced me to love the art of Dramatics & Theatre.